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Do I need Shielded or Unshielded Cat 6 Cable?



We’ve discussed elsewhere the dominance of copper data cables in the realm of modern networks, despite the speed and versatility of fiber optics. Many of the drawbacks in the use of copper cabling stem from the fact that signals transmitted along copper cabling are electrical and susceptible to high attenuation and electromagnetic interference. As twisted pair copper wiring has become more complex, so to have the methods to negate these drawbacks. In the case of Cat 6 cabling, considered one of the best copper wiring solutions on the market for the balance between value and performance, the cable comes in shielded and unshielded versions. Let’s dig into the reasons you might choose a shielded cable over an unshielded solution.


Shielded Means Insulated

In building Cat 6 cables, the manufacturers were attempting to push the speeds and performance of copper based cabling to allow stable Ethernet speeds while focusing on minimizing signal interference. In order to do this, they increased the number of twists in order to keep the signal clean. With insulated versions of the wire, a physical barrier was wrapped around the twisted pairs. This shielding layer adds bulk and diameter to the wire, making it stiffer and harder to install. In the case of the unshielded Cat 6 cable, which is smaller and less expensive option, the wire is easier to install and has been a mainstay in modern network installations.


Protecting Against EMI?

As factory and manufacturing environments have gradually found a need for high speed Ethernet solutions, the demand for shielded Cat 6 cabling in industrial settings has increased. This is because such environments experience large amounts of electromagnetic interference (EMI). While Cat 6 cabling was designed with EMI in mind, shielded Cat 6 provides the most stable solution in industrial network environments. Several options on the market are wrapped in a thick insulated outer jacket, with the inner twisted pairs secured by a layer of foil and further grounded by a drain wire. In order to properly ground these wires, it’s necessary to further utilize couplers, switches, and jacks that are also shielded.


Non-Industrial Setting?

In any other situation, such as office buildings, residential buildings, or other areas where EMI won’t be a major factor, installing the much more affordable and lighter unshielded Cat 6 wiring will be more than sufficient for the needs of a modern network having to run at Ethernet speeds .


One Stop Shop for All Things Networking

At SANDirect, our expert staff provides clients insight into how to construct a network using the proper components matched to the purpose and environment where the network will be housed. Provide us with a detailed overview of your operation, and we’ll provide you with the tools and components to ensure that no matter which cables you end up using, your network and data storage supports your future success.


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