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UTP or STP Cables for 10GBASE-T Network?

Updated on October 29, 2021
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New applications coupled with the growth of Internet users are driving the need for increased bandwidth. The 10GbE structured copper cabling system just addresses this demand. For 10GBASE-T data transmission, both shielded twisted pair (STP) and unshielded twisted pair (UTP) copper cabling systems are applicable. This guidance may give you a general idea on the difference between UTP and STP cables. Based on the understanding, you can then make your best choice for the 10GBASE-T network.

10GBASE-T Network

10GBASE-T Overview - Technology and Applications

What is 10GBASE-T? 10GBASE-T technology is one of the most commonly used technologies supporting 10Gbe Ethernet. It is a defined 10G Ethernet standard which uses twisted pair cables as transmission media, providing connections with the bandwidth of 10 Gbit/s and a maximum transmission distance up to 100 meters.

10GBASE-T provides a high-speed networking solution for horizontal copper applications and high-performance networking in the following areas:

  • Local uplinks, aggregation links, and inter-switch links

  • HPC (high-performance computing) data centers in new and existing installations

  • Enterprise server farms/data centers with both new and legacy media

  • Other applications that can use in-building structured cabling with both new and legacy media

10GBASE-T Deployment

UTP vs STP: What Is the Difference

A twisted pair cable is a widely used cable for transmitting data and information over certain distances. Two common types of twisted pairs are - unshielded twisted pair and shielded twisted pair.

Unshielded Twisted Pair (UTP)

UTP consists of color-coded copper wires but does not include any foil or braiding as an insulator to protect against interference. The cable has four pairs of wires inside the jacket. Each pair is twisted with a different number of twists per inch to help eliminate interference from adjacent pairs and other electrical devices. 

UTP cables are suitable for offices and homes. They are less expensive than STP cables. So if the interference or crosstalk is not your main concern, it is suggested to choose UTP cable for saving your cabling cost.

Shielded Twisted Pair (STP)

STP contains an extra foil wrapping or copper braid jacket to help shield the cable signals from interference. The additional shielding in the STP cable stops electromagnetic interference from leaking out of or into the cable. STP cable is used to eliminate inductive and capacitive coupling. Twisting cancels out inductive coupling, while the shield eliminates capacitive coupling. 

STP cables are often used in situations nearby equipment causing EMI (Electro-Magnetic Interference). For example, airports, medical centers and factories have lots of machines that can produce interference, in these places STP cables are typically applied.

Shielded Twisted Pair Construction

Factors to Consider When Choosing UTP or STP Cable

Alien Crosstalk

Alien Crosstalk (ANEXT) is the crosstalk that occurs between adjacent cables and connecting hardware. It is an important performance parameter for copper cables. In 10GBASE-T applications, alien crosstalk limits the data transmission performance over copper cable greatly. 

In UTP copper cabling, the alien crosstalk will increase when adjacent cables are close proximity, which is indeed a nightmare to many users. Compared with the UTP cabling system, the STP cabling system is able to deliver excellent alien near-end crosstalk performance. For properly installed and bonded STP cabling, foil screens within the cable prevent signals from the coupling. Thus, it reduces alien crosstalk below required performance levels.

Termination

STP cable includes a shield around each individual pair. So STP cables are not easy for termination, resulting in more difficult cable management. Because the foil and drain wire in an STP cable must be pulled back and twisted around the cable end prior to termination, and the unused foils should be trimmed. But for UTP cable, it's designed as unshielded, saving time for termination. Thus, the termination takes longer for STP cabling than UTP; however, this situation only applies to bulk cables as patch cables are equipped with connectors and do not need this process.

Bonding and Grounding

If 10GBASE-T compliant copper cabling is installed, the integrity of the bonding and grounding system must be sound to realize the full performance of the system. 

The UTP cabling connectivity doesn't require complete system bonding. But you should consider the integrity of the grounding of the patch panels and racks to the common grounding point to protect the infrastructure. While for the STP cabling system, bonding cable to the connectivity components is a must to ensure proper performance.

Costs

Overall speaking, the cost of the STP cabling system is higher than the UTP cabling system. On one hand, STP cable design contains shielding material, which brings more costs for STP cable. While UTP cable and unshielded connective hardware (jacks and patch panels) tend to cost less than their shielded counterparts. On the other hand, during installation, an STP cabling solution will take longer to terminate jack modules and properly bond the structured cabling system which will cost more on installation expenses. The UTP cabling solution is simple to manipulate, bringing quicker termination and thus reducing cost. 

Following is a summarized form for your reference:


Parameters UTP STP
Alien Crosstalk Has high crosstalk. Has low crosstalk.
Termination Easier to terminate and saves time. Not easy and takes a longer time.
Bonding and Grounding Not required. Necessary.
Costs Cheaper and does not require much maintenance. Moderately expensive.

Summary

10GBASE-T has expanded the opportunity for 10G Ethernet networking by supporting simpler & cheaper twisted pair copper cabling. Broad deployment on the 10GBASE-T network will simplify data center infrastructure, making it easier to manage server connectivity and deliver more bandwidth. Since 10GBASE-T has become the predominant choice for many users, it's crucial to decide whether to choose UTP or STP for home network cabling. Hope the above contents can be a good reference for you to make a better choice on twisted pair cables.

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