Ethernet Cables & Fiber
Differences among CAT5e, CAT6, CAT6A, CAT7, CAT8 Ethernet cable
Ethernet cables physically connect local area networks via eight internally twisted and shielded wires. The wires come in either solid or stranded configurations. Solid wires deliver better performance but are more fragile and prone to break.
Understanding the categories of Ethernet cabling is crucial to selecting the right one for your networking needs.
Twisted-pair Ethernet cables have progressively improved performance over consecutive generations. Tighter winding, complex sheathing, and shielding have resulted in the advancement of Ethernet cable categories. Here is a summary of the different categories of Ethernet cables.
CAT5e is Enhanced CAT 5 and is an improvement to the standard CAT 5. CAT 5e is a Class D cable operating at a data transmission bandwidth frequency of up to 100Mhz and a 1000Mbps data transfer rate with a maximum range of 100 meters. CAT 5e can ideally be used for 1Gbit applications.
CAT 5e has completely replaced its predecessor, CAT 5. It is preferred in home and office networks with moderate data transfers between 10-100 meters due to its flexibility, low cost, ease of crimping and Gigabit Ethernet capability.
CAT 6 is a Class E cable. Supports data transfer rates of up to 10Gbps at a peak bandwidth frequency of 250Mhz. CAT 6 is certified for a maximum range of 100 meters, though due to crosstalk at 10Gbps it is reliably used for a maximum of 55 meters’ transmissions.
CAT 6 is more tightly wound then CAT 5e at more than 2 twists/cm, featuring a tougher outer sheath and central pair separator spine to reduce Alien and near crosstalk, and increase rigidity.
CAT 6 lies in a grey area between the cost-effectiveness of CAT 5e at Gigabit speed and the significant performance improvement of CAT 6A.
The A stands for “Augmented”. CAT 6A cables support 10Gbps data transfers at 500MHz - twice the frequency of CAT 6 and supports 10Gbps speeds to 100 meters. The cable has a thicker sheath than CAT 6, reducing crosstalk and increasing SNR at high data speeds. The CAT 6A is a Class Ea cable owing to the thick sheath and even stiffer pair separator spine reducing its flexibility.
Due to its low flexibility and tough sheath, CAT 6A cables are generally used for industrial applications, outdoor and large-scale networks requiring high data transfers over long distances.
CAT 7 is a stiff Class F cable, with separate twisted pair shielding and additional overall outer shielding beneath a tough outer Sheath. Tests have shown that CAT 7 can transmit at a 600Mhz bandwidth frequency, 10Gbps to 100 meters, 40Gbps to 50 meters and 100Gbps to 15 meters.
Shielding on the CAT 7 cable needs to be grounded especially at high transfer speeds. It requires GigaGate45 connectors, and modern infrastructure to realize the full speed. CAT 7A is also available, sharing most features with CAT 7, but able to transmit at 1GHz bandwidth frequency.
CAT 7 is almost exclusively used in data centers and lager high-throughput network.
CAT 8 is a heavily shielded Class II cable that is yet to hit mainstream after extensive testing and standardization. CAT 8 can support bandwidths of up to 2GHz, and manage a data transfer rate of 25Gbps and 40Gbps on a maximum cable length of 30 meters.
CAT 8 is intended for use in high-performance server rooms and data centers.