Category 5 - Unshielded twisted pair with 100 ohm impedance and electrical characteristics supporting transmission at frequencies up to 100 MHz. May be used with 10Base-T, 100Base-T4, 100Base-T2, and 100Base-TX Ethernet. May support 1000Base-T, but cable should be tested. (Superceded by Cat5e)
Category 5e - "Enhanced Cat 5" exceeds Cat 5 performance. Very similar to Cat 5, it has improved specifications for NEXT (Near End Cross Talk), PSELFEXT (Power Sum Equal Level Far End Cross Talk), and Attenuation. May be used for 10Base-T, 100Base-T4, 100Base-T2, 100BaseTX and 1000Base-T Ethernet. (Minimum acceptable wiring grade)
Category 6 - In June 2002 TIA approved specification for Cat 6 doubling Cat 5 bandwidth to 250 MHz. Cat 6 is backward compatible with lower Category grades and supports the same Ethernet standards as Cat 5e. A Cat 6 whitepaper is available from TIA.
Currently there are no Ethernet standards that take advantage of Cat 6. ANSI/TIA854 is working on 1000Base-TX. When complete this standard will use two pair in each direction as opposed to all four for 1000Base-T over Cat 5e. This is expected to reduce the cost of Gigabit Ethernet implementations. 1000Base-TX will only operate over Cat6.