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The Anatomy of CAT5 Cable

CAT5e cable (UTP)

How CAT5 Cable Works

CAT5 cables contain eight wires--usually 24-gauge copper. The wires are divided into four pairs and each pair is twisted together, thus the moniker twisted pair. Pair 1: White/Blue - Blue Pair 2: White/Orange - Orange Pair 3: White/Green - Green Pair 4: White/Brown - Brown

Twisted pair End A Fast Ethernet (100 Mbps) communications utilize two pairs--Pair 2 and Pair 3 are used while Pair 1 and Pair 4 are not. CAT5 cable pairs are twisted together to promote signal balance. Both wires in a pair carry the same information and the electromagnetic fields generated by the individual wires cancel each other out by virtue of being twisted together. Thus, each balanced pair poses less risk of interference with the other pairs. Because each pair carries two copies of the same information, less power is required to send the signal, further reducing electromagnetic interference. CAT5 cables have more twists per inch than earlier CAT cable versions allowing CAT5 cable to run at higher speeds and span greater lengths. CAT5 cables are terminated by RJ45 connectors. There are two standards for wiring RJ45 plugs and jacksEIA/TIA T568A and T568B. These standards dictate the color code pattern used to connect the cable wires to the RJ45 plugs and jacks. Most premade patch cables use T568B.

Vinyl jacket

Patch Cable (T568B): Both ends wired according to End A diagram Crossover Cable (T568B): One end wired according to End A diagram and the other end wired according to End B diagram

End B Images and diagrams by Bill Detwiler

What CAT5 Cable is

CAT5, which is short for Category 5 and indicates the fifth generation, is a standard for twisted pair Ethernet cable as defined by the EIA/TIA (Electronic Industries Association and Telecommunications Industry Association). CAT5 is the most common cabling system used for networks today. CAT5 cable runs are limited to a maximum recommended length of 100m (328 feet).

CAT5 Cable Type

Unshielded Twisted Pair (UTP) is the most common and is simply made up of the twisted pairs enclosed in the vinyl jacket. Shielded Twisted Pair (STP) is a bit more expensive and the twisted pairs are encased an insulating wrapper and then enclosed in the vinyl jacket. The insulating wrapper is designed to protect the signal from electromagnetic interference leaking into or out of the cable.

By Greg Shultz
Version 1.0 April 5, 2005
Copyright 2005 CNET Networks, Inc. All rights reserved. To see more downloads and get your free TechRepublic membership, please visit:

The Anatomy of CAT5 Cable

Additional resources
Sign up for the Desktops newsletter, delivered on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays Sign up for the TechRepublic White Papers newsletter, delivered on Wednesdays See all of TechRepublic's newsletter offerings CAT5 Patch/Crossover cable creation guide (TechRepublic) Unshielded twisted-pair cabling basics (TechRepublic) RJ-45 module installation guide (TechRepublic)

Version history
Version: 1.0 Published: April 5, 2005

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