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Is Category 5e Cabling Obsolete?

It could be time to upgrade your office’s cabling. After an important decision by the ISO/IEC cabling standards body Category 5e cabling will be considered obsolete for new installations.

With the demand for a variety of cabling types and the trends in technology, including bandwidth requirements the ISO/IEC has upgraded the minimum recommendation for horizontal cabling in offices.


Office buildings across the globe use Category 5e cabling, which will now become obsolete for future installations. Check out the updated cabling recommendations and requirements below.

  • For offices (11801-2) the minimum recommendation for horizontal cabling will be raised from Class D to Class E. The requirement is set to be published by the ISO/IEC in 2017. This will include a recommendation to customers to dispense Class Ea to support applications with alien cross talk.
  • Industrial (11801-3) buildings and single tenant homes (11801-4) will continue to use Class D cabling. Although updated requirements will not be far behind.
  • The minimum requirement for data centres (11801-5) and distributed services (11801-6) continues to be Class Ea cabling.

The ISO/IEC 11801 was the first international standard for cabling in commercial buildings and they were integral to the explosive growth and mass integration of Ethernet and IP communication around the world. Cabling standards continue to rise as the average number of devices per employee is increasing and offices are forced to upgrade pathways to accommodate wireless access points (WAPS).

The 11801 standard now includes a variety of cabling classes to help support up to 10 gigabits per second.  Many industry experts predict a rapid adoption of speeds beyond 1GB/s for the average office user due to video conferencing, high definition imaging, 3D printing and other support applications.

The rise of smartphone and tablets has led to the increased need to upgrade LAN infrastructure. With media-rich user expectations upgrades to IEEE 802.11ac have accelerated. With speeds of up to 7 Gb/s the new infrastructure will include backhaul requirements exceeding 1 Gb/s by Class D and Class E cabling.

This new LAN infrastructure has acted as a catalyst for new IEEE specifications for 2.5BASE-T. These upgrades will address installed Class D cabling and 5GBASE-T will address Class E cabling. It is important to note that transmission requirements of 2.5 and 5GBASE-T exceed both Class D and E specifications.

This could mean alien crosstalk qualification of Class D and Class E installed cabling could become a costly and lengthy process but would be needed to verify support of 2.5 and 5GBASE-T (qualifications are based on 10GBASE-T). With this development the market for 2.5 and 5GBASE-T will increase and will cause a downward price pressure and improve efficiency for the system.


This change will simplify the question we are always asked: “What is your recommendation on whether we should install Category 5e or Category 6?” Now, offices will not have a choice.

Let’s keep in mind that all new Category 6 cables and components are backwards compatible with Category 5e.

Category 6 cable provides increased bandwidth, offering the ability to perform at speeds of 10 gigabit, with distance limitations. This will mean increased costs (over Category 5e) for businesses that are installing new or upgrading their existing structured cabling systems, however the price difference between Category 5e and 6 is getting smaller every year. Plus, the benefits of future-proofing your network cabling system now, will mean lower costs in the future.

After 20 years as the international standard Class D has become obsolete and will be replaced by Class Ea. Cabling recommendations and requirements will continue to evolve. Core Cabling will be there to keep you up to date with the changes. If you have any questions about the cabling upgrade or you are interested in finding out more about upgrading your building contact us today, or request a quote.

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