Tag Archives: Cat6

Cat6 and Cat6a Copper Cable Differences

As the data speeds increase from Fast Ethernet to Gigabit Ethernet, cables for the network connection are also required to be improved. Cat6 and Cat6a are two kinds of copper cables for Gigabit Ethernet. “A” is short for “augmented”. Cat6a is an enhanced Cat6 cable. Do you know which you should use, Cat6 or Cat6a? Could these two categories replace each other? Now this article will tell some of their differences from several sides.

cat6-and-cat6a

Appearance

It’s not difficult to identify Cat6 and Cat6a cables from appearance. If you look at the jacket carefully, you will find the identifiers printed as Cat6 and Cat6a. You can also distinguish these two cables from thickness. Cat6a cables are much thicker than Cat6 cables.

Shielding

Copper cables have shielded twisted pair (STP) and unshielded twisted pair (UTP). STP cable means there is one or more additional jackets surrounding the inner twisted wire pairs for insulation. The shielding is beneficial for protecting cable from electromagnetic interference (EMI). (For more information about STP vs. UTP difference, you can refer to my blog “STP vs. UTP, Which One Is Better?” .) Cat6 and Cat6a cables also include these two types. Though shielded Cat6 cables are available in the market, unshielded versions are easier to get. On the contrary, shielded Cat6a cables are more common.

Transmission Distance

Cat6 cable can support the transmission distance up to 100 meters at the data rate of 10, 100, 1000 Mbps. But it can support only 55 meters at the speed of 10 Gbps when crosstalk is in an ideal situation. What’s worse, the transmission distance can only reach 33 meters when the crosstalk is high. So the lengths of Cat6 cables are influenced by the network speed and crosstalk conditions. While Cat6a cables can support the distance over 100 meters at the speed of 10 Gbps.

Cost

Take Fiberstore as an example, the average cost of 1m Cat6 cable is about 1.00 US$ and more than 3.00 US$ for 1m Cat6a cable (cables maybe more expensive on other sites.). The more cables you purchase, the bigger the price difference will be. And the price difference is not only caused by the cable. Other matched connection components should also be considered.

Durability

As mentioned above, Cat6a cable is thicker and heavier than Cat6 cable. Cable trays can not hold as many Cat6a cables as Cat6 cables. When laying cables on the trays, you should better not bend cables too much as this can damage the wiring and influence network performance. The minimum radius that a cable can be bent without damaging is called the bend radius. The lower the bend radius, the more you can bend the cable. As Cat6a cable is bulkier than Cat6, Cat6a cable has a larger bend radius than Cat6 cable.

Which One Should You Buy?

Although Cat5e cable can meet the current needs in your home or office, higher bandwidth will be required in the near future. So you should upgrade your network with Cat6 or Cat6a cables which can provide greater bandwidth. At that time, you need to figure out which one to buy. If you install cables in a small room or business offices where cables might get close to one another, then Cat6a is better than Cat6 due to the alien crosstalk. Cat6 cables especially the unshielded cables, are much more prone to alien crosstalk than Cat6a, which uses superior insulation to protect its wiring.

Summary

From this article, you can make a clear identification of Cat6 and Cat6a cables. When you plan to purchase cables, you need to consider their differences like shielding, transmission distance, cost, durability, etc. Hope you can choose the suitable cable and build a high performance network.

Which Ethernet Cable Should You Choose?

Ethernet cable is one of the media transmitting signals to a home or business network place. Although the world is going wireless today, Ethernet cable is still used in many situations due to its advantages of fast speed, high reliability and security. But when you decide to buy the Ethernet cables, you will get confused about which category to choose. This article will discuss how to make your decision among these Ethernet cables like Cat5, Cat5e, Cat6 and Cat7.

Ethernet Cables Types
Cat5 Cable

Cat5 cable can handle 10/100 Mbps speed (Fast Ethernet) at the bandwidth up to 100 MHz. Cat5 cable is the oldest of these three kinds of cables. Over the years, Cat5 cable was used majorly in networking especially when pairing older routers, switches and other myriad networking devices. Nowadays it’s not used for too many installations. But it can support gigabit speeds if the cable is shorter sometimes.

cat-5-cable

The letter “e” means “enhanced”. As the name says, Cat5e is an improvement on Cat5 cable. Currently it’s the most popular cable used in new installations. It’s designed to support 1000 Mbps or gigabit speed. It can also greatly reduce the crosstalk. The crosstalk is the interference existing sometimes between wires that are sealed inside a cable. With this feature, Cat5e can better keep signals on different circuits or channels from interfering with each other. In a word, Cat5e cable can provide a faster, more reliable and steady network than Cat5. And Cat5e is also compatible with Cat5 cable.

cat5e-cable

Cat6 is an improvement over Cat5e. It has more sophisticated constructure and can support the speed up to 10 gigabit and the bandwidth up to 550 MHz over long distances. Cat6 is a good choice for those who want to install future-proof network. But Cat6 cable is not very good for the applications at home. This kind of cable is recommended for large organizations which deal with pretty bulk files.

cat6

Cat7 cable is designed to be used in Gigabit Ethernet and can support bandwidth up to 600 MHz. It greatly improves the capacity and reliability of Cat6. Another big advantage of Cat7 is the shielding of its twisted pairs, which significantly improves noise resistance. Cat7 is thought as the most durable and has a longer lifespan than Cat 5 and Cat 6. It’s the best choice for future use. But it’s comparatively expensive.

cat7-cable

Which One Should You Choose?

First, you need to think about the question seriously how you like your current network speed. If you are satisfied with the current network speed, you don’t need to upgrade it. But if your hardware can handle 1 Gigabit and you are still using Cat5 cable, then you should better upgrade your Ethernet cables. You may choose Cat5e cable which is enough for your network needs. Or you can select Cat6 cable.

Second, you should know that network speed is not the same to internet speed. There is a chance that even though you upgrade your Ethernet cable, your internet speed won’t change too much. As it’s affected by many other factors. However, upgrading networking cables have a tremendous effect on file transfer speeds between computers. So to emphasize, when buying Ethernet cable, you should also consider your hardware compatibility.

Conclusion

From this article, you can find it’s not very hard to decide which kind of Ethernet cable to use. To make the right decision, it depends on your situations. Usually Cat5 or Cat5e cable is enough for home network use. If you transfer lots of data over your network, then you can upgrade your network cables from Cat5 to Cat5e or Cat6 to guarantee your network speed. But if you are satisfied with your current network speed, you don’t need to replace Cat5 with other cables. Of course, the cost is also an important factor. So if budget allows, Cat7 is a nice choice. At last, no matter what kind of cable, please notice that the Ethernet cable should be less than 100 meters in length to achieve higher efficiency.

Which One Will You Choose? Cat 5e, Cat 6 or Cat 6a?

Copper is the oldest installed cable and it’s still widely used for connecting devices. Till now, copper cable has gone through several generations to meet people’s increasing needs of different sides. There are many types of copper cables offering different performance such as Cat 5e, Cat 6 or Cat 6a. What kind of copper cabling should you choose? This is a really confusing question people usually meet today. This article will introduce some details about these three kinds of copper cables and help you make your decision.

cat5e-cat6-cat6a

Cat 5e

Cat 5e, also known as Enhanced Category 5, is designed to support full-duplex Fast Ethernet operation and Gigabit Ethernet. In 1998, Gigabit Ethernet was introduced. Then, the original Cat 5 was found not good enough to guarantee error-free performance. So extra requirements were added to Cat 5, such as Return Loss, Delay, Delay Skew and Power Sum Crosstalk measurements. With these improved parameters, Cat 5e came into being to ensure reliable operation of Gigabit Ethernet. The electrical performance for Cat 5e requirements is up to 100MHz.

Cat 6

Cat 6 was designed as the next generation to Cat 5e. It has higher standards construction than Cat 5e with a bandwidth of up to 250 MHz rather than 100 MHz. It can support the faster protocols and is therefore considered more reliable than Cat 5e. It is ideal for 10 Gigabit Ethernet transmissions.

Cat 6a

Cat 6a has a bandwidth of up to 500 MHz and is designed to support 10 Gigabit Ethernet transmissions over 100 meter channel. It’s also compatible with Cat 5e and Cat 6. A new electrical parameter measure of “alien crosstalk”, which is a measurement of the noise crosstalk generated from neighboring cables, was introduced to ensure that Cat 6a cabling system can run 10 Gigabit Ethernet transmissions well.

Common Features of Three Types

The three kinds of cables are unshielded twisted pair (UTP) or shielded twisted cables. They use 4 twisted pairs in a common jacket and the same RJ-45 jacks and plugs. And they are limited to a cable length of 100 meters including the length of the patch cables on either end of the link. The parts are interchangeable. That means you can use a Cat 5e patch cable with Cat 6 house cabling. But your system will perform at the lowest link level.

Differences of Three Types

The most noticeable difference of these cables is the price. According to statistics, plan on Cat 6 will cost roughly 30% more than Cat 5e and Cat 6a 30% more than Cat6. But the price is not the only factors to decide which kind of cable should be used.

  • Transmission Performance: Cat 5e has a bandwidth of up to 100 MHz. It has a reduced maximum length of 45 meters when used for 10 Gigabit Ethernet applications. Cat 6 cable is rated for 250 MHz. It can support 10 Gigabit Ethernet up to 55 meters. While Cat 6a performs at up to 500 MHz, so it allows 10 Gigabit Ethernet to be run over distances of up to 100 meters. Cat 6a has a better transmission performance than Cat 6 and Cat 5e. But this doesn’t mean the network ‘speed’ of Cat 6a is faster. These are electrical performance differences.
  • Crosstalk: Crosstalk is a complicated subject to grasp and has been talked before. It is the phenomenon in which a signal from one channel or circuit interferes with another channel or circuit’s signal. Cat 6 cable has lower signal degradation from near-end crosstalk (NEXT), power sum NEXT (PS-NEXT) and attenuation than Cat 5e. Cat 6a reduces this to an even lower level.
  • Physical Properties: Cat 6a has bigger size and more weights than Cat 5e and Cat 6. It will take up more space for installation. And because of the larger cable diameter, Cat 6a needs a bigger bend radius. So it’s important to allow extra space anywhere for Cat 6a cables. Since it’s capable of speeds up to 500 MHz and Alien Crosstalk begins at only 350 MHz, Cat 6a needs more testing.
Which One Should You Choose?

For most of copper network applications, Cat 5e is good enough to give all the performance we are likely to need today. But if you are looking for a cable for your future needs, then Cat 6a will give you the best performance at full distances. So it depends on what you will do with the cable. You should also consider the price and space.