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.

 

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.

 

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