Are There Advantages to Using Bulk Cat6e vs. Cat6 Ethernet Cable?

12/10/2015 0 Comment(s) Bulk Ethernet Cable,

Future proofing using bulk cat6 cable is being considered by many for home networks that are cabled using the older cat5 or cat5e Ethernet cables. Cat 6 cables provide home networks with the infrastructure for Gigabit Ethernet, which many believe is the norm now, or will be in a few years as technology advances continue onwards to faster speeds.


Homeowners who are just in the process of installing a home network are thus encouraged cabling their homes with cat6 but are also likely to consider cat6e because of its claimed superiority over cat6. However, there are skeptics as to the benefits or advantages of cat6e because it is not an accepted standard in the same manner as cat6 and the older cat5 and cat5e cables are recognized by the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA).


 


Structure and Capabilities of Cat6 and Cat6e Cables

Category 6 cable or cat6 has superseded cat5e in network cabling in newer building structures because of the 10 Gigabit network support and to plan for the future higher speeds of computer and voice signals. It consists of four pairs of intimately twisted wires with a tighter twist in the cables to allow two-way communication on each pair of wires. Cat6 transmits at a higher frequency of 250 MHz compared to the 100 MHz frequency for cat5e.


Many cable suppliers use the Category 6e standard, though the TIA does not officially recognize this. The augmented or enhanced specification for cat6e aims to double the transmission frequency to 500 MHz, which is twice the frequency of transmission for cat6. It is further claimed that the grounded foil shielding that is used to wrap cat6e cable allows it to support the full 10-Gigabit Ethernet speed without sacrificing the 100-meter maximum cable length. One disadvantage of using shielded cabling is its bulk. Shielded cables are also more expensive to install and more difficult to maintain.


Cable manufacturers developed the cat6e cable to meet the increasing requirements for higher bandwidth applications and to meet the requirements of network installations in environments than having a large amount of electromagnetic interference (EMI). The additional shielding in cat6e gives the benefit of improved or better shielding against EMI. Furthermore, the enhanced performance of cat6e ensures that the transmission signal is protected from any sort of EMI that come from an outside source and thus, the cable performs at higher speeds with better quality of data transfer.


In addition to cat6e, there is also the cat6a Ethernet cable classification with a transmission frequency of up to 500 MHz and support for 10-Gigabit Ethernet speed over 100 meters of cable. Confusion over the enhanced or augmented cat6 cable standard or cat6a arose over the differences between ISO/IEC and TIA/EIA in the use of naming conventions (TIA cat6a and ISO/IEC Class EA) and performance benchmarks for 10-GbE Ethernet cables. Though cat6 is equivalent to ISO Class A, cat6a is not equivalent to ISO Class EA, which has a tighter specification.


What is important to note at this point is that the cat6a standard and the cat6e Ethernet cable offered by some manufacturers were designed to meet the most stringent needs of networks that require wider broadband because of its greater information-carrying capacity.


As far as shielding from electromagnetic interference (EMI) and the reduction of crosstalk are concerned, these augmented or enhanced cables are superior to cat6a and are thus better for networking in harsh environments where the cables are exposed to many potential sources of interference. It is important to note though that cat6e is not a TIA standard and thus, the quality of the cable can vary significantly from every manufacturer according to its own specifications.


For many homes and small offices, cabling with cat6 is more appropriate since the network is less likely to be subjected to harsh electromagnetic environments, and many applications that are in current use can be handled by the 250 MHz frequency. It is likewise worth noting at this point that many network devices currently in use in many homes and small offices, for example RJ45 network interfaces, PCs and servers, support 1-gigabit speed and not the 10 GbE that the enhanced and augmented cat6a or cat6e cables are designed to support.


 

Comparison of Cable Performance and Cost

The performance standards for cat6, cat6e, and cat6a are listed below:

  • Cat6 (TIA standard)

Maximum data rate – 10 GbE

Maximum Frequency – 250 MHz

Maximum distance for 10GbE support – 50 meters

  • Cat6e (unofficial cable category)

Maximum data rate – 10 GbE

Maximum Frequency – 500 MHz

Maximum distance for 10GbE support – 100 meters

  • Cat6a (TIA standard)

Maximum data rate – 10GbE

Maximum Frequency – 500 MHz

Maximum distance for 10GbE support – 100 meters

 

Bulk cat6 cables (UTP, Solid, Riser Rated/CMR, 350 MHz) cost about $120 for a 1000ft pack. By comparison, the cost of cat6e bulk 1000 ft ranges from $146 to $180, while cat6a 1000ft, Solid and shielded, 650 MHz is from $275 to $380. Thus, cabling with the TIA standard cat6a will cost up to three times more than cat 6, while the cost of cat6e, which is not an official TIA standard, is about 20% to 60% higher than cat6.


In addition to cable cost, cat6a cables are about 50% larger than standard cat6 cables. To meet the stringent requirements of  higher performance at frequencies of up to 500 MHz and support to 10GBase-T over a distance of 100 meters, cat6a cables combine tight pair twists with additional twisting of each twisted wire pair around a flexible central plastic support. With its numerous twists, cat6a remains quite heavier and bulkier than cat 6 despite the efforts of some cable manufacturers to trim down its size.


Though the cost of cat6a is very much higher than cat6, adherents of future proofing recommend use of this cable as an option to take if you are planning for a network that will serve your requirements for the next five or more years.


 

Conclusion

Networks that foresee demands for greater bandwidth and less interference or alien crosstalk are best cabled with bulk cat6a or cat6e, while for most home networks and small office LANs, bulk cat6 cable is adequate for future proofing.
 

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