Cat6 Ethernet Cable, Which Ethernet Cables to Buy for Your Application
Written by Rita Mailheau, Information Security & Technology Writer
Continuing with our three-part series comparing the characteristics of Cat5e, Cat6 and Cat6A Ethernet cable, trueCABLE is exploring the benefits of Cat6. Knowing which cable to buy can save time and make your installation process simpler. We’re weighing performance versus cost to help you identify your best investment for the near future.
What applications run on Cat6 Ethernet cables?
Cat6 Ethernet cable is a cost-effective option for smart home installations, enterprise networks and electronic labs. It has more stringent performance specifications to enable higher speeds and more robust data transfer yet still keep an eye on price point. Administrators often use Cat6 cables at the network's backbone in conjunction with fiber optic. With the potential for better speeds and less crosstalk, Cat6 cable currently dominates new enterprise and home networks as the cable of choice.
Though slightly more costly than Cat5e, Cat6 cable is more reliable at longer distances than Cat 5e and a good fit for the wave of 60W and 90W Power over Ethernet technologies currently on the market.
How Cat6 is different from Cat5e?
Cat6 Ethernet cable, which is a more conservatively priced option than Cat6A, supports speeds up to 10 gigabits at shorter distances of 165 feet or less. It meets modern expectations for massive data transfer applications in deployments such as data centers, government websites, hospitals, and school systems.
Cat6 cables offer more tightly wound wire pairs than Cat5e, typically a spline, thicker copper conductors, and a thicker cable jacket compared to Cat5e. These features provide better resistance to interior cable noise, also known as crosstalk. Its thicker sheath also protects against cable to cable (alien) crosstalk (AXT).
Cat6 is still available at a budget friendly price point for larger installs and yet retains the possibility for future installation compatibility with switches that support IoT technology in-home or in the workplace.
How Cat6 is different from Cat6A?
Cat6A (link to our post) supports double the amount of bandwidth frequency as Cat6 cable and can support 10 Gigabit Ethernet at 100 meters (327 feet). At these speeds Cat6 cabling can only transmit up to 37 meters (165 feet or less). Cat6A cables must be built to yet even higher performance specifications and often possess construction techniques that improve upon signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of the original Cat6. Cat6, per the ANSI/TIA 568 C.2 specification, supports 250 MHz frequency and 1 Gigabit transmission speed at 328 feet (100 meters). Cat6A cable must support bandwidth frequencies at 500 MHz and support 10 Gigabit speed to the maximum length that any Ethernet cable can be run (100 meters or 328 feet). The ANSI/TIA Cat5e specification is a paltry 100 MHz, and is considered barely adequate for 1 Gigabit transmission to the same distances.
Cost per foot
The price you pay for Cat6 cable depends on several things. Shielding is more expensive but opens the possibilities for a broader range of deployments. Bulk quantities are also budget-friendly. Both shielded and unshielded Cat6 cable come in every type of jacket rating.
NOTE: use the handy search filter to the left on each of the Ethernet cable collection pages for a quick search.
Outdoor rated (direct burial) Cat6 Ethernet cable has no fire resistance but is designed for outdoor deployment. The PE jacket UV protection, and is much more water and severe weather resistant. Unshielded costs $157 while shielded is $199.99 for a 1,000-foot spool.
Riser rated Cat6 Ethernet cable has some fire resistance and is designed to be used between the floors of buildings (not plenum spaces), and can run about $189 per 1,000 feet for shielded. Unshielded is $143 per 1,000 feet.
Plenum rated Cat6 Ethernet cable is more fire resistant and designed to be used in the plenum spaces of buildings due to low toxicity smoke emitted if it actually burns. Unshielded runs $238 per 1,000 feet and shielded $347.
Recommended RJ45 plugs
To take full advantage of the benefits of shielded cable, be sure to use shielded RJ45 connectors. The entire length of your cable installation is otherwise vulnerable to electromagnetic interference (EMI), including the ends. To learn more about selecting the correct connector for your installation and other valuable information, check out the trueCABLE Cable Academy page. RJ45 plug termination on Cat6 cable may present a challenge as opposed to Cat5e due to the thickness of the cable. Conductor insulation thickness becomes a paramount metric.
Maximum supported bandwidth at a given distance
Cat6 (802.3bz IEEE) can run up to 5 Gbps standard for up to 100 meters when deploying NBASE-T switching technologies. Cat6 and Cat5e run at 1 gigabit at 328 feet without NBASE-T technology. As mentioned above, for shorter distance runs, Cat6 can support up to 10 gigabit up to 165 feet. This is typically in environments where large data transfer is desirable, like hospitals, school districts and data centers, but where deployment of Cat6A (or replacement of current Cat6 cabling) would be cost prohibitive and 10 Gigabit speeds are not needed past that distance. It should be noted that 110 feet is the ANSI/TIA stated distance for 10 Gigabit transmission on Cat6 Ethernet under typical alien (cable to cable) crosstalk conditions but may be increased to 165 feet on a case by case basis depending on the installation environment. In any event, each installation is different and performance should be Certified by qualified professionals to the ANSI/TIA 568 specification with documented results.
The following acronyms are used to identify common types of Ethernet cable:
- U/UTP = Unshielded completely
- F/UTP = Overall foil shield, individual twisted pairs unshielded
- S/FTP = Overall screen braid shield, individual twisted pairs are foil shielded
- U/FTP = Unshielded overall, but individual twisted pairs are foil shielded
- SF/FTP = Overall screen braid AND foil shield, plus individual twisted pairs are foil shielded
Common bulk lengths sold (boxes versus reels)
Cat6 Ethernet cable may be purchased in lengths of 1,000 and 500 feet in either spools or boxes.
Read the other articles in this series:
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