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CAT6A or CAT6?

The client is building a 100K square feet new manufacturing facility that potentially may have 500+ network cable runs - data, voice, WiFi APs, security cameras, etc. This new facility will be ready to occupy in less than a year.
The cost of deploying CAT6A can be 2.5x or 3x more expensive than CAT6, which is about $20K~30K more.
Does the cost justify the future proof of 10GB?
If you were me, will you propose CAT6A or CAT6? And importantly, the reasoning to convince the client?


PS - all the network devices (Servers, PCs, network switches, etc) that will be moved to the new facility will be 1GB
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I would not be going for CAT6a just yet.

Having actual CAT6 compliant cabling in place in 2018 is a real struggle. Just using CAT6 cable, wall plates and termination blocks is NOT enough, the wiring has to be very carefully done, and certified with a decent cable scanner.

There is a also a LOT of dodgy cabling and equipment out there, labelled as CAT6 or CAT6a, but in reality falling way short of those standards. Even CAT6 and CAT6a flyleads purchased from the local office supplies outlet are quite likely not meet the standards.

If you can manage to implement a proper, compliant, certifies CAT6 infrastructure, then you will be doing really well. CAT6a would be considerably more difficult.
JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)
Most Valuable Expert 2012
Expert of the Year 2018

I agree with the above, but CAT6a can support longer distances at 10Gbits/sec. If you do not need the long distances, then as per the above CAT6 will be fine.

From here:

Quote "Cat6a can support 10 Gigabit Ethernet at 100 meters. [Cat6 cabling on the other hand, can transmit the same speeds at up to 37 meters."
Tom CieslikIT Engineer
Distinguished Expert 2017

First you must decide what kind of switch / switches you going to use in this facility.
If you will go for 10GBps, then you must have 10GBps NIC on servers, (and most server has default 1GBps ) then you must wake up and stop dreaming about Cat6a cable since you'll pay a lot for nothing.

If for some reason you can't divide your network by segments (let say 4 or more 1GBps segments and all your network cables will end up in same place (server room patch panel) then you must use very expensive equipment, and we are not talking about only cables !!!

You must remember that if you want to use cat6a cable to get 10GBps Ethernet speed you must:
1.Use very expensive Cat6a cables
2.Your cables can't be longer that 100m - if you can't you must install 10GBps switch in the middle of your building to extend your cable distance.
3.You must use special Cat6a patch panel and use special technology to terminate wires
4.You must use expensive 10GBps switch / switches
5.You must have 10GBps NIC adapters in your servers

If you can afford for this, and this will help you with your network traffic, then YES, go for it, but be ready to spend 50K+ for equipment and cables.

If this is not worth it, then divide your network for more, let say 10 segments and use 1GBps cables and equipment.
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Philip ElderTechnical Architect - HA/Compute/Storage

Monoprice CAT6 23AWG 1,000ft: $129
Monoprice CAT6a 23AWG 1,000ft: $139-$159 550MHz-650MHz

Something does not seem right with the pricing. It's probably too late to get another set of proposals.

We do at least two cables per drop. One for data and one for VOIP. Printer/Copier stations get four cables per drop. Everything gets terminated at patch panels that are wall mounted then we use slim CAT6 patch to the rack enclosures.
Tom> Yep, what you say is correct about 10Gb copper, it is difficult and expensive to implement.

Usual practice these days is to use 10Gb copper or fibre between machines in the server room, and 10Gb fibre out to switches. A 2M cable connecting server to a switch will almost always work fine, as the distance is so low. Fibre can work over kilometers, and is immune to interference.

It will be a while before running  10Gb to workstations and printers, however between servers and switches the speed can be justified.
Y Yconsultant


"Something does not seem right with the pricing"
- I think so too.
I will clarify with the contractor and will consult the 2nd contractor.
Here is an article where someone tried obtaining a heap of 6 and 6a flyleads, then tested to see if they met spec. The results are not good.

This was a few years ago, however there is still a HEAP of CAT6 stuff out there that really isn't.  6a is worse.

In reality if you really want CAT6 or CAT6a infrastructure, you will need to do a heap of testing, and be prepared to evaluate components from various suppliers and return those not meeting spec. Just using componentry with CAT6 written on it is nowhere near enough!
Sam Simon NasserIT Support Professional

6 and 6a ! if you have a good budget, i would go for 7 or 7a for interior cabling. these cables would last for a long time.
Top Expert 2016

Amazon pricing sold and shipped by Mfr or Shipped by Amazon
Belkin CAT 6A $475 CAT6 Keystones $9 CAT6A Keystone $17
Belkin CAT 6    $160

Belden CAT 6 305M $377.00
Belden CAT 6A (out of slock) Ebay $410
Plenum cable is approx 2x this price
My experience is that the cost of the cabling is not as much a factor as the cost of labor and everything else.  I could easily see running CAT6A, but just stick with CAT6 hardware.  Do you need 10GIG now?  If so then 6A hardware well.

I kind of liken it to CAT3 for voice or CAT5?  CAT5 has little impact on the quality, but then when we decided to flip to VoIP we just installed switches and reterminated the connections.

Looks like you only got 1 quote, I really suggest 3 minimum unless you have a vendor that you really trust and know the pricing is fair.  Again labor is probably a bulk of the expense.  Make sure your quote is not just a lump sum, but line items so you can compare apples to apples.

I could probably go on and on, for example if you did deploy 10GIG, what do the wiring closets have?  You may need 10GIG to back haul all the 10gig connections.  Also are you deploying STP cabling?  Manufacturing environments can get lots of interference from machines.
Philip ElderTechnical Architect - HA/Compute/Storage

Concur with @Bryant.

We have a data cabling contractor we trust to do the work with. Lately, they've been losing the contracts and it's primarily due to price.

The labour is indeed the same whether they are pulling CAT6 or CAT6a as the difference is in the twists per inch/cm. There's still the big insulator in there to make corner pulls tough for conduit runs that are already together. :S

But still, 2x to 3x is way beyond what we would consider "normal" since we've been doing this for over two decades now with some disparity between CAT 5 and CAT 5e, 5e to 6, and now 6 to 6a. We won't look at anything "newer" like 7/8 yet. There's no need.
Y Yconsultant


Thank you mates.
We will go for CAT6 with good quality control.

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