CAT 5e Ethernet cable & Connectors

CAT5e is short form for Category 5 enhanced is network cable.  The cable supports performance speed of up to 1Gbps and reduces cross-talk interference. It is used for Ethernet (10BASE-T), Fast Ethernet (full duplex 100BASE-TX), and Gigabit Ethernet (1000BASE-T) networks. 

Shielding of CAT5e Ethernet cable and RJ45 Connectors:  Benefits of Shielded vs Unshielded:  A shielded CAT5e Ethernet network cable is more secure from electromagnetic interference (EMI) which can result in partial or complete communication loss. A partial loss makes the user experience a slow connection because of poor data transmission. There is repeated re-sending as the sending equipment is trying to send the correct data hence increasing transfer time.

When the interference is too much, a connection may not be established and loss of signal hence no transmission at all. When using a shielded CAT5e Ethernet network cable, it should be terminated with a shielded RJ45 connector because EMI can affect any part of the cable.

In general, Shielding of cable and RJ45 connectors ensure one gets fast and reliable data transmission compared to unshielded CAT5e Ethernet cable.
 
CAT5e is terminated with RJ45 connectors.

Category 5E or Cat 5e cable is a type of twisted pair networking cable that is used for making Ethernet network connections. Ethernet cable like Cat 5e forms part of the physical layer (PHY) in the OSI 7-layer model of computer networking. It can be used for data transfer, telecommunications, internet connectivity, and audiovisual applications. Ethernet cable runs with Cat 5e cable can be used to create networks of almost any size and it is known for its ability to support high data throughput and speeds. Its use is specified in the Ethernet standard 803.2 produced by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), and it also plays a part in wireless networking technologies like WiFi.

This Ethernet cable is a variant of Category 5 Ethernet cable. The “e” in the cable designation stands for “enhanced” as this type of Ethernet cable has differences in its physical and electrical specifications from the standard cable. Cat 5e is backward compatible with Cat 5 cable installations. Both types of Ethernet cable have a bandwidth of 100 MHz.

Category 5e cable is produced in line with several published standards and specifications including:

  • The U.S. standard ANSI/TIA/EIA 568-B.2-1 (2002) is a telecommunications cabling standard for commercial buildings. It specifies Category 5 cables and components for horizontal cable runs in walls, floors, and ceilings as well as patch cabling between devices.
  • International standards such as ISO/IEC 11801 2nd edition (2017) that deal with cabling standards for the general office environment.
  • European standards including EN 50173-1 (2018) outline standards for generic cabling systems in Information Technology.

Twisted pair cables like those in Cat 5e cable, are made from paired wires that are wrapped around each other as a strategy to minimize crosstalk and other electromagnetic interference.
The proximity of the twisted pair wires means that signals traveling through each wire are likely to encounter the same type and magnitude of interference as they travel from the source. This noise rejection strategy makes it easier for interference to be identified and canceled out at the receiving device. Balanced line arrangements like this mean that Ethernet cable is favored for its low signal to noise ratio.

Cat 5e has been the main form of Category 5 cable in use since 2001 and has superseded it to be the primary cable of this category. It is available as patch-cables, crossover cables, and straight-through cables and is connected to punch down blocks or terminated by the RJ45 plug, a type of 8P8C modular connector for making connections via a jack installed in networked devices.

Physical specifications of Category 5e cable
Category 5e horizontal patch cable or work area cable is suitable for all Cat5 applications including 10BASE-T, 100BASE-T, and Gigabit Ethernet.

  • It consists of 4 unshielded twisted pair (UTP) wires, set in a cruciform arrangement. Cat 5e cable also carries a stranded copper drain wire for grounding
  • The center conductor of each wire is made from 7 strands of bare copper wire. It has an American Wire Guage (AWG) of 26.
  • The stranded copper wires are covered in colored polyethylene (PE) jacketing which gives each wire a diameter of 0.95mm (0.037 inches).
  • Each twisted pair is color-coded. This enables the wiring of the cable according to standardized wiring patterns. The four pairs of colors are:
    • The first color code pair has a solid blue wire and a striped blue/white wire.
    • The second color code pair has a solid orange wire and a striped orange/white wire.
    • The third color code pair has a solid green wire and a striped green/white wire.
    • The fourth color code pair has a solid brown wire and a striped brown/white wire.
  • The four twisted-pairs are wrapped in Mylar aluminum polyester film that overlaps the cable core. This shielding faces outwards and has contact with the drain wire.
  • The entire Cat5e cable is wrapped in an outer jacket of PVC. It has an overall diameter of 5.0 millimeters (0.196 inches).

Electrical specifications of Category 5e cable

  • Cat5e cable has a characteristic impedance of 100 Ohms.
  • The maximum frequency of the Cat5e cable is 100 MHz.
  • Its mutual capacitance is 5.6nF/100m
  • The conductor resistance of Category 5e cable is less than 9.80Ω/100m.
  • The velocity of propagation of Cat5e cable is 69%.

Attenuation of Cat 5e cable

At 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit):
  • At 1 MHz the attenuation of Category 5e cable is 3.2 dB per 100m.
  • At 4 MHz the attenuation of Category 5e cable is 6 dB per 100m.
  • At 10 MHz the attenuation of Category 5e cable is 9.5 dB per 100m.
  • At 16 MHz the attenuation of Category 5e cable is 12.1 dB per 100m.
  • At 20 MHz the attenuation of Category 5e cable is 13.5 dB per 100m.
  • At 31.25 MHz the attenuation of Category 5e cable is 17.1 dB per 100m.
  • At 62.5 MHz the attenuation of Category 5e cable is 24.8 dB per 100m.
  • At 100 MHz the attenuation of Category 5e cable is 32 dB per 100m.

Mechanical characteristics of Cat5e cable
This cable has an operating temperature range of -20 to +70 degrees Celsius (-4 to 158 degrees Fahrenheit). Its maximum pulling strength is 45 Newtons. The minimum bend radius at installation of Category 5 Ethernet cable is 42 millimeters (1.65 inches).

RJ45 Modular connectors for Category 5e cable
Registered Jack 45 connectors terminate Category 5e cable. These are a type of 8 position 8 contact (8P8C) modular connector that is used with twisted pair cables. The eight individual wires of a Cat5e cable are fed into the RJ45 plug and each aligned with their corresponding pin. The RJ45 plug is derived from the analog telephone system standards which specified the connector’s original design. The contemporary RJ 45 specification is outlined in the US standard ANSI/TIA-1096-A and the international standard, ISO-8877.

Category 5e cables that have the connector are mated with the 8P8C modular jacks that are housed within devices. The RJ45 jacks carry sprung metal wires that project away from the connector opening. Insertion of the plus leads to electrical contact between the pins from the plug and the complementary wires in the jack that are opposed under spring tension.

High-quality, RoHS compliant Category 5e cables, and accessories
Our selection of Ethernet cables, connectors, and accessories are made with industry-leading fabrication methods from high-quality materials of good provenance. We ensure that our cables are sourced and manufactured using materials and manufacturing that fully complies with the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive, European Union legislation that limits the use of hazardous substances like lead or cadmium in electrical and electronic products (EEE).

The use of Tungsten, Tantalum, Tin, and Gold, known as the 3GT metals is also subject to electronics sector legislation. All Ethernet produces are sold in compliance with key conflict minerals legislation that includes:

  • The Conflict Minerals Regulation (2021)
  • Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Act

Why is Category 5e cable important?
Category 5e cable is in widespread use in a variety of networking applications with its operation specified in industry-leading protocols and standards. As a critical physical layer component, this type of Ethernet cable determines the electrical properties, security, and data transfer speeds within Ethernet networks that can exceed 1 Gigabit per second. Key contemporary Cat5e cable applications include:

Category 5e cable for Ethernet over twisted pair
Cat5e cable is routinely used for Ethernet over twisted pair technologies. This superseded the use of coaxial cable for making network connections in the earliest form of Ethernet known as Thick Ethernet or 10BASE5. Thick Ethernet proved inflexible and unwieldy when deployed at scale. Even the use of thinner coax with the development of Thin Ethernet or 10BASE2 has a comparatively reduced scope when compared to the use of twisted pair cabling.

The first use of twisted pair cable for Ethernet was in the 1980s with the introduction of StarLAN, the first iteration of IEEE 802.3. Twisted pair cables were already in use for the analog telephone network, with cable runs in many buildings which greatly reduced deployment costs of the new network once twisted pair cables were established as effective for point to point connectivity.

Twisted pair cabling is now a feature of all Ethernet physical layers. The earlier Ethernet standards only used 2 of the 4 twisted pairs in the cable, but novel applications like Power over Ethernet (PoE) discussed below have found other ways of using the other wires.

Category 5e cable for Fast Ethernet (100BASE-TX)
Fast Ethernet (the copper version) delivers data transfer speeds of up to 100 Mbits per second over Category 5e cable. Introduced in 1995, it was the fastest network of its time. The 803.2u standard specifies data transfer over two sets of twisted pairs (4 wires) within the cable. The active wires (green and orange pairs) are terminated in positions 1, 2, 3, and 6 on modular connector pins and must be wired according to either the T568A or T568B wiring standards. One pair is used for each direction of transfer meaning that Fast Ethernet has a full-duplex operation.
100BASE-TX Ethernet networks are often star networks with participant devices connected to a hub, switch, or controller. The maximum cable length for connections is 100 meters (328 feet). Data for transfer is broken up into frames which carry sources and destination addresses to prevent errors and collisions.

Category 5e cable for Gigabit Ethernet (GbE)
Gigabit Ethernet (1 Gig E) is a version of Ethernet that has speeds of one Gigabit per second. It is outlined in the IEEE standard 802.3ab and overtook Fast Ethernet in the late 1990s due to its significant uplift of speeds. The copper of twisted pair cable version is known as 1000BASET and at a minimum must use Category 5 Ethernet cable. Network segment cable lengths for Gigabit Ethernet are limited to 100 meters (328 feet).
1000BASET uses all four twisted pairs in CAT5e cable with simultaneous bi-directional transmissions.
Gigabit Ethernet also uses autonegotiaton. This is a physical layer signaling mechanism that involves connected devices synchronizing their transmission parameters (speed) for the best-optimized performance that can be achieved by both.

Category 5e cable for Audio over Ethernet (AoE)
Category 5e cables are also cable of supporting real-time digital audio transmissions and is actively installed in public auditoria and other facilities that require XLR mic level signal coverage or high-quality audio broadcasting. In these applications, Cat5e cable is advantageous as it is designed for long-term installation and routing in public and commercial spaces, and may already have been installed as part of a home network.

The quality and speed of audio transmission are superior to VoIP and AoE has higher fidelity, bitrates, and extremely low latency which makes it advantageous for professional audio. Like standard Ethernet, the digital audio is transferred directly in frames.

There are several open-source and proprietary standards that provide detailed specifications for Audio over Ethernet networks. Most will use Category 5 cable and 1000BASE-TX signaling. Notable Layer 1 protocols for AoE over Cat5e include:

  • Behringers ULTRANET
  • SuperMAC
  • HyperMAC
  • AudioRail

Cat5e cable can also be used as speaker wire or routing for home theater, with some manufacturers even offering RJ45 jacks on speakers.

Category 5e cable for HDBaseT
HDBaseT is a proprietary set of standards for the transfer of audiovisual data over Ethernet cables that are Category 5 and above and terminated by a modular connector like RJ45. It has made the following functionalities available over Cat 5 Ethernet cable:

  • uncompressed ultra-high-definition video over Ethernet
  • digital audio
  • DC power
  • USB 2.0

The standards have been developed by HDBaseT Alliance which includes companies like Samsung, Sony, and LG Electronics as founding members. The first (1.0) specification that was released in 2010 provided a novel solution for home multimedia connectivity. 2019 saw the release of a 3.0 specification which increased the downstream bandwidth available to support the transmission of uncompressed 4K video. Using Ethernet over twisted pair, HDBaseT can also be used for internet access or SmartTV with compatible devices. Up to 7 USB devices can be simultaneously supported using this connectivity protocol. HDBaseT has extremely low latency and transmissions can take place over cable lengths of up to 100 meters (328 feet).

Category 5e cable for Power over Ethernet (PoE)
Power over Ethernet is used to describe a heterogeneous group of standards and protocols that enables DC power to be transferred to devices over twisted pair Ethernet cables like Cate 5e.

Apart from cable the other key components in PoE networks are:

  • Power Sourcing Equipment (PSE) are the devices that provide source power to devices via connected Category 5 Ethernet cable. Network switches (endspan devices) and PoE injectors (midspan devices) are capable of providing power in this way.
  • Powered Devices (PD) receive power via Ethernet cables. Depending on the device application, it may also have integrated backup or auxiliary power.

PoE means that a single Category 5e cable can not only transmit data but also the power to devices including closed-circuit television cameras, VoIP phones, and wireless access points. PoE typically uses two of the 4 signal pairs in Category 5 cable for power transfer with positive voltage transmitted on wires 4 and 5 and negative voltage on wires 7 and 8. Other protocols are capable of transferring power on the same wires that are used for data (Alternative A PoE) and may use all four pairs within a cable (known as 4-pair transmission or 4PPoE).

The IEEE Ethernet protocol 802.3 specifies at least 3 forms of PoE:

  • 802.3af This original PoE standard, released in 2003, delivers 15.4 Watts of DC power with a minimum voltage of 44 V DC and 350 mA. As some of the transmitted power dissipates in the cable, a wattage of 12.9 Wattage is reliably provided.
  • 802.3at The 2009 PoE standard known as PoE+, 25.5 Watts of DC power for suitable devices.
  • 802.3bu was released in 2016 and introduced single-pair power over data lines. This standard was developed for automotive and industrial applications with 10 power classes ranging from 0.5 to 50 Watts.

Frequently asked questions

Can Cat 5e cables be used for 2.5GBASE-T or 5GBASE-T Ethernet?
2.5GBASE-T and 5BASE-T deliver Ethernet at speeds of either 2.5 or 5 Gbit per minute as specified in IEEE 802.3bz. They have been developed as a response to demand for faster Ethernet speeds that are comparable to those attained with WiFi. 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet can use existing Gigabit Ethernet infrastructure and can be run reliably over up to 100 meters (328 feet) of Category 5e cable. However, Category 5e cable is not suitable for supporting 5 Gigabit Ethernet, this requires Category 6 cable.

Why are category 5e Ethernet cable runs limited to 100 meters (328 feet) in length?
The specified length of Ethernet cables like Cat5e in the leading protocols is limited because of the effects of signal attenuation. When a signal is transmitted along a length of cable, some of the electromagnetic energy transmitted from the source will be dissipated or absorbed by the cable’s environment before it reaches its destination. This reduction in signal is measured as a ratio between the input and output signal strength in decibels per foot or meter of cable length. As the length of the cable increases, the level of attenuation increases. Beyond 100 meters, the performance of the cable may become deranged from its specification.

Can a category 5e cable be used to share internet from a PC?
A PC with a wired or wireless internet connection can share its connectivity with another computer directly via an Ethernet cable via suitable jacks on both devices. Simply connect the Category 5e cable from the host PC to the client device. If either device lacks an Ethernet port, a USB/Ethernet adapter can be used. Once the computers are physically connected the network settings of the host computer will need to be reconfigured to allow the client device to use your network.

Can CAT 5e cable be installed outdoors?
Ethernet cable can be installed outside and is often used to provide network connectivity between properties. The type of Ethernet cable used for outdoor installations needs to be able to resist the degrading effects of exposure to dirt and dust, moisture, temperature extremes, and solar radiation. Standard Ethernet cable is not suitable as it will quickly degrade, leading to deteriorated network performance and costly downtime. An outdoor Ethernet cable will have the following features that prolong its lifespan and performance in an outside setting:

  • Solid copper wire
  • Rugged weatherproof high-density polyethylene (HDPE) jacketing
  • UV stabilized plastic jacketing

This often makes outdoor Cat5e cable thicker and less flexible than its standard counterpart. The cable connections can also be housed within weatherproof RJ45 glands and jacks which seal the mated connection from ingress of dust and moisture.

In conclusion
Category 5e cable is an Ethernet cable that can be used with confidence for a wide range of Ethernet applications. The cable can be procured pre-assembled with connectors or as a reel-in-a-box with separate modular connectors. Its consistent performance and enhanced capabilities mean that it has remained a viable and cost-effective choice for contemporary networks that demand, speed power, and ease of integration.

Learn more:

Cat5e Cable Products

CAT 5e Ethernet cable & Connectors

CAT5e is short form for Category 5 enhanced is network cable.  The cable supports performance speed of up to 1Gbps and reduces cross-talk interference. It is used for Ethernet (10BASE-T), Fast Ethernet (full duplex 100BASE-TX), and Gigabit Ethernet (1000BASE-T) networks. 

Shielding of CAT5e Ethernet cable and RJ45 Connectors:  Benefits of Shielded vs Unshielded:  A shielded CAT5e Ethernet network cable is more secure from electromagnetic interference (EMI) which can result in partial or complete communication loss. A partial loss makes the user experience a slow connection because of poor data transmission. There is repeated re-sending as the sending equipment is trying to send the correct data hence increasing transfer time.

When the interference is too much, a connection may not be established and loss of signal hence no transmission at all. When using a shielded CAT5e Ethernet network cable, it should be terminated with a shielded RJ45 connector because EMI can affect any part of the cable.

In general, Shielding of cable and RJ45 connectors ensure one gets fast and reliable data transmission compared to unshielded CAT5e Ethernet cable.
 
CAT5e is terminated with RJ45 connectors.

Category 5E or Cat 5e cable is a type of twisted pair networking cable that is used for making Ethernet network connections. Ethernet cable like Cat 5e forms part of the physical layer (PHY) in the OSI 7-layer model of computer networking. It can be used for data transfer, telecommunications, internet connectivity, and audiovisual applications. Ethernet cable runs with Cat 5e cable can be used to create networks of almost any size and it is known for its ability to support high data throughput and speeds. Its use is specified in the Ethernet standard 803.2 produced by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), and it also plays a part in wireless networking technologies like WiFi.

This Ethernet cable is a variant of Category 5 Ethernet cable. The “e” in the cable designation stands for “enhanced” as this type of Ethernet cable has differences in its physical and electrical specifications from the standard cable. Cat 5e is backward compatible with Cat 5 cable installations. Both types of Ethernet cable have a bandwidth of 100 MHz.

Category 5e cable is produced in line with several published standards and specifications including:

  • The U.S. standard ANSI/TIA/EIA 568-B.2-1 (2002) is a telecommunications cabling standard for commercial buildings. It specifies Category 5 cables and components for horizontal cable runs in walls, floors, and ceilings as well as patch cabling between devices.
  • International standards such as ISO/IEC 11801 2nd edition (2017) that deal with cabling standards for the general office environment.
  • European standards including EN 50173-1 (2018) outline standards for generic cabling systems in Information Technology.

Twisted pair cables like those in Cat 5e cable, are made from paired wires that are wrapped around each other as a strategy to minimize crosstalk and other electromagnetic interference.
The proximity of the twisted pair wires means that signals traveling through each wire are likely to encounter the same type and magnitude of interference as they travel from the source. This noise rejection strategy makes it easier for interference to be identified and canceled out at the receiving device. Balanced line arrangements like this mean that Ethernet cable is favored for its low signal to noise ratio.

Cat 5e has been the main form of Category 5 cable in use since 2001 and has superseded it to be the primary cable of this category. It is available as patch-cables, crossover cables, and straight-through cables and is connected to punch down blocks or terminated by the RJ45 plug, a type of 8P8C modular connector for making connections via a jack installed in networked devices.

Physical specifications of Category 5e cable
Category 5e horizontal patch cable or work area cable is suitable for all Cat5 applications including 10BASE-T, 100BASE-T, and Gigabit Ethernet.

  • It consists of 4 unshielded twisted pair (UTP) wires, set in a cruciform arrangement. Cat 5e cable also carries a stranded copper drain wire for grounding
  • The center conductor of each wire is made from 7 strands of bare copper wire. It has an American Wire Guage (AWG) of 26.
  • The stranded copper wires are covered in colored polyethylene (PE) jacketing which gives each wire a diameter of 0.95mm (0.037 inches).
  • Each twisted pair is color-coded. This enables the wiring of the cable according to standardized wiring patterns. The four pairs of colors are:
    • The first color code pair has a solid blue wire and a striped blue/white wire.
    • The second color code pair has a solid orange wire and a striped orange/white wire.
    • The third color code pair has a solid green wire and a striped green/white wire.
    • The fourth color code pair has a solid brown wire and a striped brown/white wire.
  • The four twisted-pairs are wrapped in Mylar aluminum polyester film that overlaps the cable core. This shielding faces outwards and has contact with the drain wire.
  • The entire Cat5e cable is wrapped in an outer jacket of PVC. It has an overall diameter of 5.0 millimeters (0.196 inches).

Electrical specifications of Category 5e cable

  • Cat5e cable has a characteristic impedance of 100 Ohms.
  • The maximum frequency of the Cat5e cable is 100 MHz.
  • Its mutual capacitance is 5.6nF/100m
  • The conductor resistance of Category 5e cable is less than 9.80Ω/100m.
  • The velocity of propagation of Cat5e cable is 69%.

Attenuation of Cat 5e cable

At 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit):
  • At 1 MHz the attenuation of Category 5e cable is 3.2 dB per 100m.
  • At 4 MHz the attenuation of Category 5e cable is 6 dB per 100m.
  • At 10 MHz the attenuation of Category 5e cable is 9.5 dB per 100m.
  • At 16 MHz the attenuation of Category 5e cable is 12.1 dB per 100m.
  • At 20 MHz the attenuation of Category 5e cable is 13.5 dB per 100m.
  • At 31.25 MHz the attenuation of Category 5e cable is 17.1 dB per 100m.
  • At 62.5 MHz the attenuation of Category 5e cable is 24.8 dB per 100m.
  • At 100 MHz the attenuation of Category 5e cable is 32 dB per 100m.

Mechanical characteristics of Cat5e cable
This cable has an operating temperature range of -20 to +70 degrees Celsius (-4 to 158 degrees Fahrenheit). Its maximum pulling strength is 45 Newtons. The minimum bend radius at installation of Category 5 Ethernet cable is 42 millimeters (1.65 inches).

RJ45 Modular connectors for Category 5e cable
Registered Jack 45 connectors terminate Category 5e cable. These are a type of 8 position 8 contact (8P8C) modular connector that is used with twisted pair cables. The eight individual wires of a Cat5e cable are fed into the RJ45 plug and each aligned with their corresponding pin. The RJ45 plug is derived from the analog telephone system standards which specified the connector’s original design. The contemporary RJ 45 specification is outlined in the US standard ANSI/TIA-1096-A and the international standard, ISO-8877.

Category 5e cables that have the connector are mated with the 8P8C modular jacks that are housed within devices. The RJ45 jacks carry sprung metal wires that project away from the connector opening. Insertion of the plus leads to electrical contact between the pins from the plug and the complementary wires in the jack that are opposed under spring tension.

High-quality, RoHS compliant Category 5e cables, and accessories
Our selection of Ethernet cables, connectors, and accessories are made with industry-leading fabrication methods from high-quality materials of good provenance. We ensure that our cables are sourced and manufactured using materials and manufacturing that fully complies with the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive, European Union legislation that limits the use of hazardous substances like lead or cadmium in electrical and electronic products (EEE).

The use of Tungsten, Tantalum, Tin, and Gold, known as the 3GT metals is also subject to electronics sector legislation. All Ethernet produces are sold in compliance with key conflict minerals legislation that includes:

  • The Conflict Minerals Regulation (2021)
  • Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Act

Why is Category 5e cable important?
Category 5e cable is in widespread use in a variety of networking applications with its operation specified in industry-leading protocols and standards. As a critical physical layer component, this type of Ethernet cable determines the electrical properties, security, and data transfer speeds within Ethernet networks that can exceed 1 Gigabit per second. Key contemporary Cat5e cable applications include:

Category 5e cable for Ethernet over twisted pair
Cat5e cable is routinely used for Ethernet over twisted pair technologies. This superseded the use of coaxial cable for making network connections in the earliest form of Ethernet known as Thick Ethernet or 10BASE5. Thick Ethernet proved inflexible and unwieldy when deployed at scale. Even the use of thinner coax with the development of Thin Ethernet or 10BASE2 has a comparatively reduced scope when compared to the use of twisted pair cabling.

The first use of twisted pair cable for Ethernet was in the 1980s with the introduction of StarLAN, the first iteration of IEEE 802.3. Twisted pair cables were already in use for the analog telephone network, with cable runs in many buildings which greatly reduced deployment costs of the new network once twisted pair cables were established as effective for point to point connectivity.

Twisted pair cabling is now a feature of all Ethernet physical layers. The earlier Ethernet standards only used 2 of the 4 twisted pairs in the cable, but novel applications like Power over Ethernet (PoE) discussed below have found other ways of using the other wires.

Category 5e cable for Fast Ethernet (100BASE-TX)
Fast Ethernet (the copper version) delivers data transfer speeds of up to 100 Mbits per second over Category 5e cable. Introduced in 1995, it was the fastest network of its time. The 803.2u standard specifies data transfer over two sets of twisted pairs (4 wires) within the cable. The active wires (green and orange pairs) are terminated in positions 1, 2, 3, and 6 on modular connector pins and must be wired according to either the T568A or T568B wiring standards. One pair is used for each direction of transfer meaning that Fast Ethernet has a full-duplex operation.
100BASE-TX Ethernet networks are often star networks with participant devices connected to a hub, switch, or controller. The maximum cable length for connections is 100 meters (328 feet). Data for transfer is broken up into frames which carry sources and destination addresses to prevent errors and collisions.

Category 5e cable for Gigabit Ethernet (GbE)
Gigabit Ethernet (1 Gig E) is a version of Ethernet that has speeds of one Gigabit per second. It is outlined in the IEEE standard 802.3ab and overtook Fast Ethernet in the late 1990s due to its significant uplift of speeds. The copper of twisted pair cable version is known as 1000BASET and at a minimum must use Category 5 Ethernet cable. Network segment cable lengths for Gigabit Ethernet are limited to 100 meters (328 feet).
1000BASET uses all four twisted pairs in CAT5e cable with simultaneous bi-directional transmissions.
Gigabit Ethernet also uses autonegotiaton. This is a physical layer signaling mechanism that involves connected devices synchronizing their transmission parameters (speed) for the best-optimized performance that can be achieved by both.

Category 5e cable for Audio over Ethernet (AoE)
Category 5e cables are also cable of supporting real-time digital audio transmissions and is actively installed in public auditoria and other facilities that require XLR mic level signal coverage or high-quality audio broadcasting. In these applications, Cat5e cable is advantageous as it is designed for long-term installation and routing in public and commercial spaces, and may already have been installed as part of a home network.

The quality and speed of audio transmission are superior to VoIP and AoE has higher fidelity, bitrates, and extremely low latency which makes it advantageous for professional audio. Like standard Ethernet, the digital audio is transferred directly in frames.

There are several open-source and proprietary standards that provide detailed specifications for Audio over Ethernet networks. Most will use Category 5 cable and 1000BASE-TX signaling. Notable Layer 1 protocols for AoE over Cat5e include:

  • Behringers ULTRANET
  • SuperMAC
  • HyperMAC
  • AudioRail

Cat5e cable can also be used as speaker wire or routing for home theater, with some manufacturers even offering RJ45 jacks on speakers.

Category 5e cable for HDBaseT
HDBaseT is a proprietary set of standards for the transfer of audiovisual data over Ethernet cables that are Category 5 and above and terminated by a modular connector like RJ45. It has made the following functionalities available over Cat 5 Ethernet cable:

  • uncompressed ultra-high-definition video over Ethernet
  • digital audio
  • DC power
  • USB 2.0

The standards have been developed by HDBaseT Alliance which includes companies like Samsung, Sony, and LG Electronics as founding members. The first (1.0) specification that was released in 2010 provided a novel solution for home multimedia connectivity. 2019 saw the release of a 3.0 specification which increased the downstream bandwidth available to support the transmission of uncompressed 4K video. Using Ethernet over twisted pair, HDBaseT can also be used for internet access or SmartTV with compatible devices. Up to 7 USB devices can be simultaneously supported using this connectivity protocol. HDBaseT has extremely low latency and transmissions can take place over cable lengths of up to 100 meters (328 feet).

Category 5e cable for Power over Ethernet (PoE)
Power over Ethernet is used to describe a heterogeneous group of standards and protocols that enables DC power to be transferred to devices over twisted pair Ethernet cables like Cate 5e.

Apart from cable the other key components in PoE networks are:

  • Power Sourcing Equipment (PSE) are the devices that provide source power to devices via connected Category 5 Ethernet cable. Network switches (endspan devices) and PoE injectors (midspan devices) are capable of providing power in this way.
  • Powered Devices (PD) receive power via Ethernet cables. Depending on the device application, it may also have integrated backup or auxiliary power.

PoE means that a single Category 5e cable can not only transmit data but also the power to devices including closed-circuit television cameras, VoIP phones, and wireless access points. PoE typically uses two of the 4 signal pairs in Category 5 cable for power transfer with positive voltage transmitted on wires 4 and 5 and negative voltage on wires 7 and 8. Other protocols are capable of transferring power on the same wires that are used for data (Alternative A PoE) and may use all four pairs within a cable (known as 4-pair transmission or 4PPoE).

The IEEE Ethernet protocol 802.3 specifies at least 3 forms of PoE:

  • 802.3af This original PoE standard, released in 2003, delivers 15.4 Watts of DC power with a minimum voltage of 44 V DC and 350 mA. As some of the transmitted power dissipates in the cable, a wattage of 12.9 Wattage is reliably provided.
  • 802.3at The 2009 PoE standard known as PoE+, 25.5 Watts of DC power for suitable devices.
  • 802.3bu was released in 2016 and introduced single-pair power over data lines. This standard was developed for automotive and industrial applications with 10 power classes ranging from 0.5 to 50 Watts.

Frequently asked questions

Can Cat 5e cables be used for 2.5GBASE-T or 5GBASE-T Ethernet?
2.5GBASE-T and 5BASE-T deliver Ethernet at speeds of either 2.5 or 5 Gbit per minute as specified in IEEE 802.3bz. They have been developed as a response to demand for faster Ethernet speeds that are comparable to those attained with WiFi. 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet can use existing Gigabit Ethernet infrastructure and can be run reliably over up to 100 meters (328 feet) of Category 5e cable. However, Category 5e cable is not suitable for supporting 5 Gigabit Ethernet, this requires Category 6 cable.

Why are category 5e Ethernet cable runs limited to 100 meters (328 feet) in length?
The specified length of Ethernet cables like Cat5e in the leading protocols is limited because of the effects of signal attenuation. When a signal is transmitted along a length of cable, some of the electromagnetic energy transmitted from the source will be dissipated or absorbed by the cable’s environment before it reaches its destination. This reduction in signal is measured as a ratio between the input and output signal strength in decibels per foot or meter of cable length. As the length of the cable increases, the level of attenuation increases. Beyond 100 meters, the performance of the cable may become deranged from its specification.

Can a category 5e cable be used to share internet from a PC?
A PC with a wired or wireless internet connection can share its connectivity with another computer directly via an Ethernet cable via suitable jacks on both devices. Simply connect the Category 5e cable from the host PC to the client device. If either device lacks an Ethernet port, a USB/Ethernet adapter can be used. Once the computers are physically connected the network settings of the host computer will need to be reconfigured to allow the client device to use your network.

Can CAT 5e cable be installed outdoors?
Ethernet cable can be installed outside and is often used to provide network connectivity between properties. The type of Ethernet cable used for outdoor installations needs to be able to resist the degrading effects of exposure to dirt and dust, moisture, temperature extremes, and solar radiation. Standard Ethernet cable is not suitable as it will quickly degrade, leading to deteriorated network performance and costly downtime. An outdoor Ethernet cable will have the following features that prolong its lifespan and performance in an outside setting:

  • Solid copper wire
  • Rugged weatherproof high-density polyethylene (HDPE) jacketing
  • UV stabilized plastic jacketing

This often makes outdoor Cat5e cable thicker and less flexible than its standard counterpart. The cable connections can also be housed within weatherproof RJ45 glands and jacks which seal the mated connection from ingress of dust and moisture.

In conclusion
Category 5e cable is an Ethernet cable that can be used with confidence for a wide range of Ethernet applications. The cable can be procured pre-assembled with connectors or as a reel-in-a-box with separate modular connectors. Its consistent performance and enhanced capabilities mean that it has remained a viable and cost-effective choice for contemporary networks that demand, speed power, and ease of integration.

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