Ethernet Cable Ratings: choose the best ethernet cable for your application


Determining the perfect cable for your application could be challenging without having your facts together. You have to consider ethernet cable ratings

This article will discuss the various ethernet cable ratings and their ideal applications to help you make the best decision.

Table of Contents

Ethernet Cable Ratings: When it Comes to Speed Ratings

Below are the various ethernet cable ratings according to their transfer speeds.

Cat 1 through Cat 5

We will skip the following categories because they are old and longer in use. 

They are not officially recognizable standards, so they are no longer in the making. 

Another reason behind this is that they are too slow to use anymore.

Cat 5e

The ‘e’ in Cat 5e means enhanced. Despite the enhancement, there are no physical differences between the Cat 5e and Cat 5 cables. 

However, Cat 5e cables undergo construction under more strict testing standards to eliminate the crosstalk (unintended signal transfers among communication channels).

 Currently, the Cat 5e cable (1Gbps / 1000mbps) is the most widely used ethernet cable as a result of an increase in speed in comparison to Cat 5  ( 100mbps) and cheap cost.

Cat 5e Cable

Caption: Cat 5e Cable

Cat 6

In comparison to the Cat 5e, the Cat 6 cables support the same transfer speeds but offer an increase in bandwidth, which results in its overall better performance.

 The Cat 6 cable is tightly wound and fitted with a braided or foil shield that provides protection for the twisted pair of wires.  

The twisted pair, in turn, better prevents noise interference and crosstalk. 

Technically, a Cat 6 cable is even capable of supporting speeds of 10 Gbps for about 55 meters.

 However, for such speeds, there comes a price to pay because the Cat 6 cable costs significantly higher than the Cat 5e cables.

Cat 6a

Similar to the Cat 5e, the ‘a’ in Cat 6a means augmented, which means cables that utilize this standard are simply better versions of the Cat 6 cable. 

They offer twice the bandwidth that Cat 6 cables offer and are more than capable of supporting faster speeds over longer cable runs. 

The Cat 6a cable has a shield and a sheath thick enough to eliminate crosstalk. 

However, due to its thick sheath, it’s denser and less flexible compared to the Cat 6 cable.

Cat 7 and Cat 7a

Compared to the Cat 6 cable, the Cat 7 cable supports significantly faster transfer speeds (10 Gbps) and higher bandwidth because it uses the most modern ethernet technology.

 It is even capable of supporting speeds of about 100 Gbps at a distance of around 15 meters, earning it a spot among the fastest ethernet cables in the market. 

Although Cat 7a and Cat 7 cables are high-performance for most people, they are useless because they use a custom GigaGate 45 connector.

Although the backward compatibility with RJ 45 is slightly helpful, there are some problems following previous standards. 

Therefore, manufacturers avoided the use of the Cat 7 cable. 

The Cat 7a cable is the second-highest specification cable you could get. 

Similar to Cat 7, it is rarely available and offers limited options for supporting networking equipment. 

This standard supports 40-gigabit connections for up to 50 meters but with twice as much bandwidth as Cat 7.

 They are very expensive compared to other options; therefore, consider using them in very niche scenarios. 

Cat 8

The Cat 8 standard offers a max frequency of about 2000 MHz and transfer speeds of about 40 Gbps for up to 30 meters.

 Its high frequency requires shielding; therefore, the Cat 8 cable always has a shield. 

Furthermore, the Cat 8 cable is capable of supporting two connectors. 

Therefore, it only allows the connection of three ethernet cables with a maximum length of 30 meters. 

Also, the Cat 8 ethernet cables are the most future-proof option. However, all this is at the cost of a significantly higher cost. 

Facts About Ethernet Cable Speed Ratings

CategoryStandard BandwidthMax Data RateShielding
Cat 5e100 MHz with a maximum of 350 MHz1000 MbpsSTP or UTP
Cat 6250 MHz with a maximum of 550MHz1000 MbpsSTP or UTP
Cat 6a500 MHz with a maximum of 550MHZ10 GbpsSTP or UTP 
Cat 7600 MHz10 GbpsOnly Shielded 
Cat 82000 MHz25 to 40 GbpsOnly Shielded 

Ethernet Cable Ratings: When it Comes to Safety Rating

Below are the various ethernet cable ratings regarding the safety rating of the jacket.

Plenum Rated (CMP)

In a commercial building (a school, office, hospital, hotel, or more), a construction contractor installs an HVAC system in the plenum. 

The plenum space is a favorable place to install cables. Although this seems convenient, you have to keep in mind special considerations about toxic smoke and fire.

Plenum areas are a great method to quickly channel fire and smoke from one room to another. 

If your PVC cable isn’t plenum rated, it will help spread fire and smoke, which will end up invading the working and common spaces and resulting in immediate fatality or long-term health problems.

Due to the critical nature of fire prevention, the plenum performance rating came to be. 

Most of the time, plenum cables undergo construction using fluorinated ethylene propylene, which is basically a plasticized Teflon. 

FEP, however, emits some smoke when burning and has low toxicity.

In comparison to non-plenum cables, plenum cables are more expensive. 

The choice to install is not entirely up to you as insurance requirements, customer requirements, and local fire codes determine if you need to use a plenum.

 Regardless never use a standard PVC cable in the plenum space.   

Riser Rated (CMR)

Riser-rated ethernet cable is basically PVC and is suitable for application inside walls and running vertically between floors. 

Its fire resistance capabilities are a result of a Teflon coating or fiber strands baked into the jacket. 

However, if the cable actually burns, the resultant fumes and smoke are toxic.

Riser-rated jackets are the most widely available jackets in the market today and significantly cost less. 

You can use riser-rated cables in any part of the building except the plenum.

General Rated (CMG/CM)

Similar to the riser-rated cable, general-rated cables are also made of PVC, but they have no protection features.

 A general-rated cable will burn similarly to any other untreated plastic and produce toxic fumes and smoke.

For commercial use, general-rated cables are ideal for creating connections in a single room, for example, ready-made patches from a computer to the wall. 

Also, you can use it in horizontally exposed metal cable trays that don’t enter the plenum space. 

As a result of its restriction for commercial applications, this jacket type is rarely seen. 

You will mainly use plenum and riser cables as a result of insurance, contractual, or legal obligations. 

On the other hand, for residential applications, you can use CM cables anywhere within the structure’s interior.

Outdoor (CMX)

As the name suggests, outdoor-rated cables are designed for outdoor applications, such as direct burial or open air. 

Since outdoor-rated jackets aren’t flame rated, there are various that determine how and where you can install them.

Outdoor cables don’t use PVC for the cable jacket and instead use LLDPE, which is weatherproof and UV resistant. 

Extra cable construction makes outdoor cables suitable for direct burial or open air and costly, however not as costly as plenum-rated cables.

Outdoor Ethernet Cable

Caption: Outdoor Ethernet Cable

Facts About Ethernet Cable Jacket Ratings

ConditionsPlenum (CMP)Riser (CMR)General (CM)Outdoor (CMX)
Plenum spaces in commercial structuresYesNoNoNo
In walls/between floors in commercial structuresYesYesNoNo
Patch CablesYesYesYesNo
Outdoor/Direct BurialNoNoNoYes


Hopefully. after reading the article above, you now know the different ethernet cable ratings, and you can make the best decision on what cable better serves your needs. 

In case you have any queries, feel free to contact Cloom Tech.