A Cut Above the Rest: Category 6 Cable
In light of current bandwidth demands, Category 5 is no longer a viable option. As expected, the 5e standards, which should have been agreed in August and are expected to be completed at the November committee meeting, define new measures that allow for greater tolerances for 100BaseTX and ATM-155 traffic. Category 5e standards are crucial because they allow for dependable Gigabit Ethernet connections. The IEEE is demanding a Category 6 definition that supports at least 200 MHz, but many structured cabling providers say that Category 5e is simply an intermediate solution on the way to Category 6, which will support at least 200 MHz. Products are being offered by manufacturers stating that they meet the draft proposals for Category 6 even though the requirements have not yet been finalized.
A category 6 cable is what kind of cable? Category 6 is the most sophisticated and highest performing of the three cable categories (Cat-5, Cat-5e, and Cat-6). Like Cat 5 and Cat 5e, Category 6 cable has four twisted pairs of copper wire, but it has a longitudinal separator that allows it to perform significantly better than the other cable kinds. Cat 6 cable has twice as much capacity as Cat 5 cable thanks to a separator that separates the four pairs of twisted wires, reducing crosstalk and speeding up data transmission. In order to handle 10 Gigabit Ethernet, Cat 6 cable should be used since it is capable of operating at 250 MHz. Because of the ongoing evolution of technology and industry standards, Cat 6 is the cable of choice for your network. In addition to being future-proof, Category 6 cable is also backwards compatible with any Cat 5 and Cat 5e cabling that may be present in earlier setups.
In terms of Ethernet and other network protocols, Category 6 (ANSI/TIA/EIA-568-B.2-1) is backwards compatible with Category 5, Category 5e, and Category 3 cable standards. Crosstalk and system noise are more tightly controlled in Cat-6. Currently, the cable standard is compatible with Gigabit Ethernet at speeds up to 1000BASE-T and 10000BASE-T (10 Gigabit Ethernet) at speeds up to 100BASE-TX. It can run at speeds of up to 250 MHz and is ideal for graphics cards.
Like older copper cable standards, this cable has four twisted copper wire pairs. The ANSI/TIA-568-B.2-1 specification indicates that the cable may be produced from 22 to 24 AWG gauge wire as long as it fulfills the prescribed testing criteria, despite the fact that 23 gauge wire is occasionally used in Cat-6. Cat-6 patch cables are often terminated with 8P8C connectors, which are sometimes referred to mistakenly as “RJ-45” connections. A few Cat-6 cables are too big to fit into 8P8C connectors without the use of a specific modular component and are thus not consistent with industry standards. The signal path’s performance will be restricted to the lowest category if the components of different cable standards are combined together. Cat-6 horizontal cable may be up to 90 meters in length, as described by TIA/EIA-568-B (295 feet). A whole channel (horizontal cable with cords on both ends) may be up to 100 meters long depending on the chord length to horizontal cable ratio.
Either the T568A or T568B termination system is used to finish the cable. It doesn’t matter which one you use since they are both straight through (pin 1 to 1, pin 2 to 2, etc). Serially connecting different cable types is not recommended since the impedance of each pair varies, resulting in signal loss. An Ethernet crossover cable should be used to connect two Ethernet devices of the same kind (such as PC to PC or hub to hub, for example). Some current gear can automatically utilize either type of connection.
The most difficult test to repeat consistently is return loss, which evaluates the intensity of the reflected signal compared to that of the sent signal. At Category 6 levels, the amount of bend in a test cable may be the difference between a pass and a fail. Because the RJ-45 system isn’t adequate for the task, return loss is also generating problems for connection makers. In order to maintain backward compatibility, Category 6 uses RJ-45 hardware, while the ISO’s planned Category 7 system will use a new and as-yet-unspecified connection with its redesigned cabling. This is the last roadblock to Category 5e approval. This difficulty explains why the makers of Category 6 hardware, which is meant to be interoperable, claim Category 6 performance only if you utilize the manufacturers’ matching components across the channel connection.
Unshielded twisted-pair cable systems will soon be defined by a new specification from the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA). Preliminary design specifications: ANSI/TIA/568-B.2-10 defines Category 6a, or “Augmented Category 6,” cable systems that operate at frequencies up to 500 MHz and provide bandwidth of up to 10 Gbit/s. Alien crosstalk in cable systems is now restricted by the new standard.
A minimum frequency of 500 MHz is required for shielded and unshielded cables in augmented Category 6. It is capable of supporting future 10 Gb/s applications at a distance of up to 100 meters using a 4-connector channel configuration.