The specification for Category 5 cable was defined in ANSI/TIA/EIA-568-A, with clarification in TSB-95. These documents specify performance characteristics and test requirements for frequencies up to 100 MHz. Cable types, connector types and cabling topologies are defined by TIA/EIA-568-B. Nearly always, 8P8C modular connectors (often referred to as RJ45 connectors) are used for connecting Category 5 cable. The cable is terminated in either the T568A scheme or the T568B scheme. The two schemes work equally well and may be mixed in an installation so long as the same scheme is used on both ends of each cable.
Each of the four pairs in a Cat 5 cable has differing precise number of twists per meter to minimize crosstalk between the pairs. Although cable assemblies containing 4 pairs are common, Category 5 is not limited to 4 pairs. Backbone applications involve using up to 100 pairs. This use of balanced lines helps preserve a high signal-to-noise ratio despite interference from both external sources and crosstalk from other pairs.
The cable is available in both stranded and solid conductor forms. The stranded form is more flexible and withstands more bending without breaking. Permanent wiring (for example, the wiring inside the wall that connects a wall socket to a central patch panel) is solid-core, while patch cables (for example, the movable cable that plugs into the wall socket on one end and a computer on the other) are stranded.
The specific category of cable in use can be identified by the printing on the side of the cable.
Most Category 5 cables can be bent at any radius exceeding approximately four times the outside diameter of the cable.
Maximum cable segment length
The maximum length for a cable segment is 100 m per TIA/EIA 568-5-A. If longer runs are required, the use of active hardware such as a repeater or switch is necessary. The specifications for 10BASE-T networking specify a 100-meter length between active devices. This allows for 90 meters of solid-core permanent wiring, two connectors and two stranded patch cables of 5 meters, one at each end.
Category 5 vs. 5e
The Category 5e specification improves upon the Category 5 specification by tightening some crosstalk specifications and introducing new crosstalk specifications that were not present in the original category 5 specification. The bandwidth of Category 5 and 5e is the same (100 MHz) and the physical cable construction is the same, and the reality is that most Cat5 cables meet Cat5e specifications, though it is not tested or certified as such.
This type of cable is used in structured cabling for computer networks such as Ethernet over twisted pair. The cable standard provides performance of up to 100 MHz and is suitable for 10BASE-T, 100BASE-TX (Fast Ethernet), and 1000BASE-T (Gigabit Ethernet). 10BASE-T and 100BASE-TX Ethernet connections require two wire pairs. 1000BASE-T Ethernet connections require four wire pairs. Through the use of power over Ethernet (PoE), up to 25 watts of power can be carried over the cable in addition to Ethernet data.
Cat 5 is also used to carry other signals such as telephony and video.
In some cases, multiple signals can be carried on a single cable; cat 5 can carry two conventional telephone lines as well as 100BASE-TX in a single cable. The USOC/RJ-61 wiring standard may be used in multi-line telephone connections.