‘Cat’ stands for Category so when you see Cat5, Cat5e, or Cat6 what it stands for is Category 5 cable. Cat5, Cat5e, and Cat6 cable is essentially a twisted pair cable used to carry signals. This type of cable is used in structured cabling for both commercial and residential computer (data and voice) networks like Ethernet.
Cat5 cable allows your computer network to handle anywhere from 10Mbps to 100Mbps throughput. As you might have guessed Cat5e is the new, upgraded version of Cat5. Cat5e allows your data network to handle a Gigabit Ethernet connection. Most importantly for those of you with an existing network infrastructure in place Cat5e is backwards compatible so it supports all the same cat5 network cabling. It’s important to mention that the industry standard has become Cat5e cabling.
Now as for Cat6 cable! Cat5e cable will allow Gigabit Ethernet speeds however Cat6 is certified to conduct those higher seamless speeds. Cat6 cable reaches much higher throughput in high-demand offices. Throughout the last few years we’ve seen many clients and customers upgrade or opt for Cat6 cable over Cat5e. One of the most frequent concerns we hear is regarding the price of Cat6 cable and wether or not your company really needs Gigabit throughput.
In order to correctly answer your questions we need to know a little bit more about your network:
Some might tell you that if your company is utilizing a VoIP (Voice over IP) phone system PBX you need to use all Cat6 cable wiring for your network. However, a voice conversation uses about 64kb on a network connection; Cat5e cable supports 100Mbps so if you do the math your Cat5e network can handle over 1,500 concurrent VoIP conversations.