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CAT6, CAT6E, CAT6A, MHz ratings, riser, and plenum

Posted on 2014-01-07
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Last Modified: 2014-01-26
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?


Thanks!
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Question by:Frosty555
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Craig Beck earned 400 total points
ID: 39763800
Cat5 will do 100Mbps up-to 100m.  It may work for short runs at Gigabit but it's not certified for Gigabit.

Cat5E will do gigabit and is certified up-to the full 100m length.

Cat6 is also gigabit certified and is preferred.  It will do 10G up-to around 35m in poor crosstalk conditions or 55m in good conditions.

Cat6A is 10G certified.

Cat6E doesn't officially exist - it was a marketing gimmick.
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
Technically it's not a riser cable.  It is used to physically provide a space between the pairs, therefore reducing the effects of crosstalk.
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?
As I said, Cat6E doesn't officially exist.  The specification for Cat6A is 500MHz.  Cat6 is 250MHz.
Q: Can you run a CAT6 stranded cable the full 100m, terminate it with modular plugs, and still run gigabit over it reliably?
You should put RJ45 on stranded cable, and modules on solid-core cable.
Q: What does FT4 mean?
It's the rating of the outer sheath.
Q: How well would it fare with 10 Gig connections?
Should be ok but I wouldn't ask it to go the full 100m.  Many vendors would say stick to the 55m rule.
Q: What does FT6 mean?
Again, it's the rating of the outer sheath.
Q: How well would it fare with a 10 Gig connection? Would it fare better than the cheaper cable in Box 1?
It would be the same, as the cable is the same just in a different sheath.

Make sense?
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by:Dave Baldwin
ID: 39763836
What Craig said. ^^^
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by:_
_ earned 100 total points
ID: 39763858
Glad I refreshed before I posted. But I will go ahead and post some "added value".   ; )

edited version:

FT6 stands for "Flame Test 6"

FT6 Horizontal Flame & Smoke Test — per C.S.A. C22.2 No. 0.3-92 Appendix B

Products passing the FT6 Horizontal Flame and Smoke Test are designated FT6 in the column where the trade number appears. This test is for cables which must pass a Horizontal Flame and Smoke Test in accordance with ANSI/NFPA Standard 262-1985 (UL-910). The maximum flame spread shall be 1.50 meters (4.92 ft.). The smoke density shall be 0.5 at peak optical density and 0.15 at maximum average optical density
.
http://www.pacificcabling.com/Information/Information_other/flame_test_ratings.htm

The "solid vs stranded" question is up there with "should I leave my computer On, or turn it Off", and the "how often should I defrag" questions. A good way to start a... uhhhh... debate.

As far as I know, the specs Do Not specify a difference between them. Ca6 is Cat6, etc.

The main difference is that solid will probably "behave" better on the longer runs.

Stranded is better for Patch cables, since it is more flexible, and will not break when it is moved around a lot.
It is also a bigger pita to get into punchdowns and RJ-45's. The strands like to co-mingle.
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by:_
ID: 39810487
Thank you much.    : )
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