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Shopping for Giganet Cat 6A Ethernet cable is an adventure packed with excitement and drama. At A2Z Africa we can help you find the right cable for whatever networking job you’re working on. You might imagine that Ethernet cables are much of a muchness, but there are some important things to be aware of – otherwise, you could end up bottlenecking the performance of your network, or facing a disruptive upgrade in the future.
And if you thought that Ethernet was is on its way out, think again. There are plenty of times when Wi-Fi can’t provide the consistent, reliable high-speed connectivity you’re looking for. Ethernet is simpler, more stable – and a lot faster, supporting speeds of up to a gigabit per second on most laptops, PCs and game consoles. There’s minimal latency too, so it’s perfect for streaming video and games through the home.
How to choose the best Cat 6, Cat 6A, Cat 7 Cable
The easiest way to tell Ethernet cables apart is to look at their category rating. The standards in use today start at category five (known colloquially as Cat 5), which was designed way back in 1999. Cables in this category can handle 100Mbits/sec connections, but they won’t support the full speed of a Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) network. For that, you need Cat 5e, an enhanced version of Cat 5 that has better resistance to interference and crosstalk and can carry Gigabit traffic over a distance of up to 100m. These days, Cat 5e is the absolute minimum we’d recommend buying, and even then, it’s worth paying the small extra for the step up to Cat 6.
Cat 6 provides headroom for 10-Gigabit Ethernet (10GbE) connectivity at cable lengths of up to 50m, but it has its own enhanced version, Cat 6a, which uses an updated design to further reduce crosstalk, making it possible to run 10GbE at distances of up to 100m. Cat 6a cables tend to be slightly more expensive than Cat 6 and have thicker shielding and sheathing, which can make them less flexible. If you’re buying a few 2M cables, the difference won’t be huge, but it’s something to bear in mind if you’re planning to wire up your home. See Cat 6 as your basic, tried and tested option, and Cat 6a as the choice for future-proofing.
It’s unlikely that you’ll need anything more than that in the foreseeable future, but Cat 7 cables are now widely available, with the capability to run a 40GbE connection at distances of up to 50m, and a 10GbE connection over distances of more than 100m. However, to do so Cat 7 uses a slightly different, but backwards-compatible, GG45 connector, though the more consumer-level cables still use regular RJ45.
Those looking to really future proof their network might want to look at the newer Cat 8 standard, which supports speeds of up to 40Gbits/sec at distances of up to 30m using the same RJ45 connectors as Cat 6a. Predictably, though, it’s expensive and mostly used in data centers to hook up the most demanding high-performance network kit.
Which category do you need?
Right now, very few of us have home equipment that supports 10GbE, let alone anything faster. In theory, Cat 5e should cover all your immediate needs, but given that there’s so little price difference between that and Cat 6 or even Cat 6a or Cat 7, it’s worth going for the faster cables now. That goes double if you’re cabling up your home, as it’ll save the bother of replacing cables in the next five years should 10GbE-compatible devices take off.
What else do you need to think about?
Almost any Ethernet cable you buy online will come with a standard RJ45 connector at each end. At the upper end of the market, though, there’s a chance that cables could come with the newer GG45 or TERA connectors instead. Check before you buy, as it’s a fair bet that nothing in your home will have the right sockets.
If you’re wiring up a house, then you won’t be buying individual cables anyway; instead, you’ll want a spool that you can cut to length and attach to wall-mounted sockets. Some cables come with the necessary connectors and crimping tool included in the price; if not, you’ll need to acquire them separately. Either way, don’t worry – fitting the ends is easier than you might imagine.
One less obvious thing to consider is what sort of cable construction you want. Most Ethernet cable consists of stranded, shielded wires inside a flexible plastic casing, which is easy to wind up and move around. However, solid-core cable is less susceptible to interference and offers slightly better performance. It’s less flexible, but if you’re running cable inside a wall it’s a good choice.
One last thing to keep an eye out for: most Ethernet cabling is of the “patch cable” type, which is used for standard connections such as plugging a NAS drive into a router or a games console into a powerline adapter. However, you may also come across “crossover cables”, which can be used to connect computers directly together. Don’t buy one of these by mistake!