Why Category 6A Should Be Your Cable of Choice

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As consumer demands on networks increase, more businesses are turning to Category 6A cabling for their network infrastructure. This decision is primarily being driven by affordable price, high quality, and exceptional performance. Here are five reasons why you should choose Category 6A cable for your enterprise applications.

1. Category 6A supports all data rates up to and including 10GBASE-T. 

Category 6A cable and connectors are required for installations running 10 gigabits per second at lengths up to 100 meters. Businesses today rely on data-heavy applications like video, wireless, and desktop virtualization, so it’s critical to have a network infrastructure that will support these and future applications.

2. Category 6A is becoming common.

The Category 6A market grew over 20 percent in 2016 in North America and projections are that the growth will accelerate moving forward. The underlying factors for this growth are the adoption of 10GBASE-T and support for the next generation of Power over Ethernet. Category 6A has become the de facto standard for new corporate headquarters, hospitals, financial institutions, and schools. The largest application driving Category 6A and 10GBASE-T adoption is wireless access points.

3. Wireless access point speeds are accelerating.

The number one driver of Category 6A in enterprise settings today is wireless access. The 802.11ac standard paved the way for the first multi-gig wireless access point, which required bandwidth greater than 1G. The data rate needs of wireless access points are increasing at a faster rate than wired Ethernet speeds. Today’s high-end access points can have a maximum speed of 6.77 Gbps, which would require a 10GBASE-T connection to operate at the highest data rate they are capable of running.

TSB-162-A, Telecommunications Cabling Guidelines for Wireless Access Points, also recommends running at least Category 6A or higher cabling to all wireless access points.

4. There are no bundle limits for the next generation Power over Ethernet (PoE++) standard.

The next generation PoE++ standard is increasing the maximum wattage to end devices from about 25 to 71 watts. This has caused the temperature of cables bundled together to increase significantly. Increasing the heat of the cable can cause the insertion loss of the cable to increase, leading to problems such as increased bit error rates and decreased network performance.

Category 6A cables are much better at dissipating heat. This is from two factors. One is that while both Category 6 and 6A typically are 23 AWG, Category 6A uses a slightly larger 23 AWG so the wires have less resistance. The other factor is that some Category 6A cables utilize discontinuous metallic foils that surround the inner core. Because metal is a very good conductor of heat, it helps dissipate the heat in bundles.

This improved thermal performance makes Category 6A the ideal solution to run the new 802.3bt PoE++ standards since they deliver up to 71 W to end devices. Category 5e and 6 cables will experience higher temperature rises with these new PoE standards.

5. 10GBASE-T provides the lowest cost per gigabit.

When comparing prices per gigabit, 10GBASE-T provides a much lower total cost of ownership versus 1000BASE-T. 10GBASE-T provides 10 times the bandwidth of a 1000BASE-T port. When comparing the infrastructure costs, a Category 6A infrastructure is closer to 50 percent above that of a Category 6 infrastructure. Hence, you are getting a 10x increase in speed for only a 50 percent increase in price. The cost per gigabit is much more efficient with 10GBASE-T and Category 6A.

The opinions expressed in this piece are solely Panduit’s. They do not necessarily represent WESCO’s views.

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