Home » RG59 Vs. RG6 » RG59 Vs. RG6 for Cable TV—What are the Differences and How to Choose Which One to Use

RG59 Vs. RG6 for Cable TV—What are the Differences and How to Choose Which One to Use

RG59 Vs. RG6 for Cable TV—What are the Differences and How to Choose Which One to Use

If you’re looking to hook up cable TV, satellite, or internet at your place, you’ve probably come across RG59 and RG6 coaxial cables. I know they look almost identical – but there are some important differences between them.

So the cable companies had to come up with a new modern cable – enter RG6. This new coax cable had a larger conductor and thicker insulation to handle the demands of digital TV and broadband internet. It prevented signal loss over long distances much better than RG59.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll go over everything you need to know about RG59 and RG6 coax cables!

What Are They?

The RG rating system originated from the military term “Radio Guide.” The numbers after “RG” are randomly assigned to differentiate various cable specifications. There are hundreds of RG rated cables, but we’ll focus on RG59 and RG6 since those are the most common for consumer applications.


RG59 has actually been around for ages. It was the standard cable that technicians used to set up cable TV service back in the old days. The braided shielding design worked fine for the longer wavelength, lower frequency signals that old analog TV used.

But as technology marched on, RG59 started showing its age. When everything switched over to digital broadcasts, and cable companies started offering internet service, RG59 just couldn’t keep up anymore. The signals were now at much higher frequencies that RG59 wasn’t designed for.


Now RG6 is the new star player while RG59 has been relegated to the sidelines. But RG59 still has a couple useful roles which we’ll get into next.

Now let’s look at the specific applications where each cable works best.

What RG59 Is Good For

Don’t write off RG59 completely! It may not be ideal for modern TV and internet signals, but here’s what it can still handle:

  • Older analog video gear
  • CCTV security cameras
  • Lower frequency transmissions under 50MHz

Since it has a small 18AWG conductor, RG59 cable tends to work better for shorter wiring runs. Things like connecting an old VCR or CCTV system within a house or office building.

It’s also dirt cheap these days, so it can be useful for non-critical video applications where you don’t need high bandwidth.

Some RG59 cables use a simple copper braided shield. But better ones include an extra foil shield layer too. This helps block interference on those more vulnerable low frequency signals.

One nice bonus of RG59 is that it’s super easy to work with. You can find “Siamese” coax cables which include RG59 coax bundled with a 18AWG power wire. This lets you transmit both video and power to things like security cameras over one convenient cable. Sweet!

But for most modern uses, you’ll want to look at RG6 instead.

Why RG6 is the New Hotness

RG6 was built to thrive in the digital era. It’s optimized to transmit the gigahertz frequency signals that cable, satellite, and broadband internet rely on.

Here’s why RG6 is top dog today:

  • Fatter conductor – 16AWG thickness prevents signal loss
  • Thicker insulation to protect from interference
  • Multi-layered shields stop signal leakage

That combination means crystal clear 4K video streaming and stable high-speed internet connections. While RG59 chokes on anything over 50MHz, RG6 laughs it off and asks for more data to transmit.

The early versions of RG6 used a 60% copper braided shield. But many modern cables now use an even denser 95%+ braid. This gives maximum interference protection without the cost of going full quad-shield.

In a nutshell, RG6 gives you reliability and future-proof performance. No wonder it’s become the standard for any new TV or internet installation.

Other Cable Features To Think About

Picking RG59 or RG6 is just part of the decision. You also need to consider shielding, signal loss, and special ratings for plenum or outdoor uses.

Don’t Be Confused by RG6/U

You might come across cable labeled as “RG6/U” – the U doesn’t really mean anything specific. Some folks say it stands for “universal” but there’s no single definition.

Bottom line, RG6 and RG6/U refer to the same basic type of cable. Just read the specs closely if you need a certain jacket type or rating.

More Shielding = Less Interference

Shielding is what keeps outside signals from messing with your signal transmission. There are two main types used in coax cables:

Foil shielding – Aluminum or mylar foil bonded to the inner insulation. Blocks out high frequency interference.

Braided shielding – Tiny woven copper wire wrapped around the cable. Protects from lower frequency interference.

RG59 only uses a simple copper braid. But RG6 uses multiple layers of foil AND braided shielding for maximum protection.

In general, the more shielding a cable has, the better it will perform. Especially over long distances where interference has a chance to creep in.

“Quad shielded” coax adds 2 layers of each shield type – but it’s overkill for most homes. One of the new RG6 cables with 95%+ braided coverage works nearly as well.

Signal Fades Over Distance

Physics dictates that some signal will be lost along the length of any cable. The longer the cable run, the more degradation you’ll see.

Since RG6 has lower loss and bigger capacity, it maintains signal strength over longer distances. Roughly, every 100 feet of cable will cause this much loss:

  • RG59: 6.6dB loss
  • RG6: 3.9dB loss

So if you need to make long cable runs from an antenna or satellite dish, go with RG6.

Special Ratings For Special Locations

Depending on where you need to install coax cable, look for these ratings:

Plenum – Plenum insulation is required by code for cables routed through ventilation spaces like drop ceilings. It uses special low-smoke, flame retardant materials.

Direct Burial – For burying cable underground, look for an outdoor PE jacket and watertight gel inside. This prevents moisture damage to the cable.

Getting cable with the right rating keeps your setup safe and code-compliant.

Final Advice on Picking Your Coax

Let’s recap when you should use each type of cable:

Use RG6 For:

  • Cable TV
  • Satellite service
  • Off-air antenna TV
  • Broadband internet

Use RG59 For:

  • Analog video gear
  • CCTV cameras
  • Under 50MHz signals

And make sure to check the:

  • Shielding rating
  • Conductor size – 16AWG vs 18AWG
  • Jacket type – plenum, direct burial, etc.

Getting the right coax will ensure you get crystal clear signals. And taking the time to make solid connections is worth it – use proper crimping tools to attach those F-connectors snugly!


Is plenum cable required for home use?

No, plenum ratings are only required by building codes when cables pass through ventilation spaces. For in-home use, standard residential coax cable is fine even if routed through attics or crawl spaces.

What temperature range can RG6 withstand?

RG6 is designed to function in temperatures from -4°F to 140°F. The polyethylene jacket helps maintain flexibility in cold weather. As long as it’s not exposed to extreme heat consistently, RG6 can handle most outdoor temperature swings.

Can I bury coax cable directly in the ground?

Burying cable without protection will lead to early failure as moisture seeps in. Use only cable rated for direct burial, with shields and gel-filled waterproofing. Also bury at proper depth per code to avoid damage.

Is RG6 more susceptible to lightning strikes?

No, RG6 is no more likely to be damaged by lightning than RG59. Proper grounding at entry points is the best protection against lightning for all types of coax cable.

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