Pros and cons of Cat5 data cabling

The EIA / TIA-568-A standard for Cat5 data cabling defines the parameters, both through speeds and cable length. Newer cables, such as Category 6, are capable of much higher speeds, but they also cost more than Cat5. When it was introduced in 1995, the specification defining Cat5 data cabling defined the upper limits of what four pairs of copper wires could do for data networks. Cable testing ensures that your network works when the cable is fully installed and completed.

Cat5 data cabling specifications

The Cat5 cable standard specifies performance metrics for Category 5 and Enhanced 5. The former, Category 3, sets the maximum cable speed to sixteen MHz. However, Cat5 data cabling is capable of speeds up to 100 MHz. This was known as the 100-Base-T Network Standard versus the previous 10-Base-T. The maximum permissible length of the permanent link, defined as the maximum allowable distance, including patch wires, between active devices on the network shall not exceed 90 meters. The Cat5 standard also sets test standards for maximum allowable attenuation levels, near and far ends of cross talk (NEXT and FIX) and delay and delay skew and a number of other cross-talk based measurements.

Different types of tests

There are two basic types of testing that can be performed on data cabling, wiremapping and standard-based testing. The wiremap shows whether the cable is properly terminated at both ends until each color terminates at the correct location. Standard-based testing is further divided into simple verification that the cable meets the minimum Cat5 certification standards. Once verified, the person performing the test simply compares the measurements obtained with the standard. Once the cable system is certified, the end user will receive a report giving the measurements obtained for each cable and where that cable goes. The cable tester tests for compliance with all cable metrics specified in the standard being tested.

There are newer and more expensive options

The Cat5 data wiring standard is quite old. This type of cabling is capable of running 100 Megabit Ethernet. The current standard in data cabling is Cat6 Augmented, capable of speeds up to ten Gigabits Ethernet. If you have very large amounts of data sent around your network on a regular basis, Cat 6 may be what you need. However, if the amount of information sent over your network is a bit smaller and will remain for the foreseeable future, Cat5 data cabling can save you a lot of money in material costs. Cat5 terminations are much easier to make correctly than Cat6 terminations, too. Since Cat6 cabling is capable of such high speeds, proper finishing requirements are much stricter, requiring specialized training, whereas Cat5 finishes are relatively easy to execute properly.