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Cat6a Shielded vs. Unshielded: Which Is Better?

November 2, 2016

Cat6a patch cables are gaining popularity as users are demanding ever higher bandwidth and network speeds. It has matured into our every day use, and ranked as the cable of choice to get 10 Gigabit Ethernet for users of VoIP, CCTV, and other data networks. However, the debate concerning selecting Cat6a shielded vs. unshielded cable is heated up these days. What’s the differences between Cat6a shielded vs. unshielded? What’s their merits and drawbacks? The answer is right in this article.

Cat6a Cable: A Cost-Effective Solution for 10G Cabling

Cat6a (Category 6a) cable is one of the latest iteration of Gigabit Ethernet cabling, which is designed as an upgraded version of Cat6 cable. Cat6a is capable of supporting data transfer rates of up to 10Gbps at a maximum bandwidth of 500MHz. And it also has additional and tighter twists, with additional insulation to reduce cross talk. Cat6a is soon becoming the most cost-effective solution: emerging applications are demanding it, standards are recommending it, and many barriers are no longer relevant. Moreover, it is also backwards compatible with Cat6 and Cat5e—speeds are always limited and will perform to the lowest category cable or connector that is installed in the link.

cat6a cabling for 10g

Cat6a Shielded vs. Unshielded: What Is the Difference?

Shielded vs unshielded Cat6a, what is the difference? Basically, Cat6a cable comes into two flavors: Cat6a shielded twisted pair cable (STP) and unshielded twisted pair cable (UTP). Cat6a Shielded and Cat6a Unshielded cable differ in design and manufacture. But both are designed to provide reliable connectivity of electronic equipment. Let’s explore the benefits and drawbacks of each.

Cat6a Shielded Cable

Cat6a shielded twisted pair (SFP) cable has a shielded in cables to prevent electromagnetic interference (EMI) or radio-frequency interference (RFI) from affecting the performance of the cable. It also prevents cable signals from interfering with surrounding cables and equipment. All Cat6a shielded cables have a special grounding wire—drain wire. The shielded must be grounded to work. Cat6a shielded cables are ideal for high-speed 10G networks. Properly installed Cat6a shielded cables automatically curb EMI and crosstalk, helping to ensure data integrity and high-speed performance.

cat6a shielded cable

Cat6a Unshielded Cable

Cat6a unshielded twisted pair (UTP) cables are twisted into 4 sets of pairs. Each bare copper conductor is insulated and color coded. Each bundle of Cat6a unshielded cables is bundled under an overall jacket such as PVC, and each pair of cable has a different twist rate in order to minimize crosstalk within the cable. Cat6a unshielded cable construction is the most common construction on the market because it is less expensive than shielded cables and is easier to install. Besides, Cat6a unshielded cable is simple to terminate since no shielding and the drain wire involved. This renders to reduced termination time and cost. The demerits, however, is that UTP cables are less effective to handle EMI and are larger in size, which requires more pathway space for accommodating the cables.

cat6a unshielded cable

Other Acronyms of Cat6a Cable Shielding

There are many acronyms used to describe Cat6 shielded and unshielded cables. While many are often used synonymously, nearly all of them have different meanings. Here we provide basic information about each type to clear up the confusion.

The standard abbreviations are as follows.

TP = Twisted Pair
U = Unshielded
F = Foil Shield
S= Braided Shield

According to the ISO/IEC standards, the first letter indicates the type of overall shield while the latter points to the type of shielding on each pair. For example, F/UTP, “F” describes the overall shielding type, “U” describes the shielding of the pairs, “TP”describes the Twisted Pairs. The code before the slash describes the overall shielding. The second letter after the slash describes the shielding of the individual pairs.

The chart below indicates the approved acronym for Cat6a shielding:



Cable Shielding

Pair Shielding


Unshielded Twisted Pair




Overall Foil Shield

AL Foil



Each Pair Shielded


AL Foil


Each Pair Shielded + Overall Braid Shield

TC Braid

AL Foil


Overall Foil Shield + Overall Braid Shield

AL Foil + TC Braid



Overall Foil Shield + Each Pair Shielded

AL Foil

AL Foil

Cat6a Shielded vs. Unshielded Cable: How to Make Your Choice?

Cat6a shielded cabling is more expensive than its unshielded alternative and more difficult to install; it’s stiffer, making it less flexible. Unshielded Cat6a cable, on the other hand, actually provides faster transmissions in the absence of EMI. It’s less expensive to purchase, easier to install and has been the standard for many years, so it’s already in place in most existing installations.

cat6a shielded vs. unshielded

Another key factor in this Cat6a shielded vs. unshielded battle is to analyze how prevalent EMI will be in the installation environment. EMI is commonly caused by nearby motors, generators, air conditioners, and even office mainstays such as fluorescent lights and printers. EMI can cause crosstalk between circuits, resulting in degradation of data, increased errors and slower transmission rates. If your areas suffer from heavy electromagnetic interference (EMI), then Cat6a shielded cable could be the perfect fit. Extra shielding helps boost reliability and block out interference in. The average home office or small business user will rarely need a shielded Ethernet cable. Shielding benefits industrial environments the most.


To sum it up, the decision between Cat6a shielded vs. unshielded cable should be based on your cabling environments, along with the consideration of the budget. Make sure to install high-quality Cat6a cables, so you can get a longer life expectancy of your cabling installation, reducing long-term replacement and manpower. FS.COM offers a wide range of options for your Cat6a network. We commit ourselves to improve our products to ensure their superior performance. For more information, please visit


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