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Which Category Cable Shall I Choose? 

  
Bill O’Donnell – Director of Product Management, Amphenol Broadband Solutions (www.amphenolbroadband.com)

Which Category Cable Shall I Choose? 

In this day and age, we are constantly seeking the next electronic device that will make our lives easier and help us move one step closer to having a home that more fully connects with the world as part of the internet of things (IoT). As technology advances our insatiable appetite for data grows. You may have noticed ads from internet providers touting gigabit (Gbps) speeds and, instinctively, we know that must be fast. But how fast is it? To put such speeds into perspective, if one was to download a 2-hour movie at a typical 10Mbps rate, it would take roughly 11 mins. While this is a marked improvement over the 5 hours it used to take to download just one song in the 90’s, we simply can no longer handle this “long” wait, instead demanding that content be available nearly instantly at the touch of a button. With Ultra-High-Speed Broadband Internet, that same movie file will take a mere 8 seconds to download. Just searching for the movie in the first place will take you 100 times longer! 

With these accelerating speeds, the problem is that most devices are utilizing Wi-Fi signals in the home that tend to limit the amount of bandwidth that can actually be received at the device. While in-home wireless networks continue to improve their ability to stream ever faster, they tend to operate at around 50% of their theoretical peak:

 

Theoretical

Actual

802.11b

  11 Mb/s

5.5 Mb/s

802.11a

  54 Mb/s

20 Mb/s

802.11g

  54 Mb/s

20 Mb/s

802.11n

600 Mb/s

100 Mb/s

802.11ac

1300 Mb/s

200 Mb/s

 

This is a huge concern for people that are seeking the fastest connection possible with the least amount of delay. Every gamer knows the struggle of having a lag, or latency, in their connection and will typically seek out ways to hardwire their gaming system using category cable rather than a Wi-Fi connection.

With so many options available for category wiring, which version would be the best solution when considering wiring one’s premises? A few questions to first ask oneself are:

  • How far away is my device going to be from the router or modem?
  • What speed am I trying to achieve?
  • Will I need more bandwidth in the future than the category cable will allow?

To help address these questions, the information below will explain the differences between the cable types to help to determine the right cable to use.

Category 5e

Cat5e is the most common type of cabling used for deployments due to its ability to support Gbps speeds at a cost-effective price. Cat5e supports a maximum frequency of up to 100MHz and is flexible enough for small space installations like residences, though it is still used in commercial spaces as well. Of all the current cabling options, Cat5e is the least expensive one that is capable of operating up to 1 Gbps at a maximum distance of 300 FT.

Category 6

Cat6 wiring can support up to 10 Gbps and frequencies of up to 250 MHz. Cat6 cables are more tightly wound than Cat 5E and sport thicker jacketing sheaths in comparison to Cat5e to help avoid pesky interference. Cat6 cable is capable of transmitting 10 Gbps up to about 180 FT

Category 6a

Cat6a supports bandwidth frequencies of up to 500 MHz, twice the frequency of Cat6 cable, and can also support 10Gbps like its predecessor. However, unlike Cat6 cabling, Cat6a can support 10 Gigabit Ethernet up to roughly 300 FT. Cat6a also features more robust sheathing which eliminates alien crosstalk and improves the signal-to-noise ratio. The “A” in the cable’s name stands for “augmented.” It’s stronger sheathing makes Cat6a cabling considerably thicker than Cat6, thereby making it less flexible to work with.

While Cat5e will meet most of today’s demands, it makes sense to discuss making sure home networks are “future-proofed” by installing Cat6 right from the start. This way we ensure our infrastructure will keep pace as our networks continue to gain speed.

Amphenol Broadband Solutions (ABS) has taken category cables to the next level by literally looking “outside of the box” for ways to make handling the cable easier. Traditionally category type cables come in boxes or on reels that ultimately end up in landfills. Amphenol has changed that paradigm, and the customer experience, by utilizing our eco-friendly coil solution in the packaging for these products.

The new package design offered by ABS utilizes our already successful eco-friendly Technician Service Bag which will hold up to a 500’ coil of the cable. The bag provides an easy way for technicians to pay out the amount of category cable needed for each custom application.  In this way, the Technician Service Bag for category cables ensures a professional and functional approach to structured wiring installations. 

This article was created in collaboration with the sponsoring company and our sales and marketing team. The editorial team does not contribute.