Wi-Fi has now become one of the essential needs for both home and office uses due to the connectivity it offers. In the past 15 years, there has been drastic development in how we use Wi-Fi, and the technologies also improved rapidly. Reliable, large-range high-speed networks were a dream a few years ago, and now they are a reality. Moreover, they became cheaper, making the internet closer to everyone. You need to connect to a network to enjoy the internet, where cables play a significant role.
Ethernet cables are the major deciding factors for the transfer speed and bandwidth of the internet network. Currently, Cat5e, Cat6, Cat6a, and Cat7 cables are in use and serve various levels of uses along with their RJ45 or proprietary connectors. Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) standardizes these cables from time to time. As technology improves, there is a noted improvement in noise cancellation, and the bandwidth becomes faster. Lately, home users are debating over Cat6a Vs. Cat7 usage for their home. You can have a clearer picture when you read till the end.
Ethernet Cable Categories
It all started from Category 3, and now the latest is Category 7, where there are several notable changes from the advent of ethernet.
Each type of category cable has a different cross-section with improved physical compositions. Though they are subtle, it does make a lot of difference in their work. Each twisted pair from various generations is not that obvious to those unfamiliar with these cables. They contain tightly twisted copper wires that seem to get tighter with every generation and sophisticated sheathing. The older category cables before 5e are now obsolete.
Category 5e cable is a near cousin of Cat5 cable; however, it is enhanced for lower noise, allowing lesser crosstalk. This category cable adheres to the IEEE’s stringent standards better than cat5 cable. It is a cost-effective solution for households and supports basic home necessities. Its structure allows it to bend easily around the corners, giving it the much-required flexibility of the home setup.
Cat5e cable is capable of supporting up to a 1000 Mbps speed with 100 MHz max frequency. The gigabit internet requires 4 data pairs, whereas the fast Ethernet utilizes only 2. As it has a range of up to 100 meters, it is convenient for residential uses and is the most economical option of current choices.
Note: Here, ‘e’ in the Cat5e represents ‘enhanced.’
Cat6 cable can handle up to 250 MHz frequency with bandwidth support of up to 10 Gbps. It is more tightly twisted than the Cat5e cable and has sheaths way thicker than the former. These sheaths protect against Alien Crosstalk (AXT) and Near-End Crosstalk (NEXT). One drawback is their support range is far lesser than the standard ethernet of 100 meters as it can transmit 10 Gbps speed efficiently for only 37 to 55 meters. This makes you double the wiring in comparison to Cat5e, and hence Cat6 and Cat6a are not the preferred wires for domestic usage. You can read more about Cat6a Vs. Cat7 at the end of this article.
It is similar in construction to Cat6, but the improved sheathing increases its frequency up to 500 MHz and the range to 100 meters for 10 Gbps. Along with AXT, it also features an improved signal-to-noise ratio (SNR). Due to its robust sheathing, it is thicker and not as flexible as Cat5e. However, due to their overall performance, they are most preferred by industrial setups looking for cost-saving.
Note: Here, ‘a’ in the Cat6a represents ‘augmented.’
Cat7 is capable of supporting 10 Gbps for 100 meters. However, what makes it unique from others transmitting at 40 Gbps and 50 Gbps at 50 meters and 15 meters, respectively? This cable belongs to Class F, whose frequency levels are up to 600 MHz. Cat7’s standards are not approved for telecommunications by Electronic Industries Alliance (EIA) or the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA).
It uses a proprietary connector, namely GigaGate45 (GG45), in place of the RJ45 connector, which fully supports its performance. They are used in data centres and large enterprises, which require working with high speed. The 4-channel cable has both shielding and foiling with a 4-connector channel.
When all together are twisted, it becomes a full shield system. This is called a screened foiled twisted pair (SFTP) or screen shielded twisted pair (SSTP) wiring. Cat7 has an extensive shield system that effectively reduces signal attenuation compared to its counterparts.
Check this video for a simple explanation with some audio and graphical representation that gives you a better understanding of where each cable stands.
Cat6a Vs. Cat7
Comparing the latest two cables mentioned in this article below provides a complete picture of their work and their differences.
|Frequency||500 MHz||600 MHz|
|Bandwidth speed||10 Gbps||50/40/10 Gbps|
|Range||100 meters||15/50/100 meters|
|Cable type||Foiled and twisted pair||Screen shielded twisted pair|
|Approval||Approved by EIA and TIA||No approval of EIA and TIA|
|Usage||Data, Voice, CCTV, Home Automation||Datacentres, smart homes, large enterprises|
|Thickness||~ 6.5mm||~ 15.24 mm|
|Cost||Four times Cat5e||Almost double to Cat6a|
While conclusion, I would like to mention Cat8 cables, but they are of exceptionally high specifications and not near the common man’s usage. Here I discussed the ethernet cable categories currently in use and omitted the lesser required either they are obsolete or they are way high to reach—also, the in-detail comparison of Cat6a Vs. Cat7, just before the conclusion, is exciting and insightful. Next time you look for an ethernet cable, you know what to look for.