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Ethernet Cable Types – Cat5e, Cat6, Cat6a, and Cat7

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When selecting the appropriate Category of cable to support your network, note that there are different grades within each Category. A higher grade cable with the proper installation will allow for a higher margin of error, ensuring top performance today and an extra buffer to support future technology. Properly selecting Cat5e, Cat6, Cat6a, Cat7 solutions will optimally support current and future network speed requirements. But which one should you choose? This text will give you some guidance.

The Cat5e has Replaced the Cat5 Ethernet Cable

cat5e ethernet cableCat5 cable can support 10/100 Ethernet. That is, Ethernet and Fast Ethernet. However, Cat 5e cable can support Ethernet, Fast Ethernet, and Gigabit Ethernet. Cat5e Cable is completely backwards compatible, and can be used in any application in which you would normally use Cat 5 cable. Crosstalk is the electrical interference that results when one wire’s signal affects another wire’s signal. Cat5e cable has been improved over Cat5 cable in this respect, and cross talk has been greatly reduced. We all know that bandwidth is directly related to network support. The greater the bandwidth, the greater the information-carrying capacity in a given period of time. Cat5e cable is rated at 100 MHz, and it is this increased bandwidth (compared to Cat5 cable) that allows it to support Gigabit Ethernet. Since 1G is widely used today, the Cat5e has gradually replaced the Cat5.

Use Cat5e or Cat 6 Ethernet Cable?

cat6 UTP patch cableCat6 is a standardized cable for Gigabit Ethernet and other network physical layers that is backward compatible with the Cat5/5e and Cat3 cable standards. Compared with Cat5 and Cat5e,  Cat6 features more stringent specifications for crosstalk and system noise. The cable standard provides performance of up to 250 MHz and is suitable for 10BASE-T, 100BASE-TX (Fast Ethernet), 1000BASE-T/1000BASE-TX (Gigabit Ethernet). We may notice that both Cat5e and Cat6 can support Gigabit Ethernet, however, Cat6 is certified for Gigabit networking and will perform better over longer distances. So choosing the Cat6 cable will be more stable to meet the Gigabit needs. But one thing you should keep in mind is that your network is only as fast as your slowest component, so unless every piece of your network (routers, cables, etc.) supports Gigabit Ethernet, you will not be able to reach those speeds.

Differences between Cat6 and Cat6a Ethernet Cable

cat6a stp cableThe latest standard from the TIA for enhanced performance standards for twisted pair cable systems was defined in February 2009 in ANSI/TIA-568-C.1. According to this standard, Cat6a is also called Augmented Cat6, which is 10-Gigabit Ethernet over copper proposal to the Cat6 standard. Category 6a performs at improved specifications, in particular in the area of alien crosstalk as compared to Cat6, which exhibited high alien noise in high frequencies. Cat6 specifies cable operating at minimum frequency of 500 MHz—twice that of Cat 6, for both shielded and unshielded. It can support future 10 Gb/s applications up to the maximum distance of 100 meters on a 4-connector channel. Compared with the Cat6, Cat6a is more effective and flexible. As 10G is more and more widely used, Cat6a will become more and more popular.

Cat7 Will be the Ethernet Cable of Choice

cat7 network patch cableCat7 cables are designed to support much higher frequency signals than Cat5e and Cat6. This allows Cat7 cabling to carry a larger amount of information. Cat7 cable is also able to better protect the signals traveling over the cable. The shielding as well as the tighter twists of the pairs in Cat7 cable lessens the effects of crosstalk and EMI. Cat7 cable is commonly terminated using a GG45 connector, which is a connector that it backwards compatible with the 8p8c RJ45 connectors used on Cat6 or Cat5e cable. The GG45 connector has four additional conductors that provide support for frequencies of up to 600MHz. The higher frequencies allow Cat 7 cable to support 10-Gigabit Ethernet. Currently, Cat7 is not widely adopted. Cat5e and Cat6 solutions sufficiently support the bandwidth requirements of today’s data centers, networks, and end users. Using Cat7 for a connection to a desktop would be unnecessary because the bandwidth would not be utilized. It may also be an unnecessary expense for many data center applications for the same reason. However, as technology advances and requirements increase, Cat7 cable will become more relevant in the data center and desktop connections.

Ethernet Cable Comparison

Some specifications for Cat5, Cat6, Cat7 are introduced above, then I will show you a table. From the table below, you can see their differences more clearly:

cat5 cat5e cat6 cat6a cat7 cat7a

Learn more about Catx Cabing  Jargon from Here: http://www.fs.com/category-5–5e-cat-6-cat7-cabling-jargon-aid-337.html

Related Article: Quick View of Ethernet Cables Cat5, Cat5e and Cat6

How To Purchase Twisted Pair Cable

In its simplest form, twisted-pair cable consists of two insulated strands of copper wire twisted around each other. There are two types of twisted-pair cable: unshielded twisted-pair (UTP) and shielded twisted-pair (STP) cable. A number of twisted-pair wires are often grouped together and enclosed in a protective sheath to form a cable. The total number of pairs in a cable varies. The twisting cancels out electrical noise from adjacent pairs and from other sources such as motors, relays, and transformers.

Category 5e or Category 6

Currently there is a great deal of confusion among Ethernet cable buyers concerning whether to purchase Cat5e, or to use Cat6. Most of this confusion comes from a misunderstanding by the buyer that buying Cat6 cable will give them an “all gigabit” network. This is not the case. Unless every single component in the network is gigabit rated, then you will never have a gigabit network, because your network will always run at the speed of your slowest device.

Cat5e cable of good quality can run near or at gigabit speeds, it just cannot be “certified” for this use. By comparison, Cat6 is designed especially for gigabit use, and is certified to operate at said speed. It becomes a matter of whether or not you want to pay all that extra money, for little or no noticeable improvement in the performance of you network.

In most cases, it makes more sense to go with Cat5e. It is for this reason that most of your new installations in the private sector are going with Cat5e. It is more economical, performs well, and is readily available in many colors. Many IT professionals when asked about why they specified Cat6 for a specific job, often responded stated that they “wanted the best they could get.” This is the line of thought behind many purchases of cable.

The average consumer often times is not aware that there is no real benefit to them to use Cat6, so they let someone talk them in to buying it. Fiberstore is committed to helping people make good decisions about cable purchases and we are always standing by to help you.

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How to Buy Twisted Pair Cable

Following are some advice you can take when choose a twisted pair cable for your network.

See Packing and Printing Quality

Carefully check the cable box to see whether packing is in good conditions. The packaging of fake cable is usually very poor, so the quality of the external packaging can determine the user’s first feeling. However, good quality cables are usually perfectly packaged. And many manufacturers still paste anti-fake label on the product packaging.

See Identifications on Cable’s Outer Layer

Twisted pair cable insulation outer layer shall be printed with the words such as manufacturers, place of origin, performance standards, product categories (Cat5e Ca6t, etc.) and cable length identification.

See Twisting Density

In order to reduce signal interference, each line pairs of the twisted pair cable are twisted in a counterclockwise direction to each other and the different line pairs of the same twisted pair cable also has different twisting density. If the twisting density does not meet the technical requirements, serious near-end crosstalk may appear due to the mismatch of the cable resistance, which will shorten transmission distance and reduce the transmission rate. Don’t choose twisted pair cables whose twisting density is incompetent.

See Cable Colors

After peeling the outer layer of twisted pair cable, you can see each pair of wires in a twisted-pair cable is one of four colors: orange, green, blue, or brown. The two wires that make up each pair are complementary. It should be noted that these colors are not dyed on the cable. Don’t choose cables whose color is not clear.

See Flame Retardants Cases

In order to avoid cable’s burning and damage caused by high temperature or fire, the outer layer of the twisted pair cable should have a very good tensile property and flame retardant property. The outer layer of a good twisted pair cable may be gradually melted and misshapen, but won’t burn itself.

Touch the Cable’s Outer Layer

In most cases, we can make an initial judgment by touching the outer layer of twisted pair cable. In order to save cost, bad cable usually uses terrible wire materials. So when we touch it, we may feel sticky and coarsened. However, a good twisted pair cable may feel smooth. Besides, considering that the cable may need to be curved, good cables usually have excellent extensibility. Therefore, good cables may feel full.

Conclusion

Taking the future applications into consideration, we should install the most advanced cabling products, because the cable is often difficult to re-install and replace. Then, you should use cat6 cables instead of cat 5e cable. Though cat 6 cable is a little expensive than cat 5e cable, in order to reduce cost for network upgrade in the future, cat 6 cables are still worth considering.