Augmented category 6a cable (cat 6a) is one of the newer cable standards currently being used in premise cabling applications around the world.
One of the most common misconceptions regarding category 6 and category 5 cable is that the two are “more or less” the same thing. This misconception is largely due to the simple fact that the two cable designations are a single number apart. Just like this isn’t the case for cat5 and cat6 cable, the same can be said for cat6 and cat6a cable. While one small letter might not seem like it indicates a major difference, with cabling it makes a world of difference.
While cat6 and 6a cable are designed to handle 10BASE-T, 100BASE-T, 1000BASE-T, and 10GBASE-T gigabit Ethernet, the distinctions between the two don’t emerge until we begin to take a look at the difference between specifications for alien near-end crosstalk (ANEXT).
Alien crosstalk is electromagnetic noise that can occur in cable that runs alongside other signal carrying cables. In this case, the term “alien” is used to refer to the fact that the cross-talk is taking place between different cables in a bundle, not individual wires within a single cable assembly.
Alien crosstalk can be a problem because – unlike “normal” crosstalk, alien crosstalk comes from multiple signals, and can include phantom signals that blend with original signals, making it nearly impossible to anticipate and correct for with phase-cancellation. Because alien cross talk resembles noise, and not signals, it degrades the performance of the entire system by reducing its signal to noise ratio S/N.
While cat6 cable is capable of a maximum of 250 MHz, it has a reduced length (up to 55 meters in) when it is used for 10GBASE-T. This is predominately done to minimize alien cross talk (ANEXT) occurring when cables are bundled together. Unlike regular cat6 cable, 6a cable has far fewer limitations and can run 10GBASE-T at 100 meters without electronic testing. This is due to the cat6a cable’s improved shielding and insulation.
Not only does this cable enable 10Gigabit Ethernet up to 100 meters, but it also offers major bandwidth advantages over Cat 5e and Cat 6 cable. However, the space needed for these cables will also be larger. In the case of a new building this might not be a problem, but for buildings undergoing renovations – creating larger pathways for cabling systems might be a point of concern. There are only a few primary disadvantages to using cat6a cable, bulk being one of them. On the other hand, price can be a limiting factor. However, while cat6a cables are larger and more expensive than regular cable, they offer even greater performance and future proofing.
This might encourage one to ask the question, “is cat6a cabling worth the investment?”. Especially considering applications that rely on uninterrupted data transmission at high speed, cat6a cable can be a valuable asset to ensure constant reliability. On top of this, such a high performance cable allows for an existing cable infrastructure to handle multiple generations of equipment. RV-K cable