CAT6, CAT6E, CAT6A, MHz ratings, riser, and plenum
Posted on 2014-01-07
I'm trying to nail down some solid facts on the differences between these three types of cables. I'm pretty sure I have a correct understanding of it but wanted to double check with you guys and make sure I've got it right.
My understanding so far:
CAT5e - Capable of 100mbps up to 100m. Might be able to do gigabit speeds for short runs but it is not guaranteed
CAT6 - Capable of gigabit speeds up to 100m. Might be able to do 10 gigabit for short runs but it is not guaranteed
CAT6E - Not sure what this means but almost all of my CAT6 cables are actually rated CAT6E. Q: What does this mean?
CAT6A - Capable of 10 gig speeds up to 100m. I don't think I've ever actually seen one before.
Plenum - means the jacket of the cable is fire retardant and rated to be placed in plenum spaces of a building where oxygen flows. It has nothing to do with the cable's data capabilities
Riser cable - has a plastic "cross" inside which helps structurally re-inforce the cable, especially when it runs vertically from one floor of a building to another. It is fire retardant but not as strictly as plenum cable. It has nothing to do with the cable's data capabilities
Mhz ratings - I see 100mhz, 250mhz, 500mhz, 550mhz, and 600mhz thrown around all over the place. Q: What's the difference and why should I care? I hear about CAT6 being rated at 250Mhz but I'm hard pressed to find ANY CAT6 cable that is less than 500Mhz. Is a CAT6E 500Mhz cable inferior to a CAT6E 550Mhz cable, and if so under what circumstances?
Solid vs Stranded - Solid cable is used to run through the walls and is terminated in your patch panel and keystone jacks, or if it's not too thick, a suitable modular plug. Stranded cable on the other hand is for relatively short patch cables that are terminated with modular plugs on either end. Q: Can you run a CAT6 stranded cable the full 100m, terminate it with modular plugs, and still run gigabit over it reliably?
I bought two 1000ft boxes of ethernet cable recently. One was cheap, the other was extremely expensive. What did I really pay all the extra money for in Box 2? :
Box 1- CAT6e UTP FT4 Premium 500Mhz Stranded -$130
I used this cable mostly for running long patch cables with modular plugs on both ends that would run through the ceiling of my unfinished basement, through the floor and up along the baseboards of rooms to wire them up. It was also used to crimp custom lengths of patch cables. Q: What does FT4 mean?
It was cheap stuff, yet it seems to be rated for >250Mhz, and is better than regular CAT6 cable apparently. Q: How well would it fare with 10 Gig connections?
Box 2- CAT6e UTP 550Mhz FT6 Plenum cable -$460
I used this cable for running inside the walls and through the attic of some clients, and terminating at a patch panel and keystone jack on either end. Although it wasn't explicity rated as a riser cable, it has a thick pastic cross inside. It's way too thick to crimp a modular plug onto. Q: What does FT6 mean?
This cable was tremendously expensive and it's my goto "fancy" cable for impressing people and for putting in places where I'm not really sure about the fire codes and I want to be on the safe side.
It is rated as 550Mhz, better than Box 1. Sure it's more solid structurally and is more fire retardant, and I'm sure it can handle gigabit ethernet without any issue, but Q: How well would it fare with a 10 Gig connection? Would it fare better than the cheaper cable in Box 1?