If you’re in the market for structured cabling for a new installation or for upgrading existing infrastructures, you really have only one choice—CAT6A. It is now the cable of choice and the de facto standard for future-proofing cabling infrastructures and here are six good reasons why.
First, a little history: CAT6A, first recognized in 2009, is a four-pair twisted-pair copper cable designed to support 10-Gigabit Ethernet networks over a 100-meter channel. It’s also guaranteed to support 2.5/5GBASE-T over 100 meters.
CAT6A gives you ten times the performance and twice the capacity of CAT6 cable. It takes a giant leap forward by supporting transmissions of 10 Gbps versus 1 Gbps and it doubles the bandwidth from 250 MHz to 500 MHz. While CAT6A may cost 10 to 20 percent more than CAT6 cable, you’re going to get a much better performance and RoI in the long run.
Cabling typically represents only about 5% of the overall infrastructure budget and about 10% (give or take a few points) of the total network budget. But it is also the one of the most important and overlooked network investments. The cable you select will probably not be upgraded or replaced for 15-20 years (or longer)! But the network equipment you use will most likely be replaced in five to seven years. Think about it. If you spend a little more now, you’re giving yourself application assurance that the cable you choose today will be able to support at least two, maybe three, generations of newer and faster equipment.
This may seem obvious, but data is driving the demand for speed and capacity. It’s estimated that by 2020, the accumulated volume of big data will increase from 4.4 zettabytes to roughly 44 zettabytes or 44 trillion GB. By 2025, the amount of data created will double every 12 hours. 10GBASE-T is now becoming widely adopted as the best way to handle that explosion of data. It’s defined as supporting 10-Gbps transmissions up to 100 meters over CAT6A cable, not CAT6 or CAT5e.
Power over Ethernet is also exploding. Cables are being used to deliver power to more devices than ever before. It’s estimated that more than a million devices are now PoE powered, such as IP phones, access points, displays, lighting fixtures, PoS kiosks, security cameras, access control, and more. And that number will only grow with the latest IEEE 802.3bt standard, which doubles and triples the amount of power that can be delivered from 30 watts to 60 watts to 100 watts. 100 watt PoE will go a long way in driving the development of more and more smart buildings. The recommended cable for these new PoE cabling installations? CAT6A.
HDBaseT™ technology enables the transmission of audio, video, power, control, and 100BASE-T Ethernet signals up to 100 meters over a single twisted-pair cable. The HDBaseT Alliance allows for CAT5e, CAT6, and CAT6A to be used. But depending on what you’re transmitting, you’re better off sticking with CAT6A. If you plan on sending high-bandwidth 4K signals, the Alliance recommends CAT6A. You’ll get a true 100 meter reach versus 10 to 40 meters for CAT5e and CAT6 respectively.
Today people want wireless access everywhere and anywhere and most businesses are accommodating these expectations. Access points for the current 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard are capable of delivering up to 6.9 Gbps. The coming 802.11ax standard will change everything though. It will be capable of delivering speeds up to 10 Gbps. But there is a catch. To get these speeds, the TIA specifies that you need two CAT6A links to every access point.
Of all of the reasons to choose CAT6A, this is probably the most important. If you want to be in compliance with industry standards, you’ll need to adhere to these best practices, which all recommend CAT6A for any new project.
TIA 568.2-D Balanced Twisted-Pair Communications Cabling and Components specifies performance requirements for 100-meter CAT6A channels, permanent links, and components. ISO/IEC 11801-1 Generic Cabling for Customer Premises specifies Class EA (the ISO equivalent of CAT6A). And IEEE 802.3 an specifies channel performance for 10GBASE-T over CAT6A.
Some other notable standards that recommend CAT6A are:
TIA-941-B lays out the minimum requirements for the telecommunications infrastructure of data centers and computer rooms. It recommends that CAT6A be used for the horizontal cabling.
The TSB-162-A Telecommunications Cabling Guidelines for Wireless Access Points recommends CAT6A horizontal cabling in new installations. It also specifies two CAT6A links to each access point to support 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6). CAT6A is also recommended to support 802.11ac (Wi-Fi 5).
To better support IEEE 802.3bt four-pair PoE (100 watts), TIA TSB-184-A increases the requirements from CAT6 to CAT6A. The ISO/IEC equivalent is 11801-6.
For health care facilities, TIA 1179-A recommends that CAT6A be used for both backbone and horizontal cabling in all installations. The TIA 4966-1 standard for educational facilities also recommends CAT6A for all new installations. TIA-862-B-1 specifies CAT6A for intelligent building systems.
CAT6A: The Cable of Choice
So whether you’re planning a new installation or are migrating an existing installation, you now have six good reasons why you should use CAT6A. Better yet, CAT6A is completely backwards compatible so if you wish, you can upgrade your infrastructure in sections rather than all at once. From PoE, IoT, and smart buildings to Wi-Fi 6 and 10-GbE, CAT6A will serve you well for many years to come.
Learn more about Black Box’s SimplEdge “network-in-a-box” solution for branches that includes everything from the CAT6A cabling, SD-WAN, Wi-Fi, and security to all deploy, manage, and support services, go to bboxservices/simpledge, call us at 855-324-9909, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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