Cat6 Cable: Shielded vs. Unshielded

June 16, 2016 at 8:00 AM


When you need speed, Category 6 (Cat6) Ethernet cable is up to the task. Designed to provide Ethernet transmission speeds up to 1 Gbps, Cat6 is made to perform.


But how do you know whether to use shielded or unshielded Cat6 cable? We’ll help you answer that question and ensure that your network will perform optimally.


Deciding to use unshielded twisted pair (UTP) cable or shielded twisted pair (STP) cable is largely based on your application. The electrical environment surrounding your installation area is the most significant factor to consider. In some cases, cables experience slower transmission speeds and more data transmission errors when they are close to machines, power cables or other electronics that produce high electromagnetic or radio frequency interference (EMI/RFI).


By design, unshielded Cat6 cable provides some resistance to EMI/RFI due to the twisting of the wire pairs. Additionally, running a UTP cable at a 90-degree angle in relation to the source of the interference provides additional protection and minimizes exposure.  With its built-in protection (twisted pairs) and this additional safeguard, UTP Cat6 cabling can provide some protection from EMI/RFI.


If your application requires more protection from electromagnetic interference, shielded Cat6  may be the way to go. Shielding will protect your data from electromagnetic and radio interference, resulting in faster transmission speeds and fewer data errors.  Shielded cable is also better than unshielded cable at protecting from alien crosstalk (AXT).


When using shielded cable, the shield itself must have a drain to keep EMI/RFI from building-up and degrading the signal inside the cable. Draining is usually done at the connection site with a shielded coupler or jack connected to the ground.  It is also important to keep in mind that shielded cable is heavier than unshielded cable and, over time, may cause collapses and structural damage when running multiple cables.


Having a good understanding of your installation site will ultimately be the deciding factor when comparing shielded versus unshielded Cat6 Ethernet cable. In many cases, UTP comes out victorious over STP, except in areas of high EMI/RFI interference. Unless you’re running cable close to strong power lines, motors, magnets or radio antennas, it is likely that STP won’t improve your signal.  


© L-com, Inc. All Rights Reserved. L-com, Inc., 50 High Street, West Mill, Third Floor, Suite 30, North Andover, MA 01845