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CAT5 Network Cables Explained

CAT5 cable has been around for quite some time now and for the history of it detailing things like bending radius and other specifics you can always visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category_5_cable while not the definitive answer on all things CAT5 it covers most of the basics. CAT5E is what is widely used today and honestly it is able to meet the needs of most homes and small business when it comes to speed and ease of use. Bulk CAT5E is commonly available in 1,000 pull boxes and spools in the following variants, each with a with a wide range of colors to choose from.


Category 5 Networking Cable:

CAT5E – Solid Solid CAT5 cable is without doubt the most common cable in use today, this is ideal for most applications in the home or office. It is intended for installation in walls, ceilings etc. Standard solid cable is easier to work with than stranded, shielded or plenum due to the lack of protective layers of metal foil or other measures the other types mentioned utilize. It is great for working with when using crimping tools, punchdown wall plates, patch panels, etc. Solid CAT5 is the most readily available and therefore the least expensive option offered. 
CAT5E – Stranded Stranded cable lends itself to being a bit more flexible and therefore better when used for patch cables and shorter runs in general. Because each of the 8 wires inside that transmit your data is using several smaller copper wires instead of the one solid wire it can bend easier but as such tends to be more expensive to manufacture and a bit more difficult to work with as well. Some people make the mistake of not educating themselves and just assume it’s a better quality product but end up returning it which is of course not cheap either.
CAT5E – Shielded STP stands for Shielded Twisted Pair which is a type of cable that provides excellent shielding against electrical interference by wrapping the wires that transmit data in a mylar foil. (think of it as a tin foil hat for your cable!). STP cable is great when working in drop ceilings where the interference from lights and other electrical wires can cause cross talk and problems that slow down data traffic. STP cable comes in both Solid and Stranded.
CAT5E – Plenum
Plenum rated cable is the most expensive version and designed for use in air conditioning and ventilation systems. Essentially if the building it were installed in were to catch fire and thus the cable running through the air ducts of that building, it’s flame-retardant properties would not emit the same amount of toxins that the non plenum cable would.  You should always check the local building codes to determine if Plenum cable is required in your area.