If you’re a regular internet user, you’re not likely to have heard of Cat 6 or Cat 7. However, understanding the key differences between Cat 6 vs Cat 7 can be helpful to boost internet performance in your home or workplace.
Cat 6 and Cat 7 refer to various categories of network cabling, commonly referred to as Ethernet cables which connect internet devices such as smartphones, tablets, and computers to the router or modem.
Cat 6 Ethernet cables can support internet speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second and are typically the preferred choice for households.
Cat 7 Ethernet cables utilize modern technological advancements to handle higher bandwidths and faster internet speeds, making them well-suited to workplaces and data centers.
Due to their improved spec, Cat 7 cables are more expensive than Cat 6 cables.
In this article, we will explain all the key differences between Cat 6 vs Cat 7 Ethernet cables to help guide you in choosing the best network cables for your home setup.
What Is CAT 6?
Cat 6 indicates the Sixth generation of Ethernet cables. These cables support a frequency of 250MHz (Megahertz). This cable is compatible with Cat 5 and Cat 5e.
This type of Ethernet cable is prevalent for newer installations. It is versatile and has excellent bandwidth and speed.
Cat 6 has 10 Gigabits per second as their top transfer speed. Cat 6 has RJ-45 as their standard connector on the cable.
Most data centers and home networks use Cat 6 Ethernet cables. They have thick sheaths that protect them from Alien crosstalk and Near-End Crosstalk.
The Near-End Crosstalk is the interference from one twisted pair to another twisted pair of wires within the same cable.
The Alien Crosstalk is the noise interference from another cable. The Crosstalk’s causing noise and interference leads to reduced data speeds.
The key advantages and disadvantages of Cat 6 Ethernet cables are summarized below.
- Low crosstalk
- Fast speed transfer of up to 10 Gigabits per second
- It is compatible with Cat 5 and Cat 5e.
- Cannot manage multiple applications
- Thick cables make installation difficult
- Less speed and bandwidth than Cat 7
How Fast Is CAT 6?
Cat 6 supports Gigabit Ethernet data rates of 1 Gigabit per second. However, this speed of 1 Gigabit per second is theoretical, due to collision or other transient failures. In reality, the speed you will get will be marginally less than 1 gigabit per second.
Under normal conditions, most users of a Cat 6 cable should get data transfer speeds of up to 900 Megabits per second.
This cable can also accommodate 10 Gigabit Ethernet connections over a short distance. That means that a single cable can allow a 10 Gigabit Ethernet connection up to 164 feet.
The Difference Between CAT 6 and CAT 6A
The Cat 6A model is an augmented version of the Cat 6 Ethernet cable. Cat 6A is an improvement of Cat 6 and can accommodate on a single cable 10 Gigabit Ethernet data rates up to 328 feet.
Cat 6A is twice as fast as Cat 6. They are also thicker than Cat 6 but still use the same RJ-45 connectors.
Cat 6A is not expensive, so can be a great option for households wanting a cheaper faster Ethernet cables without paying Cat 7 prices.
These cables have also been shielded meaning they have thicker covers that eliminate crosstalk.
Is There A Cat 6E Ethernet Cable?
Cat 6e is not an actual standard but was labeled by some manufacturers concerning the pattern from Cat 5 and Cat 5e cables. These manufacturers were trying to show that Cat 6 was an upgrade from Cat 5e.
However, there is no legitimate category of Cat 6e standards and it is not acknowledged by the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA).
TIA is an accredited telecommunications company to develop standards for the telecommunication industry.
What Is CAT 7?
Cat 7 belongs to the seventh generation of Ethernet cables. These cables support higher bandwidths than Cat 6 Ethernet cables and faster speed transfer. These cables are more expensive than Cat 6 cables.
Cat 7 Ethernet cables have a maximum speed of 100 Gigabits per second making the 10 Gigabits of Cat 6 look slow.
Cat 7 cables are shielded entirely, and there is no noise interference, thus improving connection quality. These cables do not use the RJ-45 connector instead they use the Giga Gate 45 connectors
Moat home computers and networking equipment do not have the Giga Gate 45 (GG45) connection.
If you have the Cat 7 cable ensure that it has the right connector, meaning that you will have t look for the RJ-45 connector.
The key advantages and disadvantages of Cat 7 Ethernet cables are summarized below.
- Larger bandwidth than Cat 6
- Enhanced shielding that eliminates interferences.
- Ultra-fast speed of up to 0 Gigabits per second
- Difficult to install
- High cost
- No TIA/EIA recognition
CAT 6 vs CAT 7
Cat 6 is found in many homes’ networks today because of the good price-to-performance ratio. The following are the key differences between Cat 6 and Cat 7 cables.
- Crosstalk: Cat 6 cables have cable shielding that helps in reducing the crosstalk interference. However, Cat 7 has shielding on every pair of wires to eliminate nearly all interferences. Crosstalk usually causes errors and can prevent or reduce data transmission. Therefore, keeping crosstalk to a minimum ensures the network is running maximumly.
- Cost: This is a very significant difference between the two cables. The cost of Cat 6 averages at $0.25 to $0.35 per foot while cat 7 costs around $0.40 to $0.60 per foot which is about 40-60 percent more.
- Speed: The transfer speed of Cat 7 is 40 Gigabits per second while Cat 6 has a maximum of 10 Gigabits per second. However, the 10 Gigabit speed is sufficient for most average households who want to play video games, video conferences, and stream movies.
The main use of Cat 7 is in data centers because of the need for higher-speed transfers. The data centers also have hardware that is compatible with Cat 7’s GG-45 connector.
Speed in Cat 6 and Cat 7 cables reduces at 100 meters. This is where Cat 7 gets to 10Gbps and Cat 6 achieves 1Gbps at the 100-meter length.
- Frequency: Cat 7 is much faster than Cat 6 because of its high frequency of 800 megahertz compare to the 250 megahertz of Cat 6. This makes Cat 7 to be the winner in the frequency category.
- TIA/EIA recognition: Cat 6 Ethernet cables meet EIA ad TIA installation standards while Cat 7 does not meet EIA and TIA standards. These are standards followed by data centers or other large networks but do not apply to home networks.
How To Visually Tell CAT 6 vs CAT 7 Cables Apart
Both Cat 6 and Cat 7 cables have four twisted pairs of wires within the sheath. However, Cat 6 is just twisted and has a rubber insert to keep the cables twisted, this twisting reduces the crosstalk between the cables.
Cat 7 has twisted pair cables with shielding as well to reduce the crosstalk more.
What Do Different Ethernet Cable Speeds Mean?
The speed of Ethernet cables can be confusing as to what they mean and to tell how fast and slow each one is. To get a clearer picture, let’s imagine you want to download some movies which are 4.5Gb each in size.
If you have an Ethernet cable with a speed of 10 megabits per second it means that you will download a 4.5 GB in one hour.
An Ethernet cable with 1 Gigabit per second speed will download 100 movies of 4.5GB in 1 hour while a cable of 10 gigabits per second can download 1000 movies of 4.5 GB each in one hour.
What Connectors Do Cat 6 Cables use?
CAT 6 uses the same registered Jack45 (RJ_45) standard connectors as previous Ethernet cable generations. This connector has eight pins where the cable wire strands interface electrically.
These individual wires are fitted 1mm apart using a cable crimping tool. There is a term “plug” that refers to the cable or the male end of the connection and “Jack” means the female end or the port where the connector is inserted.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Which is best, Cat 6 or Cat 7?
It depends on your circumstances. For home use, Cat 6 cables are preferred as they meet industry standards, are affordable, and provide fast internet speeds. Cat 7 cables are better suited to high-consumption data centers.
Are there other Cat options?
Yes, there are previous generations of Cat cables such as Cat 5e, the predecessor of Cat 6. This cable has less bandwidth and slower transfer speeds than Cat 6. Cat 5e is cheaper compared to Cat 6.
However, for a better network and faster speeds, invest in Cat 6 cables. There is also Cat 8 which is an improved version of Cat 7 cables.
Hopefully, you are now clearer on the differences between Cat 6 and Cat 7. Cat refers to Ethernet cables that connect your modem or router to your internet-using devices.
This provides an alternative to wireless internet and is often used to improve the internet connection quality on high-consumption devices.
The number (i.e. 6 or 7) refers to the generation of technology the cable. The later generation models provide improved technology and internet performance.
Both Cat 6 and Cat 7 cable options provide high-speed internet, but Cat 6 is more popular in home settings.
Cat 7 is better suited to high internet usage workplaces or data centers. Cat 6 cables are cheaper than Cat 7, so Cat 6 is popular among households with average internet needs.