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Upgrading your local area network (LAN) by cabling with bulk cat6 brings your system up to gigabit speeds if the other components of the network are Gigabit Ethernet capable. Cat6 cables bring a speed performance of up to 250MHz to your network and makes you ready for Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) and 10-Gigabit Ethernet (10-GbE)
To enjoy full performance of the Gigabit LAN, you have to ensure that other components of the network such as routers, patch panels, switches, interface cards and other devices connected to it are upgraded to GbE or 10-GbE. Any connected device that does not have the same capability lowers the performance and speed of the network. For example, if the switch or router has Fast Ethernet capability, the speed of data transfer from one network device to another will only be up to 100Mbps and will not reach gigabit speeds.
Performance of Cat6 Cables
Category 6 or cat6 cable delivers fast network performance of gigabit speeds, and its structure is similar to that of cat5/5e cables that have four pairs of twisted copper wires that terminate at both ends with RJ45 connectors. However, cat6 has more or tighter twists in the wires that facilitate two-way communication on each pair of wires, minimizing the delay and skew that is observed when using cat5e cables.
If you do the cabling for your network using bulk cat6 cable, crimping the RJ45 connectors at the ends can be a bit difficult because cat6 is thicker that cat5/5e. This is due to the greater number of twists per inch for cat6, and sometimes, the use of an internal spline for separating the twisted pairs that adds to the bulk of the cable. The presence of the spline makes the cable less flexible, but this separation between the twisted wire pairs makes cat6 produce the faster speeds and doubles the bandwidth.
You can purchase cat6 cables without the spline from manufacturers who employ advanced technology that does not require the use of splines to produce cat6 standard cables. When you purchase bulk cables for your network, you can specify cat6 without the splines to make it easier to crimp the RJ45 connector at the ends of the cables.
The backward compatibility of cat6 with older cable standards means that you can plug these to devices with the slower Ethernet or Fast Ethernet capabilities. However, as previously mentioned, these connections will not yield the gigabit speeds that the cables are capable of because the connected device does not support the higher speed. Other network devices that you need to upgrade for gigabit speeds are the routers, hubs and switches that connect one network to another, or connect one or more computers and networked devices. These devices are equipped with ports into which you plug the cables that have the RJ45 connectors.
Since routers, switches, and hubs are part of the transport relay system of the network, the speed capabilities of these devices limit the network speed.
The cost difference between cat5e and cat6 cables is one factor that makes cat5e cables more desirable for some network users. However, if you will purchase your cables in bulk and do your own cabling, the cost difference is minimal and you can cut the cables to exact lengths as needed in your installations. In addition to cost saving, learning to terminate your cables allows you to cut the exact lengths to avoid tangles and unsightly excess loops. For example, you can purchase bulk cat 6, or boxes of 1000ft cat6 for cutting into the specific lengths using a wire cutter, and then use a wire stripper and RJ45 crimping tool to connect RJ45 modular data plugs at both ends.
When doing your own cabling, remember that cat6 cables have a maximum length limitation of about 650 feet between two powered network devices. If this length is exceeded, the network can experience signal degradation and possible data loss. When preparing the cables for cutting, do not pull the cables tightly between two points. It is advisable to provide a little wiggle room for each cable so that there is extra length should there be a need to move a connected device arise.
On the positive side, installing cat6 cables give your network the necessary backbone for gigabit speeds. There is no immediate need to upgrade the other network devices if the current speed is capable of handling the volume of data transfers efficiently. However, the network is ready for the future upgrading of these devices for the transition to gigabit speeds.
If you plan to install a LAN or to upgrade an existing network, it is better to use cat6 cables for Gigabit Ethernet even when the current speed requirement is much less. Technology is never at a standstill and a transition to gigabit speeds through a cat6 network infrastructure makes it ready to handle for future business demands. You can minimize the cost of cabling by purchasing bulk cat6 cables, and then preparing the exact lengths that you need for network connectivity.