Is it time to start adopting Cat6A networking cables in new buildings?
Communication standards have been around since the 80s or earlier, so what has recently changed? Fundamentally, not all that much. The technology and the media that moves data continues to evolve, just as it has throughout the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s. After all, the ethernet of today evolved from telephone networks.
As greater demand for higher speeds were needed, the cable and components were designed and redesigned to meet those needs. In fact, this was the driver behind the onset of categories. Cat 3 was introduced in the 80s to support voice service, then Cat5, Cat5e, Cat6, Cat6A, and even Cat8 is being talked about now (but isn’t quite here yet). With all these choices and the different price points that are associated with them, what should you be specifying or installing as standard these days?
Cat5e has been the widely utilized cabling choice in the last 10 years, initially for technology and in these later years due to cost. Cat 6 has been rapidly adopted in the last 5 years as costs for it came down, the price gap started closing, and new facilities needed to support Gig networks. So, does that mean it is time for Cat6A to become status quo?
Cat6A, A for “augmented” was defined in 2009, and supports up to 10G for the full 328 ft./100m and frequencies of up to 500MHz. With this new standard also came significant performance improvements, particularly around alien crosstalk, which Cat6 struggles with at high frequencies.
Looking at the fundamental, tried and true argument about “future proofing,” the justification for using Cat6A is straight forward. Years ago, we would have asked you “is the cabling going to be there for 10-20 years? If so use _(Cat5e/6) _.” Now because of the exponential increases in technology, the question is a much smaller window, “Is the cabling in the building being there for five or more years?”
If the answer is yes, and if we are being realistic with ourselves, when isn’t it going to be, the simple selection needs to be Cat6A.
Many baulked early on, and you may even be one of them. Cat6A carried quite the premium and was thicker, heavier, and harder to terminate then its predecessors. In recent years though, the size and weight has come down by 10-20 percent and all major manufacturers have come out with new termination options.
Couple this with a few more reasons, and Cat6A should be the cable you are pulling 95 percent of the time.
Here they are:
In summary, 10G applications are emerging quickly and the future proofing argument has never been stronger. These applications aren’t just in the data center anymore. In addition, an increasing number of PoE devices and higher wireless demands make it more sensible now more than ever to just use Cat6A. Finally, care needs be given to the financials as you embark on new buildings.
After all, what is the right thing to do – pay the cost differential today or pay to have the whole building’s cabling redone when 10G is the standard in just a couple of years?