If you’re looking to run new cabling either in a new facility or an existing one, it’s important to know your options. The first thing you’ll need to decide is whether you want Cat 5e or Cat 6. Cat 5e has been the standard for many years now and is still commonly run. Cat 5e can theoretically support 1000Mbps (gigabit) speeds and has good resistance to interference.
Cat 6 cable will eventually supersede Cat 5e as the standard. It has stricter specifications when it comes to interference, so it’s better shielded and it is theoretically capable of speeds up to 10Gbps (10,000Mbps). If you’re wiring up a new place, it would be wise to go with Cat 6, but if you do, you’ll need to use Cat 6 jacks and patch panels. And if you’re looking to get the fastest speeds possible, make sure that your routers and switches are all gigabit capable.
A note on speed: your internal network speed running over your Cat 5e or Cat 6 cable is different than your Internet speed, which you get from your service provider. If your ISP is only delivering data to your office at 1.5Mbps, your 10,000Mbps data network isn’t going to make much difference in loading web pages. If you’re transferring files across your internal network, however, the faster speed of Cat 6 could make a big difference.
The other factor to consider is plenum or non-plenum. Both Cat 5e and Cat 6 cables come in plenum or non-plenum varieties. Plenum cables are designed to run in the plenum spaces of a building (i.e. those parts of a building that can facilitate air circulation for heating and air conditioning). Plenum cable is jacketed with a fire-retardant plastic and is typically mandated in hospitals, schools and buildings above three stories. Plenum cable is more expensive, so it’s best to check with your state and local building codes to determine if you need to spend the extra money.