Cat6 & Cat6a Cable Products
CAT 6 Ethernet Cable & Connectors Compared to CAT5 / CAT5e
The two primary categories of Ethernet cabling are Category 5 (CAT5) and Category 6 (CAT6), which include the subcategories CAT5e and CAT6a.
Whereas CAT5 cables are rated for a maximum frequency of 100 MHz, Cat-6 can achieve 250 MHz, or even 500 MHz in the case of CAT6a.
Cat-5 could originally carry data at rates of 10 or 100 Mb/s. Cat-5e added the capacity for 1 Gb/s. CAT6 introduced the capacity for data speeds up to 10 Gb/s.
If chaining cables together with connectors, note that Ethernet cables operate at peak performance up to 100 M in length. The original version of CAT6 lost performance at data transfer speeds of 10 Gb/s over lengths in excess of 55 M. CAT6a restored peak performance at the full 100 M range.
Category 6 cable or Cat 6 cable is a type of Ethernet cable that is used for making network connections for the transfer of data and multimedia. Ethernet is a wired networking technology for high speed, high throughput data transfer and has diverse applications including internet connectivity, telecommunications, CNC machining, and railways. Twisted pair cables like Cat6 cable are a key component of the physical layer of such networks which can be rapidly deployed at scale via modular connector plugs that terminated the cable and jacks carried on devices. Its use is specified in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) standard 803.2, which defines the physical and datalink layers of Ethernet. The paired copper wires of Cat 6 cable are used to not only transfer frames of data but are also capable of relaying DC power as explored below.
Twisted pair cabling gives Cat6 cable superior electromagnetic performance and protection from crosstalk as demonstrated by a high signal-to-noise ratio. The individual wires in a twisted pair are wrapped around each other. This means that similar types and levels of interference are encountered by each wire as the signal passes through them. This interference can be more easily separated from the signal at the destination. This is known as a “balanced” arrangement.
Category 6 cable is manufactured in accordance with the following national and international specifications:
- American National Standards Institute (ANSI) / Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) 568 C.2 standard provides the physical characteristics and mechanical performance for telecommunications cabling using balanced twisted-pair cables.
- International Standards Organization (ISO) / International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) 11801 is an information technology standard that specifies twisted-pair copper cabling for commercial premises. Class E details the specifications for Category 6 cables and connectors being used to create a link/channel with up to 250 MHz of bandwidth. The latest revision was released in 2017.
Category 6 cables are an improvement on previous categories of Ethernet cables and are backward compatible with Category 5 cable Cat5e cable and Category 3 cables. Category 6 cable has stricter standards for shielding and levels of electromagnetic interference than earlier forms of Ethernet cable.
Physical specifications of Category 6 cable
Category 6 cable is available as horizontal cabling for installation or portable patch cables to connect individual devices. This horizontal cable is often available as reels that can be dispensed from a pull-out box. It is a round cable that consists of 8 individual copper wires that are arranged as four twisted pairs. In cross-section, the twisted pairs have a cruciform arrangement. In Category 6 cable, the wires are individually shielded, then twisted and double-shielded, with the addition of Kevlar for structural support. This gives the cable superior protection from electromagnetic interference as well as making the cable suitable for high wear applications.
- The Category 6 cable conductor wires are made from solid tinned copper, or solid bare copper with each wire having a diameter of American Wire Gauge (AWG) 26. The copper wire is engineered to have improved insertion loss performance.
- The wire is insulated by a layer of Polyethylene (PE) which gives each covered wire diameter of 1 millimeter (0.039 inches).
- The polyethylene coating of each wire is color-coded following the standardized wiring patterns T568A and T569B. The color coding is used to correctly wire the connector plugs that terminate the cable. The wire colors are as follow:
- Pair 1 has a blue wire and a blue/white striped wire.
- Pair 2 has an orange wire and an orange and white striped wire.
- Pair 3 has a green wire and a green and white striped wire.
- Pair 4 has a brown wire and a striped brown and white wire.
- The paired wires are arranged and wrapped with a central polyethylene or Kevlar filter. This supports the twisting of the wires when the cable is flexed.
- Cat6 cable is double shielded with a layer of Mylar (aluminum polyester film) and a secondary tinned copper braid which has 80 percent coverage.
- Category 6 cable is jacketed in flame-resistant PVC or polyurethane.
- The overall diameter of the Category 6 cable is 5.7 millimeters (0.224 inches).
- Cat6 cable for outdoor installation will have a thicker outer diameter (6.9 millimeters / 0.272 inches) and may also be UV-resistant.
- Some Cat6 cable designs carry a ripcord. This is an industrial yarn that is in the jacket of the cable that can be used by a technician to cut through the outer casing of the cable without damaging the twisted pairs.
- Category 6 Ethernet cable also carries a drain wire for electrical grounding.
Electrical specifications of Cat 6 cable
Cat6 cable has a maximum frequency of 250 MHz and a characteristic impedance of 100 Ohms (+/- 6 Ohms).
- The capacitance of Category 6 cable is 50nF/km.
- The peak voltage rating of Cat 6 cable is 230 Volts.
- The velocity of propagation for Category 6 cable is between 69 and 72 percent (depending on the manufacturer).
Category 6 Ethernet cable attenuation
Attenuation will vary according to the manufacturer of the cable:
- At 1 MHz the attenuation of Category 6 cable is 1.9 dB per 100m.
- At 4 MHz the attenuation of Category 6 cable is 3.5 dB per 100m.
- At 10 MHz the attenuation of Category 6 cable is 5.5 dB per 100m.
- At 16 MHz the attenuation of Category 6 cable is 7 dB per 100m.
- At 20 MHz the attenuation of Category 6 cable is 7.9 dB per 100m.
- At 31.25 MHz the attenuation of Category 6 cable is 10 dB per 100m.
- At 62.5 MHz the attenuation of Category 6 cable is 14.4 dB per 100m.
- At 100 MHz the attenuation of Category 6 cable is 18.6 dB per 100m.
Environmental and mechanical characteristics of Category 6 cable
Category 6 cable has an operating temperature range of -20 to +70 degrees Celsius (-4 to 158 degrees Fahrenheit). The minimum bend radius of the Cat6 cable is 25.4 millimeters (1 inch). As a rule bend radius should not be less than 4 times the outer diameter of the cable. Its pulling force is 11.5 Kilograms.
Category 6A Ethernet cable
This is an Augmented (A) version of Cat6 cable that has physical and electrical characteristics that are specified by the TIA standard (568.2-D) that was released in 2008 and amendment 2 of ISO/IEC 11801. In particular alien crosstalk (AXT), interference caused by other cables that are nearby is significantly reduced in comparison to standard Category 6 cable.
Cat6A cable has double the bandwidth of Cat6 cable with a maximum frequency of 500 MHz and superior performance at higher frequencies. Category 6A cable is specifically designed to support next-generation Ethernet networking hardware that uses the emerging global Cat 6A/Class EA specifications.
There is also an Ethernet cabling product known as Cat6e cable. This variant of Category 6 cable has been designated by certain manufacturers but is not formally standardized by the TIA or similar organizations.
RoHS compliant Category 6 and Category 6A cable
Our selection of high-quality Cat6 and Cat6A Ethernet cables and connectors are manufactured to comply with all relevant electronics sector legislation. In particular, these products comply with:
- Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) - European Union legislation that limits the use of harmful substances including lead and mercury in electrical and electronic products.
- The Conflict Minerals Directive (2021) is an EU law that limits the use in electronics of the precious metals Tin, Tungsten, Tantalum, and Gold (3TG metals) that have been sourced using forced labor or acquired to fund conflicts.
- Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Act also restricts the use of 3TG metals in electronics that have dubious provenance in US domestic law.
RJ45 modular connectors for Category 6 and Cat6A cable
Category 6 cables are terminated with an 8 position 8 contact (8P8C) modular connector known as a Registered Jack 45 plug. This connector is similar in appearance to an analog telephone plug and contains pins that hold each of the paired wires that make up the cable. For an Ethernet cable to be functional, the wiring pattern of the connector must be carefully followed. There are two wiring patterns specified for Category 6 cable connectors by the TIA. T568A and T568B.
RJ45 plugs are connected to jacks that are embedded in Ethernet hubs, controllers, injectors, and client devices. The top of the connector carries a tab that helps to keep the connector fully mated.
Why is Category 6A cable important?
Category 6A cable has been positioned to support the future data center and other enterprise-level networking. It is advantageous as it has the specifications to be able to support the long-term planning of installations and workstations which can support high-speed 10G networking.
- Category 6A cable for data centers and computer rooms
Data centers are physical spaces that are used to house critical network infrastructure for computer systems and their associated components. The electronic equipment housed in a data center also includes data storage equipment and servers which are kept in a secure, environmentally controlled environment.
The warehousing and organization of these often vast numbers of servers as well as the demand for increasing scale speed and efficacy of data transfer means that the cabling deployed in data centers needs to not only perform reliably but also be cost-effective. Ethernet cable for data centers also needs to be resilient when run beneath a raised floor or overhead.
Space limitations mean that data centers often use high-density patch panels with multiple ports that can be connected as required with Cat 6A Ethernet patch cables.
Balanced twisted-pair copper cabling with 100 Ohm impedance is routinely used in both single-tenant enterprise data centers and the multi-tenant data centers that provide internet hosting.
Cat 6 A cable is an effective choice for access layer networking applications that meets the requirements of the Telecommunications Infrastructure Standards for Data Centers specified in ANSI/TIA-942-B and Data Center Design and Implementation Best Practices (ANSI/BICSI 002-2014).
- Category 6A cable for wireless networking applications
Ethernet cable is an unavoidable component of wireless networking and as 802.11 network speeds increase, the cabling used for the backbone cabling used by wireless access points needs to match the speed and capacity specified by the wireless standards.
Without installing the right horizontal cabling, businesses will not be able to harness the full capabilities of networks like 802.11ac (WiFi 5) or 802.11ax. The TIA standard, Telecommunications Cabling Guidelines for Wireless Access Points (TSB-162-A) specifically recommends Cat 6A cable as a minimum for achieving optimal performance as it provides high-bandwidth and has good backward compatibility meaning it can be easily integrated into existing infrastructure.
- Category 6A cable for PoE
Power over Ethernet (PoE) uses twisted-pair cables to transfer DC current from a source to client devices. It has grown in uptake massively since it was first released in 2003.
The IEEE standard 802.bt specifies a form of PoE using four pairs that are also capable of supporting 10BASE-T. 802.3bt 4 pair PoE has two tiers:
- Type 3 Power over Ethernet is capable of supplying up to 60 Watts of power.
- Type 4 Power over Ethernet is capable of supplying up to 100 Watts of power.
Not all Ethernet cable can support the higher current PoE, meaning that Cat6A cable is preferentially recommended for PoE installations. The 803.2bt standard provides power that is adequate for running devices like laptops, or access points.
Additional standards have also been releases that affect the use of Cat6A cable for PoE. The National Electric Code (2017) contains revisions that affect PoE. Ethernet cable now requires consideration and treatment as electrical wiring as the power transferred can exceed a 60 Watt threshold. The code specifies cable bundle size and temperature ratings depending on the type of PoE used.
TIA and ISO updated standards also address the use of 4-pair PoE with guidance for each of the levels of power delivered:
- Guidelines for Supporting Power Delivery Over Balanced Twisted-Pair Cabling (TIA TSB-184-A)
- Information Technology — Telecommunications Cabling Requirements for Remote Powering of Terminal Equipment (ISO/IEC TS29125)
- Category 6A cable for 10GBASE-T
10 Gigabit Ethernet is capable of transferring Ethernet data at a rate of up to 10 Gigabits per second via full-duplex point-to-point links. Since its introduction in 2008, this high-speed form of Ethernet is emerging as a technology capable of supporting the ever-increasing demand for fast, high throughput data transfer. Though initially expensive, the price of 10 Gb Ethernet has fallen with time and the use of Cat6A cable also delivers savings by extending the life of the cabling systems in which it is used.
Cat6A cables are capable of supporting 10GBASE-T with cable runs of up to 100 meters in length. The IEEE standard 802.3an provides the specifications for 10 Gigabit Ethernet over twisted pair cable, recommending Cat6A as the cable of choice.
The use of Cat6A cable in network installations enables seamless network upgrade to 10GBASE-T if it is not already being used. This means that businesses save time, money, and network disruption as re-cabling will not be required for upgrades.
- Category 6A cable for HDBaseT
Category 6A cable is at the forefront of multimedia over Ethernet with the development of HDBAse-T set to transform home networking and entertainment.
HDBaseT is a proprietary technology that delivers high-resolution audiovisual signal transfer over Ethernet cables to compatible displays and speakers, in addition to providing high-speed Ethernet (100Base-T) and USB connectivity. Its standards have been developed and released by the HDBaseT Alliance which counts leading electronics companies like Samsung and LG Electronics as founding members.
This technology is advantageous because it is faster, easier, and cheaper to install than standard HDMI cabling and can be used over cable lengths of up to 100 meters. It uses packet-based signaling like standard Ethernet. PoE can be used to power transmitting and receiving devices like routers or sensors for home automation with a power supply of up to 100 Watts possible.
Category 6A cable is a critical component of this novel form of networking. With its 500 MHz bandwidth, Cat6a is more reliable and has superior performance when compared to Cat6 and Cat5e cable which may also be used. Cat 5e cable performs best for short point-to-point links and is prone to a high rate of data packet errors which deteriorate the media transferred. In high-density installations, Category 6A cables have greater protection against EMI and alien crosstalk when in proximity to other cables.
Frequently asked questions
How should Category 6A cable be handled?
By appreciating the physical characteristics of Category 6a cable and using the correct handling practices, these Ethernet cable installations will deliver better performance and have good longevity.
Category 6a cables are larger and heavier than preceding Ethernet cable categories and so need more considered handling practices.
- Because of their larger size, long lengths of cat6a cables with reels, racks, or carts.
- Cable ties can not only crush and damage the cable but also become a focus for alien crosstalk. Velcro fasteners are just as secure but do not cause damage and can be adjusted or reused easily.
- Tension on the cat6a cable when routing will cause deterioration of the transmission quality and derangement of the cable from its specified performance. Cable pulling tension should not exceed 110 Newton.
- The shielding and performance of the cat6a cable are such that they can be bundled with other category cables without impairment of function. Larger and heavier cable bundles should not be placed on top of other cables as this can cause crushing.
- Always observe a minimum bend radius of 4 times the outer diameter of the cable, remembering that cat6a cable is a larger diameter in comparison to other cables you may be using.
- For telecommunications installations, the TIA recommends including slack loops of 10 feet of extra cable. This excess should be retained for adjustments of the installation, including re-terminations, moves, and adds. The slack can be stored as a figure-8 loop which reduces stress on the cables. Ensure the loops are properly supported in the installation.
- Pulling Lubricants are used to prevent friction damage on cables as they are being routed. Ensure that any lubricants used are specifically designed for data cables as they can cause insertion losses.
What is a structured cabling system (SCS)?
A structured cabling system is a term given to the configuration of infrastructural components that support the deployment of cabling in a particular setting. The hardware installed as part of an SCS supports the overall performance of the network. It has the advantage of making a network scalable and easier to extend and upgrade as the demands on the network change.
What is alien crosstalk (AXT)?
AXT is a type of electromagnetic noise that affects network cables that are close to one another. It is called “alien” because the noise arises between different Ethernet cables, rather than between the wires or twisted pairs within a single cable. AXT can be “near end” or “far end”, depending on where the noise is sourced on the disturbing link and received on the disturbed link. AXT is difficult to cancel and is a notable source of noise in 10GBASE-T networks that can affect their performance. Cable installation methods and practices including the positioning of patch cords, the bundling of cables are significant causes of this type of noise.
What is bandwidth?
The bandwidth of an Ethernet link or channel is simply the difference between its highest and lowest frequencies, measured in Hertz. Bandwidth determines the amount of data that can be transmitted via the channel. High bandwidth cables like Cat6a (500 MHz) have higher data capacity.
What is patching?
Patching is the practice of disconnecting network circuits at a particular point and reconnecting them at a different point to rout a signal in a specific way. This is done by using patch cables which are used to “patch-in” devices.
Category 6a cable is a superior Ethernet cable that can be integrated into a wide range of networking projects and installations. Its reliable performance makes it the cable of choice for networks with speeds up to 10 Gigabit per second. Exceptional audiovisual and power handing also extend its applications beyond routine data transfer.
This cable is built for networks of any size and has good longevity, making them a sound infrastructure investment that should be suitable for upgrades and expansions throughout the life of your network.