We live in a digital world where more and more devices are being connected to the internet. This means that our reliance on cables to connect these devices is increasing exponentially. The world of network cabling can be very confusing and it’s hard to know where to get started when you’re planning cabling for a new office or your current network. One of the most common questions we get is around Cat6 and Cat6a cable.
In this article, we will look at the difference between Cat6 and Cat6a cables and what is the best cable to use for your business. Let’s dive in.
What is Cat6 Cable?
Cat6 cable is a type of Ethernet cable that is used in computer networking. It is rated to handle Ethernet at speeds up to 550MHz. This cable is used in a network that requires very high bandwidth in a structured cabling system but it is also suitable for use in domestic networks.
What is Cat6a Cable?
Cat6a is a premium cable that has even more twists per meter than standard Cat6 cables. This gives you higher bandwidth and helps you send more data over the same distance. The main difference with cat6a is that its tighter twists help it resist external interference and ensure the relay of a stronger signal.
Although the differences in both category 6 variants are not too much, you will still notice minor differences in the following specifications.
Cat6 cable has a data transfer speed of up to 1 Gbps over 100 meters and up to 10 Gbps over a run length of 50 meters. Cat6a Cable on the other hand has a data transfer rate of up to 10 Gbps over 100 meters.
These are the fastest speeds either of the cables can reach. However, depending on the environmental conditions such as high cable density and electromagnetic interference, and crosstalk, it can rise or decline.
Category 6 cable has a bandwidth capacity of 550 MHz and the augmented variant has a bandwidth of 750 MHz. 550 MHz is just enough for business networks but the augment variant’s whopping bandwidth is useful for long-distance transmissions.
Shielding in a cable is a protective sheath that protects the signal transmission from being interfered with by external noise and EMI. Some cables have it and some do not. It depends on the design purpose of the cable.
For instance, if a cat6 cable is designed for a business network with a high-performance requirement, it probably will have shielding. On the other hand, if it is designed for a domestic network with basic performance requirements, it is probably unshielded.
So, the point here is to understand your requirement and make the purchase accordingly when buying the cables.
Also, note that a shielded Cat6 and an unshielded Cat6a perform in similar capacities. The reason is the importance of shielding in networking cables.
Pro Tip: If you have to choose between shielded and unshielded cables, choose the shielded ones if your budget allows. They will last longer and perform much better.
Both cables are available in two different types of conductors. Bare copper and Copper-clad aluminum. Bare copper conductors are superior in performance and quality. Whereas CCA conductors are more prone to breaking, overheating, and corroding in humid environments.
So in the case of conductors, there is not much difference between Cat6 and Cat6a. The real difference is between the conductors. Here is what you need to know: Bare copper is highly resistant to corrosion, and is flexible which makes it easy to install and long-lasting. CCA conductor needs a bare copper coating to enhance its performance and life span.
You have more options in Cat6 when it comes to the cable jacket. To be precise, just one more option than Cat6a. Category 6 cables are available in plenum, riser, and PVC jackets and 6a cables are available in only Riser and Plenum jackets.
The reason is that Cat6a is a high-performance cable and to ensure its superior data transfer capacity and longevity, only premium quality materials are used to manufacture the jackets.
In a nutshell
In short, Cat6a is faster and has more bandwidth as compared to Cat6 Cable which is the main difference between the two. Additionally, Cat6a cable only comes with a plenum and a riser jacket which determines its uses.