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Category 5 cable, commonly known as Cat 5, is a twisted pair (4 pairs) cable type designed for high signal integrity. Many such cables are unshielded but some are shielded. Category 5 has been superseded by the Category 5e specification. This type of cable is often used in structured cabling for computer networks such as Ethernet, and is also used to carry many other signals such as basic voice services, token ring, and asynchronous transfer mode (at up to 155 Mbit/s, over short distances).
Category 5 cable includes four twisted pairs in a single cable jacket. In unshielded twisted pair (UTP) cable, each pair is represented by a specific color. Pair 1 is Blue, Pair 2 is Orange, Pair 3 is Green, and Pair 4 is Brown. In each pair, one wire is a solid color, and the other is predominantly white with a color stripe.
This use of balanced lines helps preserve a high signal-to-noise ratio despite interference from both external sources and other pairs (this latter form of interference is called crosstalk). It is most commonly used for 100 Mbit/s networks, such as 100BASE-TX Ethernet, although IEEE 802.3ab defines standards for 1000BASE-T - Gigabit Ethernet over Category 5 cable. Cat 5 cable typically has three twists per inch of each twisted pair of 24 gauge copper wires within the cables. The specification for Category 5 cable was defined in ANSI/TIA/EIA-568-A.
Cat 5e cable is an enhanced version of Cat 5 that adds specifications for far end crosstalk. It was formally defined in 2001 as the TIA/EIA-568-B standard, which no longer recognizes the original Cat 5 specification. Although 1000BASE-T was designed for use with Cat 5 cable, the tighter specifications associated with Cat 5e cable and connectors make it an excellent choice for use with 1000BASE-T. Despite the stricter performance specifications, Cat 5e cable does not enable longer cable distances for Ethernet networks: cables are still limited to a maximum of 100 m (328 ft) in length (normal practice is to limit fixed ("horizontal") cables to 90 m to allow for up to 5 m of patch cable at each end, this comes to a total of the previous mentioned 100m maximum). Cat 5e cable performance characteristics and test methods are defined in TIA/EIA-568-B.2-2001.
Cat 5/5e cable exists in both stranded and solid conductor forms. The stranded form is more flexible, withstands more bending without breaking, and is suited for reliable connections with insulation piercing connectors; however, it makes unreliable connections in insulation-displacement connectors. The solid form is less expensive and makes reliable connections into insulation displacement connectors, but makes unreliable connections in insulation piercing connectors. Taking these things into account, building wiring (e.g., the wiring inside the wall that connects a wall socket to a central patch panel) is solid core, while patch cables (e.g., the movable cable that plugs into the wall socket on one end and a computer on the other) are stranded.
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