Category 6 or 6a? That is the Question…


Category 6 twisted pair Ethernet cable

So what sets category 6a cabling apart from category 6– well, besides the letter?

Let’s compare:

Performance

Cat6: rated for 250 MHz, with a maximum length of 37-55 meters

Cat6a: rated for 500 MHz, with a maximum length of up to 100 meters

Both cat6 and 6a: handle 10BASE-T, 100BASE-TX, 1000BASE-TX and 10GBASE-T and are backwards compatible with cat3, cat 5 and cat5e

Category 6a cable noticeably outperforms category 6 when it comes to bandwidth, alien crosstalk and system noise. This is because of its improved insulation and lower attenuation.

Physical properties

Cat6: combines tight pair twists with added insulation for the purpose of diminishing crosstalk

Cat6a: does the same but twists each pair around a bendable, central plastic support that is twisted as well

The diameter of category 6a cable has shrunk somewhat over the years but that hasn’t harmed its applicable properties. Nonetheless, it is still a heavier cabling option. This will make a difference in how many cables a technician will be able to fit into a tray in addition to where they can be positioned. And, because of its diameter, it needs a greater bend radius compared to thinner network cables.

Other differences

As any experienced technician knows, category 6a cable is best bundled with cable straps because there is a risk of attenuation when it comes to the overzealous tightening of zip ties.

Whereas cat5 and cat 6 cable can be conveniently dispensed from a pull-box, cat6a comes on a reel, which means finding the proper medium for stowing, transporting and the allotment of various lengths, such as a stand or a cart of some type.

In conclusion:

There is no doubt that the need for greater bandwidth with a reduced amount of attenuation is only going to grow over time. When your time comes, BTS is ready to use their extensive experience with category 6a cabling to get you where you need to be.

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