Understanding Twisted Pair Technologies
In many cases, different Cat levels of cable can look identical (and use the same physical connectors on the ends of cables), and still have different data-carrying capabilities and performance. Among Unshielded Twisted Pair, for example, Cat 3 and Cat 5 cables might look interchangeable, but due to their hardware characteristics, Cat 5 performs better than Cat 3 at higher data transmission speeds.
In general in the Unshielded Twisted Pair world, a higher-level Cat cable can be substituted for a lower one without affecting network reliability or speed.
However, the same is not true in reverse if youre using your cable at its maximum rated speed, and replace a cable with one of a lesser Cat level, it may not work (worst case) or it may slow down your network.
Selection of the proper variety of twisted pair cable requires that you know the network hardware communication standard used at your site (or that you determine the standard to be used, at a new site), and the hardware that must be connected.
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