Network Cabling worth upgrading?

When I started using network cables the standard was CAT5, since those halcyon days we have seen the standards change to CAT5e, CAT6 and currently CAT7. This has, in theory, enabled Gigabit capability with incredibly fast and reliable speeds. Have you upgraded your cabling (& network devices) and did the anticipated speed benefits happen in reality? What problems did you experience?

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  • TheCustomCave
    TheCustomCave Member, Beta Tester Posts: 48
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    #2 Accepted Answer
    To be honest, in general you're perfectly fine with CAT5e for gigabit networking. The technical specs for CAT6, CAT6A, CAT7 etc. are more about increasing reliability both over longer distances and when running near electrical supplies or equipment.

    From CAT6 onward you have support for up to a theoretical 10Gb/s but obviously that's also down to the equipment you're pushing the data through with. You don't get any benefit in just swapping out the cables in your walls without changing the equipment.

    We tend to put a minimum of CAT6 into our projects but they tend to all be schools & collages - this is usually several hundred cables running together, close to things like lighting and power. Shielding of CAT6a for instance or even CAT7 makes it a little easier for design, and gives you a slight advantage in futureproofing.

    CAT6a tends to be the minimum required for things like HDMI over ethernet which needs higher frequencies for transmission - that's where you really see the need for it.

    For the average person at home, being 20m from their router, CAT5e is perfectly fine for just about everything. If you're running HDMI over ethernet from one building into another that's 70m want CAT6a. Running high speed data and power to a lab or a data farm?...maybe look at CAT7.
    MarcVioletChepilrsattlerkltaylor[Deleted User]HronosJoelPoindexter
  • CPKokoska
    CPKokoska Member, Beta Tester Posts: 8
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    #3 Accepted Answer

    I suggest you actually TEST your installed cabling to confirm/certify the bandwidth it is actually providing rather than worry about what CAT level the cable itself is capable of.

    Many seem to believe that simply purchasing a box of CAT "X" cable means the installed product automatically delivers the rated capacity- nothing could be further from the truth! In reality, so many variables come into play during installation that it is literally possible to max out a CAT7 cable at only 7MBps throughput even over surprisingly short distances!

    Don't make the mistake of relying on simple continuity tests to assure performance either - you need something that will measure parameters like crosstalk and headroom OR something that tests and validates throughput. Luckily, both types of gear are now readily available at prices within reach of "prosumers".

    For those with more practical budgets and/or limited uses, plenty of network gear now inherently performs such tests and makes results easy for you to see and interpret. UBIQUITI switches and Access Points are but one reasonably priced example of such gear. Connect one of their APs to one of their managed POE switches and their free software will test and display wired (as well as wireless) link speeds for every device. For example, at my home (good size property), I have 18 Access points (some indoors and some outdoors) spread across a 5 acre area supporting 128 wireless devices. Although I THOUGHT I was careful during installation, I obviously got a little lax (figuring it was 'just my home network'). To make a long story shorter, the Ubiquiti software ('Unifi') soon identified that several of my wired links to APs would periodically drop from 1Gb to 100MB (or worse), which raised havoc with the overall network reliability and throughput as wireless devices starting jumping APs to reconnect because oversampling of the lower speed AP connections. I needed test equipment to isolate the cable problems and insure resolutions, but without Unifi initially identifying the root problems, I would have gone through a LOT more troubleshooting (eliminating WiFi issues first, etc...).

    So bottom line, as long as you're running 1GBps POE+ OR LESS indoors at distances clearly below 100 meters, focus more on confirming bandwidth of installed cabling rather than whether to use CAT 5 or higher rated cable because if properly installed, nothing you're likely to connect to it over the next 5 years or so will see any performance benefits from using any higher rated cable (yes, my day job is engineering networks).

    VioletChepilrsattlerMarc[Deleted User]Hronos


  • VioletChepil
    VioletChepil London, UKMember Posts: 2,471
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    Thanks for this question. I wonder does @TheCustomCave have anything to add on this one? 

    Community Manager at Fing

  • VioletChepil
    VioletChepil London, UKMember Posts: 2,471
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    Anything else to add in @Marc @kltaylor @Pooh @Mirekmal ?

    Community Manager at Fing

  • Pooh
    Pooh Member, Beta Tester Posts: 674
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    Way way way back in 2002 when we brought our house I had some Cat5e laid between what was going to be my office in the basement and the second floor of the house. That has worked out perfectly not just for multiple WiFi AP's etc, but now as a Wired backhaul for my Eeros.

    If I was doing it now I'd obviously put newer grade in, as it is, I still see this as lasting another 5-10 years as I'm nowhere near using all the bandwidth it supplies.
    People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day.
  • Marc
    Marc Moderator, Beta Tester Posts: 2,884
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    Depends where it’s being installed. In the home, cat 5e (or even 5) is fine as consumer grade home network kit does not go past 1gb. If you look at most isp’s standard offerings, most go nowhere near what a home network can handle. Now everyone’s speed and situations are different so keep that in mind.

    If this is a commercial installation, throw everything I said out the window and listen to @TheCustomCave , he gave great info.

    Thats Daphnee, she's a good dog...
    VioletChepilTheCustomCave[Deleted User]Hronos
  • RichCreedy
    RichCreedy Member, Beta Tester Posts: 38
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    no benefit at the moment for home users to upgrade a currently in place cat 5E cable, it is Gbit capable, if you are replacing damaged/worn cables then by all means replace with cat6. I wired my home with cat6, as it didn't have any network cabling at all. cat7 and 8 in the home environment are overkill to be fair. cat 6 is adequate for most homes, unless you need to run it longer than 100m; approximately 50m if running 10gb.
    VioletChepilTheCustomCave[Deleted User]Hronos
  • Mirekmal
    Mirekmal Member, Beta Tester Posts: 68
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    I remodeled my house in 2000 and at that time I went for Cat 5e all around (since I had to lay cables in very 'unstright' way, some are up to 70 m long). In meantime I made some upgrade moving to newer router (capable of handling >250mbps WAN), which implies 1Gb LAN also. I also added some new connections and in this case I used Cat 6 already (but I guess it was not really necessary). No problems at all. Though there are things I learned from doing this installation and further upgrading it:
    - Buy cheap network tester, that can measure and display cable length. I use some very cheap one (~$50) and it was huge help! First you can easily spot in RJ45 are properly tightened and any of lead is not connected before going to troubleshoot connection. Secondly, If you see uneven length of leads in cable (e.g. all leads 50m and one 60m) it again means that plug is not properly tightened. But in such scenario you can be surprising results... Network speed might vary  depending on lots of different conditions (like temperature!) and can easily drop from 1Gb to 100mb
    - If you only can run everything on cable, leaving WiFi for devices that can't connect on copper. You will get steady, fast connection. Since you have your network already build, the only upgrade I'd consider is to put more cable, to make everything wired...
    - Spend your time and analyze all of your wired devices to figure out common denominator for flow control, jumbo frames size, duplex... Having all of them set to the same parameter might slightly improve speed (especially jumbo), but will improve stability. 
    VioletChepil[Deleted User]Hronos