About 6 years ago, someone told me that CAT5e was going to be replaced soon by CAT6. Now in 2008, I'm still seeing a lot of CAT5e sales. CAT6 is selling as well, but we just did a recent poll on our website, and about 70% of the cables being purchased are still CAT5e over CAT6. Why is this? Isn't CAT6 way faster?
Nobody sells CAT5 anymore. CAT5e replaced that technology in 2001-2002. My opinion? I think that there is no NOTICEABLE difference for the average user. In fact, I would say there is no difference, especially if you are just going from the wall to your desktop or laptop computer (say 7-14 feet). I think you might notice if you get above 50 feet. BUT, in order to have a truly CAT6 system, EVERYTHING must be CAT6 including the wires in the walls. Also, if you are connecting to wireless routers, the difference between CAT6 and CAT5e really doesn't matter. So, we still sell both. I don't know that CAT6 will every fully replace CAT5e because other technologies are becoming more cost effective.
The challenge with both CAT5e and CAT6 is that they are both using copper conductors. And copper is now so expensive, not to mention that there is a copper shortage, other technologies like Fiber Optics, is likely to become just as cost effective as the copper wires. Fiber is, well, the speed of light. How does copper compete with that?
I think that with the rising costs of copper, we'll see a move to affordable Fiber Networks even for the SOHO industries. You'll enjoy blazing speeds, and no copper wires. This also is great for EMI. Electrical interference is not an issue when data travels through light beams instead of electrical pulses. I love you CAT5e and CAT6, but the writing is on the wall... You'll be old technology as the world goes to fiber. You'll even see HDMI and USB replaced by Fiber. Toslink (fiber optic audio) is really making a move replacing the composite and component audio cables. It was stalled somewhat because HDMI combined audio and video, but there is a lot of copper in those HDMI cables. They are heavy, expensive, and the factories are strugling to get enough copper to fill orders.
Like all changes in industry standards, it will take awhile, but it will happen. Do you have any bulky SCSI or Parallel cables still in a box somewhere? Don't they look like old heavy technology compared to our slim USB and CAT6 cables? We'll look at USB and CAT6 cables the same way as we use light, thin fiber optic cables to connect our external storage device to our TV, home theater, and computer (which will all be one and the same eventually).
Until next time
The Cable Guy