Category 6 cable (CAT-6) is a Gigabit (1000 Mbps) Ethernet cable standard, as defined by the Electronic Industries and Telecommunications Industry Association (EIA/TIA). Unlike CAT-5, this 6th generation twisted pair Ethernet cabling system contains four parts of copper wires running at a maximum recommended length of 100 meters (328 feet). The system is also backward compatible with Category 3 and 5/5E (CAT-5) cable standards.

There are two main types of twisted-pair cable systems like CAT-6 – solid and stranded.

Solid CAT-6 sustains longer runs, thus working optimally in fixed-wiring configurations such as those found in office buildings.

Stranded CAT-6 is better suited for less-distance mobile cabling like “patch” cables.

The CAT-6 cable containing four twisted pairs of copper wire is similar to previous copper cable standards. CAT-6 may be made from 23-gauge wire. The ANSI/TIA-568B.2-1 specification identifies that the cable may consist of wires from 22 to 24-gauge types as long as the specified testing standards are satisfied. As a patch cable, CAT-6 usually terminates in 8P8C modular connectors (erroneously referred to as RJ-45).

Similar to earlier cable standards, CAT-6 has more rigorous specifications for system noise and crosstalk. Its ideal performance can go up to 250 MHz.

The basic difference between CAT-5 and CAT-6 is the extension and transmission performance of the accessible bandwidth (100 MHz for CAT-5E and 200 MHz for CAT-6). CAT-6 has improved insertion loss, near-end cross talk, return loss, and equal level far-end crosstalk. CAT-6 also offers communications transmission beyond double the speed of CAT-5E.

Systems employing the CAT-6 cabling will incur less error in comparison to the CAT-5E systems. The CAT-6 networked systems will be more reliable than the CAT-5E systems because there is a lower degree of re-transmission due to lost or corrupted data packets.