What is the difference between Cat5e and Cat6?

The general difference between category 5e and category 6 is in the transmission performance, and extension of the available bandwidth from 100 MHz for category 5e to 200 MHz for category 6. This includes better insertion loss, near end crosstalk (NEXT), return loss, and equal level far end crosstalk (ELFEXT). These improvements provide a higher signal-to-noise ratio, allowing higher reliability for current applications and higher data rates for future applications.

Because of its improved transmission performance and superior immunity from external noise, systems operating over category 6 cabling will have fewer errors vs. category 5e for current applications. This means fewer re-transmissions of lost or corrupted data packets under certain conditions, which translates into higher reliability for category 6 networks compared to category 5e networks.

From a future proofing perspective, it is always better to install the best cabling available. This is because it is so difficult to replace cabling inside walls, in ducts under floors and other difficult places to access. The rationale is that cabling will last at least 10 years and will support at least four to five generations of equipment during that time. If future equipment running at much higher data rates requires better cabling, it will be very expensive to pull out category 5e cabling at a later time to install category 6 cabling. So why not do it for a premium of about 20 percent over category 5e on an installed basis?