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What’s the Difference Between CAT6 and CAT6a Cables?




Companies rely upon the ability of their ethernet networks, composed of a mixture of fiber optics and twisted pair copper-based cables, to deliver the necessary connectivity speeds. With the exponential growth in data generated by modern business practices, the need for faster and more efficient flow of data across networks has driven the development of faster and faster copper-based cabling for instances where the use of fiber optic cabling is either cost-prohibitive or unnecessary. While technological advances have led to more advanced versions, CAT6 and CAT6a cabling are becoming the go-to solution for networks that require speed and performance. Based on similar structural designs, there are a few primary differences in CAT6 and CAT6A copper-based cables.


Speed And Bandwidth

As CAT6a is an iteration of CAT6 cabling, both categories are capable of Gigabit Ethernet speeds and other high-speed protocols up to 10GBASE-T. Speed and distance become factors only as we consider frequency. CAT6 is rated up to 250 MHz, limiting cable length to a maximum of roughly 33-55 meters. CAT6A is capable of the same speeds in cables up to 100 meters in length, and capable of handling frequencies up to 500 MHz.


Shielding

Ethernet cabling is prone to crosstalk, depending on how well the cabling structure prevents signal interference between channels or circuits. Some types of CAT6 cabling have integrated significant levels of shielding to lower signal interference, such as near-end crosstalk (NEXT) or power sum NEXT (PS-NEXT), but the shielding isn’t standard across this iteration of ethernet cabling. However, shielding is standard in CAT6a cabling, which excels at preventing NEXT and PS-NEXT, but also exceeds CAT6 in the prevention of alien crosstalk (AXT), interference resulting from cables in close proximity.


Size and Weight

The first iterations of CAT6a cabling were significantly larger than CAT6. Subsequent production methods have allowed manufacturers to create a smaller cable, yet CAT6a cabling is still noticeably larger than its predecessor. The increased size is due to the increased reliance upon twisted cabling in CAT6a cabling, with a central support twisted into the structure. The structure supports demands for increased bandwidth and lessened attenuation, but is more prone to crushing and requires planning in the network structure to support increased cable weight and increased radius for cable bend.


Create a Network Capable of Meeting Your Business Needs

As you configure a new network or revamp an existing one, it’s important to partner with a company that understands the complexities of data management and the intricacies of network connectivity. SANDirect provides clients with the guidance necessary to make informed networking and data storage solutions. Through consultancy and brokered agreements, SANDirect provides clients with the necessary resources to plan and construct a network capable of handling even the most data-heavy business requirements.

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