Cat 6 Twisted Pair
Twisted pairs are made up of two insulated copper wires that are twisted together. The twisting is done to help cancel exterior electromagnetic interference. Crosstalk interference can come from other pairs within a cable. Each type of twisted pair cable has bandwidth and data rate specifications. Due to its thinner diameter, a twisted wire is often found in telephone or network cables. Coaxial or optical fiber options deliver greater bandwidth in comparison to twisted pair cabling. Twisted pair is often for home use, though higher twisted pair grades can be used for LAN installs.
Twisted Pair Cable in Stranded or Solid Versions
When two wires with separate insulation are twisted around one another, twisted pair cable is the result. The cable is available in solid or stranded versions. Stranded wiring offers greater flexibility for installs that require bending. Solid wiring, also known as solid core cable, can cover more distance but is not designed for installs that require physical flexing. Both the shielded and unshielded twisted pairs are available in solid or stranded variations.
STP and UTP Characteristics
A shielded twisted pair and unshielded twisted pair are abbreviated as STP and UTP. STP features two insulated copper wires that are twisted around one another and then covered with an additional shield. This extra covering boosts interference protection. STP is often utilized in Ethernet applications.
UTP Cable | Unshielded Twisted Pair
Widely implemented UTP wiring consists of two insulated copper wires which have been twisted around one another. The abbreviation UTP stands for “Unshielded Twisted Pair”. The twisting of the wire pairs helps to control signal degradation due to interference. Though the individual copper wires are insulated with a protective coating, the pairs themselves do not have shielding. Twisted wire pairs are grouped together to form a cable. One UTP network cable usually consists of four twisted pairs. UTP cables come in categories, with Cat5e as a common Ethernet option.
UTP Cable Connections
Network connections with short to medium length requirements can utilize UTP cable. This cable type is also found in some video applications. UTP Network Cable Categories support a range of data transmission speeds. A complete UTP system will utilize components within a specific Category, including compatible cable, jack, Patch panel, and patch cords.
CAT5e Ethernet Cable
CAT5e is arguably the most commonly used category of Ethernet cable in South Africa today and is capable of up to Gigabit speed transmission. The reason it is so popular is that it is both cost-effective and easy to use for end-to-end installations. It uses 100MHz of bandwidth without additional cross-talk division. This cable meets all the minimum requirements for Gigabit performance while keeping costs down.
CAT6 Ethernet Cable
If we look at CAT6, it is capable of 1Gbps+ speeds at 100m, and even 10Gbps at up to 55m. It uses 250MHz of bandwidth to achieve this speed and is a good choice for new installations. However, its increased cable thickness requires a bit more skill to install and the RJ45 connectors are not as easy to crimp as with CAT5e. It’s also worth mentioning that you should never use CAT5e RJ45 connectors on CAT6 cable.
CAT6a Ethernet Cable
Next, we have CAT6a which offers an even greater transmission speed at 10Gbps for runs up to to 100m for 500MHz of bandwidth. These cables should be used in high capacity LAN’s with 10G switching environments. It’s more challenging to install and makes use of RJ45-CAT6a connectors which again are not compatible with other cable types.
CAT7 Ethernet Cable
You may have heard of CAT7 cabling and assumed it is the latest and greatest, faster version of CAT5e or CAT6 cabling. However, CAT7 is not an actual IEEE cabling standard, but a proprietary design that does not have an official blessing from the networking industry.
It does not use RJ45 connectors, but a proprietary connector. Without official IEEE or EIA standardisation, any “Category 7” cabling you purchase will be different from manufacturer to manufacturer.
CAT8 Ethernet Cable
If you’re looking for a faster copper alternative to CAT6a, then CAT8 is your answer. CAT8 is the official successor to CAT6a cabling. It is recognised by the IEEE and all parts are standardized across manufacturers. The primary benefit of CAT8 cabling is faster throughput over short distances with a maximum speed of 40Gbps.
Due to these distance limitations, the best-use scenario for CAT8 would be inside a data centre to connect network equipment to each other. It would not be cost-effective to use CAT8 for an office as the distance would quickly decrease the speed throughput to that of CAT6a, which is cheaper to procure and install for the same performance.
As the category increases so does the price tag. In addition, more skilled installers are typically required which may also hike up the cost of deployment.