RG-6 Vs. RG-59 Cables

RG-6 and RG-59 cables differ in the kinds of signals they are designed to carry. RG-6 cables have larger core conductors than RG-59 cables. High-frequency signals travel through larger conductors with less signal degradation than smaller conductors, which makes RG-6 cables better than RG-59 cables for applications that use 50 megahertz signals and above.

RG-6 and RG-59 are both coaxial cables.
credit: Piotr Malczyk/iStock/Getty Images

General Coaxial Cable Construction

To understand the difference between RG-59 and RG-6 coaxial cables, you need to know how a coaxial cable is constructed. Coaxial cables are constructed with an outer insulating cover called a jacket, which surrounds a tube-like circular braid of wire that wraps around a solid layer of insulation -- a dielectric -- that protects a conductor core. Sometimes a foil layer, or shield, is added between the braid and the dielectric. Some cables have double layers of braid and shield. Common conductor materials include aluminum, copper and copper-plated steel.

RG-6 Cable Construction

An RG-6 coaxial cable has a 18 American wire gauge center conductor or equivalent thickness if using multiple strands of wire. This makes an RG-6 cable slightly larger in diameter than an RG-59 cable and allows it to carry signals further with less signal loss than an RG-59 cable. RG-6 cables often include single or double foil and braid shields.

RG-59 Cable Construction

An RG-59 coaxial cable has a 22 AWG center conductor or equivalent thickness if using multiple strands of wire. This makes an RG-59 cable slightly smaller in diameter than an RG-6 cable.

Selecting the Right Coaxial Cable

RG-59 cable is best used for short cable runs and applications that use frequencies below 50 MHz, like closed-circuit television networks and CCTV cameras. If you use an RG-59 cable with products that produce signals in excess of 50 MHz, then signal loss and degradation may occur due to electromagnetic influences. Because it has a larger core conductor, RG-6 cables are better than RG-59 for long cable runs. Use RG-6 cables with products like television antennas and satellite receivers and for connecting to CATV and broadband Internet networks. RG-6 cables are good for frequencies up to 1.5 gigahertz.