All About Cats, And What Ethernet Classifications Mean Beyond ‘Bigger Number Better’

Although it probably feels like forever to many of us since Category 5 Ethernet cabling became prevalent, now that 2.5 and even 5 Gbit Ethernet has trickled into the mainstream, a pertinent question that many probably end up asking, is when you should replace Cat-5e wiring with Cat-6, or even Cat-7. Since most of us are likely to use copper network wiring for the foreseeable future in our domiciles and offices, it is a good question that deserves a good answer. Although swapping a Cat-5e patch cable with a Cat-7 one between a network port and computer is easy enough, replacing all the network cable already pulled through the conduits of a ‘future-proofed’ home is not.

The good news is probably that Category 8 Class II (Cat-8.2) is all you need to run your 40 Gbit Ethernet network with standard twisted pair wiring. The bad news is that you’re limited to runs of only thirty meters before signal degradation begins to kick in. If you take things down a notch to Cat-6A or Cat-7 (ISO/IEC 11801 Class EA and F, respectively), you can do 100 meter runs at 10 Gbit/s just like 100 meters runs at 1 Gbit/s were possible with Cat-5e before. Yet what differentiates these categories exactly?

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