The Difference Between RG6 & CAT5 Coax

By David Lipscomb

The two primary cables used in modern home and business networks are Radio Guide 6 -- RG6 -- and Category 5, or CAT5. Both have different tasks, equal in importance. The differences between the two reflect the tasks each is asked to perform. These cables are fundamentally different in construction, bandwidth, and connection type. However, without one or the other, the network cannot operate.

RG6

A form of coaxial cable, RG6 uses a single solid-core 18-gauge center conductor. Surrounding this conductor is a white plastic dielectric sheath, insulating the conductor from the braided and foil shields. These shields protect the delicate signals traveling on the inner conductor from electromagnetic and radio frequency interference. The connector comprises the center conductor and threaded collar. The center pin carries the signal, while the collar creates the ground.

CAT5 (Ethernet)

Ethernet cables are stranded wires, each carrying signal and timing information. Formed of twisted pairs contained within a main outer jacket, each pairing is necessary to get the signal from point to point. This cable comes in two types; unshielded twisted pair -- UTP -- and shielded twisted pair, or STP. Although the twists in UTP tend to negate interference, its lack of shielding makes it slightly more susceptible to EMI and RF interference. Shielded pairs typically incorporate a foil shield over each pair, enabling enhanced resistance to external interference. A latched RJ-45 plastic connector at the end, similar to a larger phone-style jack, connects networked devices together.

RG6 Network Functions

These cables normally carry the network signal from the service provider's local distribution box into the home or business, to the cable modem. Coaxial cables have bandwidth well in excess of that needed to carry the signal from the distribution box into the home. Properly constructed, these cables are weather-resistant and most are direct-burial capable.

CAT5 Tasks

Category 5 cables connect from the output of modems to network routers or switches. From there, a single Ethernet cable travels from the output of the router or switch to the individual computer or networked device. A normal wired Ethernet connection is 100 megabits per second, well within the specifications of a typical CAT5 wire.