Using Category 6A Cable in 10GbE Copper Network

Using Category 6A Cable in 10GbE Copper Network

Posted on by FS.COM

Category 6A system

Category 6A (CAT 6A) is currently the preferred cable option designed to meet and exceed the requirements for the next generation 10GBASE-T applications. This post is discussing the CAT 6A cable and its type options including UTP and F/UTP in 10GbE network systems.

10GBASE-T & CAT 6A Overview

10G Ethernet Over Copper
10GBASE-T standard was released by the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) 802.3an in June 2006 which specifies 10Gbps data transmission over four-pair copper cabling. Cable options for 10 GbE include Category 6 cable (for up to 37m transmission distance), Category 6A UTP or F/UTP cable (for up to 100m transmission distance) and S/FTP Category 7/Class F cable (for up to 100m transmission distance).

Cable Type Link Segment Distance Cabling Standard Reference
Class E / CAT 6 (Unshielded/Shielded) 55 to 100 m ISO/IEC 11801 2nd EditionANSI/TIA/EIA-568-B
Class EA / CAT 6A (Unshielded/Shielded) 100 m ISO/IEC 11801 2nd EditionANSI/TIA/EIA-568-B
Class F / CAT 7 (Unshielded/Shielded) 100 m ISO/IEC 11801 2nd Edition

 

CAT 6A
CAT 6A, also called Augmented CAT 6 is the latest infrastructure performance level to be widely accepted. It is defined by ANSI/TIA-568-C.2 which can support up to 10 Gbps for a distance of 100 m. CAT 6A extends electrical specifications to 500 MHz from 250 MHz for CAT 6 cabling. CAT 6A uses 4-pair twisted cables and is typically terminated with RJ45 connectors in patch cord. It can be fully backward compatible with previous categories, e.g. CAT 6 or CAT 5e. CAT 6A is ideal for future-proofing cabling installations, especially for a planned lifetime that is ten or more years.

In addition to the above contents, there is very necessary to note that CAT 6A standard includes the performance parameter called Alien Crosstalk (ANEXT). ANEXT, in 10GbE network systems, is the measurement of the unwanted signal coupling between wire pairs in different and adjacent cables, or from one balanced twisted-pair component, channel, or permanent link to another. The amount of ANEXT depends on a number of factors, including the type of cable, cable jacket, cable length, cable twist density, proximity of adjacent cables and connectors, and EMI (Electro Magnetic Interference). Patch panels and connecting hardware are also affected by ANEXT. In general, ANEXT measurement is based on cables in a configuration called “six-around-one”, as shown in the picture below. The affected cable located in the middle is called victim cable, and the surrounding, namely adjacent cables are the disturber cables.

Category 6A six-around-one

CAT 6A in 10GbE Network—UTP or F/UTP?

CAT 6A has been extensively tested and has been proven to support 10GbE network systems with plenty of headroom. However, there is another main concern about using CAT 6A in 10GbE network—should we use an unshielded Category 6A solution or a shielded one?

Actually, nowadays, especially in United States, unshielded twisted-pair cabling is the main stream. The unshielded twisted-pair cables are relatively inexpensive and easier to terminate and install than shielded cable. But for noisy environments with a lot of EMI/RFI and in high-security type venues, shielded cables are better. In addition, the shielding effectiveness is of particular importance where 10 GbE is concerned. Shielded cable is popular with many European nations.

Category 6A UTP & FUTP

CAT 6A UTP (Unshielded Twisted Pair) and CAT 6A F/UTP (Foiled/Unshielded Twisted Pairs) are two common types of CAT 6A cables. As the representatives of unshielded and shielded cabling. They are respectively introduced in the following.

CAT 6A UTP in 10GbE Network
CAT 6A UTP, as shown in the picture below, has a large outer diameter (up to 0.35 inches) that is caused by some features such as larger conductors, (23 AWG minimum), tighter twists, an extra internal airspace, an internal separator between the pairs, and a thicker outer jacket. These features help minimize crosstalk and ANEXT. Because the increased diameter creats a greater distance between pairs in adjacent links, helping reduce the between-channel signal coupling. ANEXT affects the CAT 6A UTP thought it can be improved by laying CAT 6A UTP cable loosely in pathways and raceways with space between the cables. Thus, ANEXT measurement is very necessary for CAT 6A UTP. However, the test process is quite complex and time-comsuming.

Category 6A UTP

CAT 6A F/UTP in 10GbE Network
CAT 6A F/UTP denotes foiled/unshielded twisted pairs, which consists of four unshielded twisted pairs encased in an overall foil shield. The foil shield acts as a barrier reflecting the noise from machinery, lights, motors, and other sources of EMI and RFI so that prevents EMI/RFI from coupling onto the twisted pairs from other adjacent cables. Moreover, the foil shield prevents data signals from leaking out of the cable, making the cable more difficult to tap and better for secure installations. Thanks to the benefits of F/UTP, CAT 6A F/UTP cable does a much better job of eliminating ANEXT than CAT 6A UTP, providing significantly more headroom for 10GbE over copper.

Category 6A F/UTP

Conclusion

CAT 6A cabling supports 10GBASE-T standard for bandwidths up to 10 Gbps over a maximum distance of 100 meters. Unshielded (UTP) and shielded (e.g. F/UTP) solutions are both available in 10GbE applications. However, there are a lot of advantages of using CAT 6A F/UTP over CAT 6A UTP in 10-GbE networks in the long term. FS.COM offers various CAT 6A products including CAT 6A patch cables, pre-terminated copper trunk cables and bulk cables. For more information, please visit this page or contact us over sales@fs.com.

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