Should We Use Cat6 or Cat6a for 10GBASE-T?

Should We Use Cat6 or Cat6a for 10GBASE-T?

Posted on by FS.COM

The demands for high bandwidth keep increasing as the video and multimedia gain a large popularity. The data rate of 1Gbps is gradually replaced by 10Gbps. Of course, Cat5e cables used to support 1Gbps network are also out of date. Ethernet cables with higher bandwidth such as Cat6 and Cat6a are introduced for faster data rate applications. Here comes some questions–What’s the difference between Cat6 and Cat6a? Is Cat6 able to support 10GBASE-T application? This article can answer your questions.

Cat6 and Cat6a

Cat6 Cable

Cat6, short for Category 6, is the 6th generation of standardized twisted pair cable for Ethernet and other network physical layers. Cat6 cable is designed much in the same way as Cat5e cable. So Cat6 is compatible with Cat5e, Cat5 and other lower cable standards. Cat6 has improved its performance on insertion loss, crosstalk, return loss and can support the bandwidth up to 250MHz. It can be used for 10BASE-T Ethernet, 100BASE-TX Fast Ethernet, 1000BASE-T/1000BASE-TX Fast Ethernet.

Cat6a Cable

Cat6a is Augmented Cat6 designed to support high speed data applications. Different from previous cables, it has larger outside diameter, larger minimum bend radius, and heavier weight. Cat6a can support the data rates up to 10Gbps over 100 meters at a maximum bandwidth of 500HMz. Cat6a is compatible with Cat6 and Cat5e.

Differences Between Cat6 and Cat6a

First, Cat6a is an improved version of Cat6. It has a better network performance as the Cat6a is designed more complicated than Cat6. Cat6 cable is mainly used in 1Gbps network while Cat6a cable is applied for 10Gbps network connections. It operates at the bandwidth of 500HMz which is more than that of Cat6.

Second, Cat6a cable has to consider more about its configurations for reducing the alien crosstalk which occurs when the signal leaks from one cable into another. This can introduce noise and cause slower network speed. Therefore, the manufacture requirement of Cat6a must be higher than Cat6 so that Cat6a cable can work better when it’s bundled with a lot of cables.

Third, Cat6a is thicker than Cat6. Cat6 is very much like Cat5e and Cat5 from its appearance. Cat6a cable has better alien crosstalk because manufacturers produce strict shielding which makes Cat6a thicker. Cat6a cable can be divided into shielded and unshielded type respectively referred as F/UTP (shielded) and U/UTP (unshielded) cable. Cat6a is more expensive than Cat6.

Use for 10Gbps Network

The above content shows the difference of two types of twisted-pair cable. Obviously Cat6a cable has better network performance than Cat6. In the IEEE standard, it states that Cat6a cable using RJ45 connectors can deliver 10G performance up to 500 MHz with link lengths up to 100 meters. There is no doubt that Cat6a can support 10Gbps network. The question is whether Cat6 cable is suitable for 10Gbps. You are not sure whether you need to change Cat6 with Cat6a especially when you upgrade your network from 1G to 10G.

10-Gigabit-Ethernet

It’s said that Cat6 cable can support 10GBASE-T over distance between 37 and 55 meters depending on the alien crosstalk environment. But there is no 10GBASE-T application support assurance over short runs of Cat6 because alien crosstalk is highly dependent on cable density. And the cable quality from different manufacturers can’t be guaranteed. Besides, Cat6 can’t make use of power-saving short reach mode. Short reach mode can reduce power consumption by 1W per port when using Cat6 of 30 meters or less. So it’s not cost-effective and environment friendly for 10GBASE-T application. What’s more, Cat6 cable can’t dissipate heat as well as Cat6a since it has smaller diameter conductor. Data center temperatures are increasing. At the same time, cable insertion loss also increases. This is not good for network performance. In a word, Cat6 cable is not suggested to be used in 10GBASE-T applications because of various limitations. The minimum grade of cabling to be deployed in the data center should be Cat6a cable.

Conclusion

As 10GBASE-T network becomes increasingly common, it needs relative twisted-pair cable to support the 10GbE system. Cat6 and Cat6a cables were both thought as the connection media. However, based on the network performance, you’d better install Cat6a cable for your 10Gbps link system. If you are using 1Gbps network, you can also install Cat6a cable as it can save you time and money for the migration to 10GBASE-T in the future. No matter Cat6 or Cat6a cable, you can find on FS.COM. For more information about these cables, please visit our site www.fs.com or contact us via sales@fs.com.

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