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Cat5e vs. Cat6 vs. Cat6a Cabling
What's the difference? What do Cat5e, Cat6, and Cat6a have in common?
All three cable types are unshielded twisted pair (UTP) cables. They each utilize 4 twisted pairs in a common jacket. They use the same style RJ-45 jacks and plugs. And, they are each 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, so you can use a Cat5e patch cable with Cat6 house cabling. Your system will just perform at the level of the lowest link, in this case the Cat5e patch cable.So what's the difference?
Better transmission performance. With each upgrade in cable, there is less signal loss, less cross talk, and a larger frequency bandwidth where performance expectations are defined. These are all electrical differences though, and don't neccessarily translate into faster performance. A common misunderstanding is, if you put in a higer grade of cable, you will get faster network performance.
The reality is, network speed is defined primarily by the electronic transmission equipment (the network switch, etc). A network switch will negotiate the fastest link it can manage, in increments of 10Mbit/s, 100Mbit/s, 1Gbit/s, or even 10Gbit/s. A switch or NIC card will start off trying for the best speed it is rated for (usually either 100Mbit/s or 1Gbit/s). If the other end, and the cable can't handle that speed, it will drop down to the next level. So. if you buy a Gigabit switch, and have Gigabit NIC cards in your PCs, then you'll get Gigbait speeds so long as your cable supports that.
Gigabit Ethernet up to 100 meters
10 Gigabit Ethernet up to 45 meters
Gigabit Ethernet up to 100 meters
10 Gigabit Ethernet up to 55 meters
Gigabit Ethernet up to 100 meters
10 Gigabit Ethernet up to 100 meters
What's important to note here, is that even Cat5e supports Gigabit Ethernet. So, unless you think you might need 10 Gigabits across a given link, Cat5e will do the trick just fine. Cat5e can even handle 10 Gigabit Ethernet at short distances, so within a server room for example as a backbone link, Cat5e cable is rated to handle it. What's more likely though, is that you'll be running any 10 Gibabit connections over fiber.So which cable should I use again?
Cat5e will give you all the performance you are likely to need today for workstations. Consider that a VoIP call uses 64Kbit/s. Even 1080p streaming video with Dolby Digital Plus audio requires less than 10 Mbit/s. So what on earth we ever do with more than a Gigabit of speed to a single workstation device?
Servers and switch-to-switch links are another story, but you're also likely to be using Fiber for links of this nature. Just keep in mind that it is your networking gear that defines the speed. The cablign just needs to be able to keep up. So, look at the specs on your network gear and make sure your cable meets what is asked.What if I might use the cabling for something OTHER than Ethernet?
Unshielded Twisted Pair (UTP) cabling can also be used for analog transmission. When carrying broadband video (CATV), the cable performance has a big impact on signal quality and in turn, the length your cable runs can be. For these sorts of applications, Cat6 may have some value. Of course, Cat6a would be even better but Cat6a is relatively new and the price jump between Cat6 and Cat6a is much steeper than the difference between Cat5e and Cat6. Consult your specific application specifications to see what cable lengths are permitted for each type of cable.
Copyright 2013, KIT Network Cabling Inc.
It is said that computer technology DOUBLES every 18 Months!!
Most computers are currently linked at Gigabit Ethernet speeds and have been for several years. IEEE 802.3, a 10GBASE-T standard, continues to drive demand for higher performance. In order to achieve 10,000 Mb/s, a higher category of cable is required. The question is, what type of cable should I use? Cat5, Cat5e, Cat6, Cat6A, or Cat7?
First answer these questions:
How long will you occupy the building?
What applications and devices will you be using and what are their requirements?
Do you need a warranty to protect your investment?
Typically, network cabling represents 2-3% of the overall network budget. The infrastructure is expected to perform for 10+ years and support 2-3 generations of active electronics. Network infrastructure installation is the most difficult and labor intensive part of the network to replace. Choosing the best solution for your needs saves time and money in the long run.Cable Types and Speeds
Selecting the appropriate category
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 Cat5, Cat5e, Cat6, Cat6A, Cat7 or Cat7A solutions will optimally support current and future network speed requirements.
Cat5 supports speeds up to 100Mb/s (100 MHz)
Cat5e supports speeds up to a Gigabit Ethernet (1,000Mb/s) (100 MHz)
Cat6 supports speeds up to 10 Gigabit Ethernet and can be achieved with distance of 37-55 meters or less depending on the grade of the cable and quality of installation. (1,000Mb/s) (250 MHz)
Cat6A supports speeds up to 10 Gigabit Ethernet with distance up to 100 meters (10,000 Mb/s)(500 MHz)
Cat7 & Cat7A support speeds up to 10 Gigabit Ethernet with distance up to 100 meters (10,000 Mb/s)(1000 Mhz)
Examples of when you might use each type of network cable.
Cat5 - Cat5 cable is out dated. Do not install this.
Cat5e - Cat5e cable is suitable for Gigabit speeds and networks that change frequently. If the network changes frequently or is temporary in nature, Cat5e may be the optimal selection.
Cat6 - Cat6 cable is optimal for extra margin and higher performance. Cat6 cable will support gigabit ethernet, but will only support 10 Gigabit Ethernet if the total length and loss is low enough. If a project requires a 10 Gigabit Ethernet connection, Cat6A or higher is recommended.
Cat6A - Cat6A cable will support speeds up to 10 Gigabit. If a project requires a single installation solution to support the facility and is inteded to stand the test of time, Cat6A will protect the investment and serve as a reliable backbone for the company going into the future.
Cat7 & Cat7A - Cat7 cable will support 10 Gigabit Ethernet with plenty of margin to spare. Cat7 has pair-sharing capability, making it possible to use one cable to power several different devices at the same time utilizing each pair as needed. For the best and most versatile infrastructure Cat7 provides the solution.
Data Tech Professionals © 2013 All rights reserved
There is no standard for Cat 6e cable so it can't be compared to Cat 6 cable (for which there is a standard).
There are Cat 6/Class E and Cat 6a/Class Ea standards (perhaps you meant one of these)? See below and De-Mystifying Cabling Specifications From 5e to 7A for more information.
You might also want to take a look at the ServerFault question Cat 6e vs Cat 6a .
The relevant cable standards can all be found at Cabling Standards De-Mystified .Category 6 cable
Following the finalization of Cat 6, a number of manufacturers began offering "Category 6e" cables as an enhancement to the Category 6 standard—presumably naming it after Category 5e. However, no legitimate Category 6e standard exists, and Cat 6e is not a recognized standard by the Telecommunications Industry Association.
While all Cat 6e cables presumably meet Category 6 standards, the actual increase in transfer speeds and the maximum cable length can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer owing to the lack of a recognized industry standard.De-Mystifying Cabling Specifications From 5e to 7A
Category 6/class E cabling delivers double the signal-to noise margin (attenuation-to-crosstalk margin is positive to 200 MHz) of category 5e/class D cabling and provides the performance headroom desired by end-users to ensure that their cabling plant can withstand the rigors of the cabling environment and still support 1000BASE-T when it comes time for an application upgrade.
The category 6/class E cabling specification development process also brought to light the need to limit the conversion of differential mode signals to common mode signals and vice versa through the characterization of component balance, resulting in cabling systems with improved electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) performance.
Category 6A/Class EA
Category 6A/class EA cabling requirements were developed to address the extended frequency bandwidth and alien crosstalk headroom required to support 10GBASE-T over 100 meters of cabling containing up to four-connectors.
Category 6A/class EA cabling delivers positive signal-to-alien crosstalk margin up to 500 MHz and is recommended as the minimum grade of cabling capable of withstanding the rigors of the cabling environment and supporting 10GBASE-T when it is time for an application upgrade. Balance requirements for channels and permanent links are also specified for the first time, thereby ensuring better electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) performance than any previous generation of cabling.
Cat 6 :The mainstream adoption of Gigabit Ethernet (1000BASE-T) required new industry-standard cables capable of transmitting at a higher frequency of 250 MHz. Category 6 cable uses thicker-gauge wire, increased shielding, and more pair twists per inch to reduce signal noise and interference. The tighter specifications guarantee that 100-meter runs of Category 6 are capable of 1000 Mbit/s transfer speeds. 10-Gigabit Ethernet speeds are achievable when reducing cable lengths to less than 50 meters.
Cat 6e. Category 6 Enhanced (6e) is an augmented specification (not standard as David said before) designed to double transmission frequency to 500 MHz. By wrapping Category 6e in grounded foil shielding, full 10-Gigabit Ethernet speeds can be reached without sacrificing the max cable length of 100 meters.
answered Mar 6 '15 at 15:48
tldr; foil shielding, higher speed – Uğur Gümüşhan Apr 1 '15 at 7:01Your Answer
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Not necessarily the case. The rating of the cable is the -minimum- spec. The measured NEXT (for example) of a cat6 cable might exceed that of a cat6a because of particular environmental conditions or manufacturing differences but it doesn't mean that the cable itself is actually 6a. The ratings on the jacket are confirmed by a cable tester, not the other way around. – rnxrx Aug 29 '12 at 5:19
rnxrx explained the 6a and 6e, so I won't review that ground.
Regarding the new house Ethernet cabling question, I completely agree with your premise, it makes no sense to install 5e or 6 to have problems down the road, Ethernet cable ignorance is unnecessarily expensive. If I was rewiring a brand new house, I would either want one of two options:
The Shielded S/FTP or S/STP 6a option would be completely appropriate, but if you for some reason wanted to really get above the curb. you could look at 7.
Once the 7's get officially specified, I would immediately recommend them for fresh Ethernet wiring. This assumes you have IT oriented requirements, and really want to stay ahead of the curve, and everything is installed correctly. In the considerable meantime, 6a S/FTP or S/STP with fully shielded connectors would be my recommended option.
answered Aug 8 '13 at 18:10
I only see one option, but you said there were two. – Chris S Aug 8 '13 at 19:00
I recently had a new home constructed, and went from the CAT6a of my previous home to whole-house fiber, and provided you have it done during construction it doesn't actually cost much more at all.
I would definitely recommend fiber for in-wall use, the bandwidth is outstanding, and then CAT6/7 for out-of-wall wiring/simply P2P connections where bandwidth isn't the biggest concern, or you're otherwise limited to where 16-32Gbit/sec doesn't benefit (i.e. transferring files from a PC to a simple 2-Drive NAS with RAID1, you will not see any benefit from fiber). However, if you have some serious hardware and need access to large data NOW, nothing beats it (i.e. my basement server room; a single 36-drive RAID60 array buffered by 2 IODrive Fusion-IO 2.4TB PCIe SSD's can push a LOT of bandwidth, and FC was a MUCH cheaper option than trying to go with copper 10GbitEthernet + switches/hubs running everywhere, in fact is was about 1/2 the price overall).
answered Oct 13 '13 at 21:42
CAT6a is the newest type of Ethernet cabling that you can install for your network. It is an improved version of the CAT6 cabling and offers better performance. Cabling is a little bit more complicated as their capacities are also a function of the length that is used. CAT6 cables are rated at 1Gbps while CAT6a cables can achieve up to 10Gbps.It is able to achieve this because it operates at 500Mhz; twice that of the 250Mhz operation of the CAT6 cables. CAT6 cables may be able to achieve 10Gbps but only in when short lengths of cable are used.
CAT6a cables are also stricter when it comes to shielding and protection against alien crosstalk. Crosstalk occurs when the signal from one cable leaks into another. This can distort the signal through the introduction of noise and force the network devices to work at a slower speed. Because of this, CAT6a cables would work better in situations where it is to be bundled with a lot of other cables.
Another identifying characteristic of the CAT6a cable is its thickness. CAT6 looks just like the CAT5 and CAT5e cables that preceded it. CAT6 cable manufacturers had to come up with ways to conform to the stricter alien crosstalk shielding, thereby making it thicker with others adopting odd shapes.
As always, the most prohibitive reason to implementing a system that fully utilizes CAT6a cables is the cost. CAT6a cables alone cost more than double that of CAT6 cables, not to mention the cost of the equipment that works at 10Gbps. CAT6, and even CAT5 or CAT5e, cables are still practical for the basic day to day networking. As it is expected that 10Gbps connections would become standard and affordable in about five to ten years, it may be worth it to invest in the pricier CAT6a cabling when wiring up a house or any structure that is under construction. Doing so saves you from having to gut your walls again once CAT6 cables are no longer sufficient for your needs and you need to upgrade.
1. CAT6a is the improved version of the CAT6 cable
2. CAT6a is rated for up to 10Gigabits while CAT6 is only rated for 1Gigabit
3. CAT6a has twice the bandwidth of CAT6 cables
4. CAT6a is better at resisting alien crosstalk compared to CAT6
5. CAT6a cables are much thicker compared to CAT6
6. CAT6a costs a lot more compared to CAT6