Network speed is not always dependent on the cable it's running on. This may or may not surprise the passionate techy who is always trying to achieve break neck speed, but the reality is that too much credit is sometimes given to the standard of network cabling the infrastructure is running on. If a network is slow, Category 5 data cabling may not be the problem, and Category 6 may not be the solution. There are several issues that need addressing in a decision to upgrade data cabling, because after all, upgrading can be expensive.
First of all, are the modem, router, server, switches, and other equipment new enough and fast enough to have outgrown Category 5? Is the network primarily used for surfing the net, database entry, video streaming, or graphics design? How much traffic is on the network? Is network traffic expected to grow in the future? A quick rule of thumb among specialists is to plan for the future on new installs. If there is no existing network, use the best cable finances will allow, in anticipation of future technology advances. Assume that business demands will continue to grow, and network traffic will increase.
On the contrary, if there is an existing network, but it is experiencing slowdown, investigate the reason for slowdown before replacing all of the network cable. Replacing cable is a time consuming and expensive project. Often, the culprit behind slowdown is deteriorating equipment, or bad cable connections, and replacing either one will probably be less expensive than tearing out old cable and installing new. If the network is experiencing crosstalk or interference, replacing the cable might be the answer.
The older Category 5 cable was not the best for noise cancellation, and is very susceptible to interference. Find out which standard was used in the current network installation. Category 5e was designed to address the crosstalk issue, and is much better cable for that reason. Category 6 took it a step further and has an even better signal to noise ratio.
Twisted pair cable came into existence when Alexander Graham Bell discovered EMI could be reduced by twisting the two wires of a single circuit. It was further discovered that twisting neighboring pairs in different ratios or tightness, would prevent crosstalk. Crosstalk is when transmissions from one circuit bleed over to another, or in this case, to another pair of wires. This causes signal degradation. Here are the basic differences of Category 5, Category 5e, and Category 6 cables.