Cat6 VS. Cat6a

As the data speed increases from Fast Ethernet to Gigabit Ethernet, cables for the network connection are also required to be improved. Cat6 and Cat6a are two kinds of copper cables for Gigabit Ethernet. Do you know which one you should use, Cat6 or Cat6a? Could these two types replace each other? Now this article will tell the difference from five aspects: crosstalk, thickness, transmission distance, cost and durability. First, let’s come to the overview of Cat6 and Cat6a cables.

Overview of Cat6 and Cat6a

Cat6 is a standardized twisted pair cable for Ethernet and it is backward compatible with the Cat3, Cat5 and Cat5e cable standards. In addition, Cat6 provides performance of up to 250 MHz and is suitable for 10BASE-T, 100BASE-TX (Fast Ethernet), 1000BASE-T/1000BASE-TX (Gigabit Ethernet), and 10GBASE-T (10-Gigabit Ethernet). Cat6a is the “Augmented” version of Cat6 and offers better performance. It is defined at frequencies up to 500MHz—twice than that of Cat6, and it is popular among 10G Ethernet applications. Here is a figure of Cat6 and Cat6a cable.

Cat6 vs. Cat6a

Comparison Between Cat6 and Cat6a

The name of Cat6a indicates that it was created to further improve on the performance of Cat6 for Ethernet cables. So what are the differences between them? This part will focus on the comparison between Cat6 and Cat6a cables from from four aspects: crosstalk, thickness, transmission distance and cost.

Crosstalk

We know that Cat6 features more stringent specifications for crosstalk and system noise, while Cat6a cable is stricter when it comes to shielding and protection against alien crosstalk. Crosstalk occurs when the signal from one cable leaks into another. This can distort the signal through the introduction of noise and force the network devices to work at a slower speed. Because of this, Cat6a cables would work better in situations where it is to be bundled with a lot of other cables.

Thickness

Another identifying characteristic of the Cat6a cable is its thickness. Cat6 looks just like the Cat5 and Cat5e cables that preceded it. Cat6 cable manufacturers had to come up with approaches to adjust to the stricter alien crosstalk shielding, thereby making it thicker with others adopting odd shapes. While Cat6a cable is slightly thicker than Cat6 cable.

Transmission Distance

Cat6 cable can reach 100 meters for slower network speeds (up to 1,000 Mbps) and higher network speeds over short distances. But it can support only 55 meters at the speed of 10Gbps and 33 meters in high crosstalk conditions. While Cat6a cables can support the distance over 100 meters at the speed of 10Gbps.

Cost

The cost of Cat6a is higher than that of Cat6. Take Fiberstore’s cables as an example, bulk Cat6 cable 1000ft(305m) is 130.00 US$, while bulk Cat6a cable 1000ft(305m) is 180.00 US$. The more cables you purchase, the bigger the price difference will be. And the price difference is not only caused by the cable. Other matched connection components should also be considered.

Durability

As mentioned above, Cat6a cable is thicker and heavier than Cat6 cable. Cable trays can not hold as many Cat6a cables as Cat6 cables. When laying cables on the trays, you should better not bend cables too much as this can damage the wiring and influence network performance. The minimum radius that a cable can be bent without damaging is called the bend radius. The lower the bend radius, the more you can bend the cable. As Cat6a cable is bulkier than Cat6, Cat6a cable has a larger bend radius than Cat6 cable.

Conclusion

From this article, you can make a clear identification of Cat6 and Cat6a cables. When you plan to purchase this copper cable, you need to consider their differences like crosstalk, thickness, transmission distance, cost and durability, etc. Hope you can choose the suitable cable and build a high performance network.

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