Cable Showdown: Cat6 vs. Cat6a

March 23, 2017 at 8:00 AM

 

 

Cat6 and Cat6a may be two of the most popular standards for Ethernet cables, but how do you decide between them?  Depending on your application, one may work better than the other. To help you decide, we thought we’d stack them up side-by-side for a showdown.

 

  

 

Both Cat6 and Cat6a offer speed, flexibility and cost savings. They can both be used for PoE applications and are ideal for transmitting voice, video and data, though Cat6a is able to move larger volumes of data. Cat6 cables are great for connecting access points and other devices including media converters, switches and wireless controllers that are typically running at 1Gbps speeds. Cat6a cables are typically used in data centers and storage area networks (SAN) that require 10Gbps connectivity or more through trunked 10Gbps connections.

 

The cost difference between the two is minimal. The main difference is that Cat6a is able to transmit at 10 Gbps supporting 10GBASE-T over longer distances than Cat6 cables. Cat6a also builds upon Cat6’s capability to protect against alien crosstalk, which improves performance. Though if a shielded cable isn’t necessary and a lighter option would work best, unshielded Cat6 has the advantage. As always, the requirements of your application will dictate which cable to use.

 

Cat6a - Taking Copper to the Next Level

July 28, 2016 at 8:00 AM

 

Copper cable has many advantages including flexibility, cost savings, and Power over Ethernet support– and now it can add lightning fast speeds to its list of attributes. Until recently, fiber cabling was the only way to achieve 10 Gigabit Ethernet data rates, but now Cat6a is taking copper to the next level with super-speed 10Gbps transmissions.

 

Cat6a cables can reach 10 Gigabit Ethernet speeds at frequencies of up to 500 MHz over low-cost copper cable. That makes Cat6a ten times faster than Cat6 and cheaper than fiber cabling. Cat6a is a high performance, cost-effective solution for moving large volumes of voice, video and data traffic over a network.  Its accelerated performance is perfect for use in data centers and storage area networks (SAN) that sometimes need to move terabits of data.

 

In addition to being fast, Cat6a supports longer distances than Cat6 with capabilities of up to 100 meters for 10GBASE-T. Cat6a cables are also backward-compatible with existing network infrastructure products, making for an easier migration path. Additionally, Cat6a cables are shielded which enhances overall performance and makes them more resistant to noise, interference and alien crosstalk.

 

With off the chart performance characteristics, Cat6a cables, couplers and other infrastructure products can take your network to the next level.

 

Big Data and the Information Autobahn

November 5, 2015 at 8:00 AM

 

By 2017 the amount of data transported globally through mobile networks is expected to reach a staggering 7.7 zettabytes (7.7 billion terabytes), and this will be only a portion of the total data being processed in and out of data centers around the world.

 

To handle the massive throughput required these trillions of bits of data will require high-speed-connection technology such as fiber optics and 40GBASE-T Ethernet.

 

The data centers of today often employ Gigabit and 10-Gigabit Ethernet as a backbone technology and in many cases utilize Gigabit to the desktop due to the lowering cost of Gigabit Ethernet switches and interface cards. Until now this was sufficient throughput for most SMB and Enterprise networks. But with the explosion of Big Data and IoT applications this will no longer be longer adequate.  Users will require access to huge global databases as well thousands of IP enabled devices in order to run their business.

 

10GBASE-T or 10-Gig Ethernet over copper twisted pair cabling was standardized in 2006 and can be used with both Category 6 cabling (max distance 55 meters) , Category 6a cabling (max distance 100 meters) and the newer Category 7 cabling (max distance 100 meters).

 

40GBASE-T or 40-Gig Ethernet is currently in development along with Category 8 cabling that will be required to run 40-Gig over copper twisted pair.

 

Another viable option for Big Data’s throughput requirements is fiber optic connectivity. Although usually more costly than a copper based solution, fiber can, right now, support Terabits of throughput on a solitary, Single mode fiber cable. The higher system cost is due to the expensive laser driven fiber transceivers that are required to transmit and receive voice, video and data packets at blazing fast speeds.

 

The future is clear, the demand for data by businesses and consumers will grow exponentially and using fiber optic and high speed Ethernet connectivity will make meeting this demand possible. 

 

Who Needs Shielded Cables Anyway?

September 10, 2015 at 8:00 AM

 

To shield or not to shield, that is the question.  Deciding to use a shielded cable versus an unshielded cable is largely based on your application. Below we detail some factors to take into consideration to determine whether you need shielded cabling or not.

Shielded

The electrical environment surrounding your installation area is a significant factor to consider. If your network devices or cabling will be in close proximity to machines, motors, power cables, fluorescent lights or other electronics that output high electromagnetic or radio frequency interference (EMI/RFI), shielding will protect your data from electromagnetic interference. And protection from EMI results in higher transmission speeds and fewer data transmission errors. 

 

A shielded cable is also better than an unshielded cable at protecting from alien crosstalk (AXT).  Alien crosstalk is crosstalk caused by other cables and sometimes connected devices situated close to the cable of interest.

 

 

Every component within a shielded system must be seamless, as well as properly installed and maintained in order to completely reduce the affects of electromagnetic and radio interference. Shielded cables and systems also require good grounding.  An improperly grounded system can cause emission and interference issues. 

 

Unshielded

If your application does not involve cabling being located near EMI or RFI emitting devices then in many cases unshielded cabling is the way to go. Unshielded cabling is lightweight and flexible while also being versatile, reliable and inexpensive. In many IT applications and office networks unshielded cabling is used.


One thing to consider however is that if you are supporting higher data rates in your Enterprise or SMB network such as 10 Gbps and 40 Gbps over copper, shielded cable will greatly reduce or eliminate alien crosstalk (AXT) that will degrade network performance. This is not a problem with lower speed 10/100/1000 over Cat5e and Cat6 cables but is something to note when using Cat6a cabling at higher speeds.

 

So the cable type you choose is dependent upon your networks location and the technology you are employing e.g. 10BASE-T.  The best plan of attack is to thoroughly evaluate your installation site and technical requirements of the network to spec in the right cable for the job.

 

Check out our wide selection of shielded and unshielded cable assemblies and bulk cable.

 

802.3bt PoE: Providing the Power of Possibility

July 30, 2015 at 10:00 AM

 

The realm of possibilities is expanding for Power over Ethernet (PoE) with the development of 802.3bt PoE.

 

The primary advantage of PoE is that it provides power to communication devices where no AC power source is available.  With no power lines to run, PoE saves on installation costs and makes configuration easier because the power source is within the data cables. More than one million devices are powered by PoE using the same cables that transmit Ethernet data.

 

However, the current version of PoE, 802.3at, peaks at 25.5 Watts, a modest power level that has limited use because many applications require more wattage.

 

The development of the 802.3bt standard will lift those power limitations with capabilities up to 49 Watts! 802.3bt PoE utilizes all four twisted pairs in Cat 5 and Cat 6 Ethernet cables providing more power. 802.3bt will be standardized with support for 10GBASE-T (10 Gbps Ethernet) and will be backward compatible with previous 802.3 versions.


PoE has evolved into a key technology for providing power and data simultaneously.  With 802.3bt PoE offering double, and possibly triple the power, new applications could extend to include 100 million devices worldwide and countless other possibilities.

 

As this new technology emerges, L-com will be developing innovative 802.3bt products and solutions to support your connectivity needs. In the meantime, we continue to support 802.3af and 802.3at applications with a wide range of products that help you save time and money with your wired and wireless networking installations.

 

 Click here to view our 802.3af and 802.3at products.

 

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