Data Cabling Vitals You need to know: Cat6A v Cat6 v Cat5E

Data Cabling Vitals You need to know Cat6A v Cat6 v Cat5E - Rotric

Data Cabling has been a critical piece of infrastructure for businesses for many years now and with ongoing innovation, technological advances and the ever growing IOT (Internet of things) our heavy reliance on data cabling is only going to increase in the years to come.

Given this reliance, it’s important for businesses to understand what they are investing in when selecting a structured cabling solution, the differences between each offering and the potential costs if done poorly. 

Each business has individual needs and whether you occupy a single office space within a commercial building or the entire building itself it’s beneficial to understand how structured cabling is impacting on your daily work life.

The traditional applications of Data Cabling

  • 1844 – the first telegraph was sent by Samuel Morse, who sent a message 37 Miles using the binary system of dots and dashes known as Morse code
  • 1876 – Anthony Bell applied for his patent for an ‘electrical speaking telephone.’
  • 1877 – Just one year later the first switchboard was installed in Boston and four years after there were 54,000 telephones in the United States
  • By the 1970’s integrated circuit technology and the microprocessor began to influence telecommunications and computers
  • The 1980’s bought wide scale use of digital telecom, computer networks and fibre optics.
  • Then in 1991 The international Standard for Telecommunications wiring in Commercial buildings was released – EIA/TIA 568  
  • 1991 – Category 4 and Category 5 cables entered the market
  • 2001 – Cat5E Standard was developed supporting speeds upto 1x Gigabit Ethernet (1,000Mb/s @ 100MHz) up to 100m in length
  • 2002 – Cat6 was introduced also supporting 1x Gigabit Ethernet (1,000 Mb/s @ 250MHz) up to 100m. However, Cat 6 is also capable of supporting 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10,000 Mb/s @ 250MHz) but is restricted in length to 55m for this performance band.
  • 2008 – Cat6A supports speeds of 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10,000Mb/s @ 500MHz) to 100m
  • Since 2008 there have been further developments in cabling supporting higher speeds, these are typically over a shorter distance such as a data centre.
  • Cat6A due to its capacity, speed and length remains the best option in the market for a wide range of applications.

Modern applications of data cabling systems

  • PoE – Power over ethernet – this was a fantastic innovation for data cabling, where two of the four copper pairs are utilised for providing power (in some cases up to 90 watts) to the end device as well as the data (voice, video etc). Two examples of PoE Applications are:
  1. Wireless Access Points – these days it isnt necessary to provide a power point in the ceiling when installing a wireless access point, the WAP is powered through the data cabling.
  2. Security Camera’s same as above.
  • Building Management – the people and process of facilities management. People Counters for example.
  • Lighting
  • Lighting control systems
  • Elevator control
  • Security systems
  • Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems
  • Electric power control
  • Access control
  • Life safety systems

Data cabling through innovative applications is continuing to grow from strength to strength.  

When it comes to your workplace the biggest decision is which category system should you invest in: Cat5E, Cat6 or Cat6A??

What is Cat5e Cable?

Cat5E is lowest performing cable of the three options still widely available in the market. Cat5E is a suitable option when looking to expand on an existing office space where it is already installed, however for a new installation, no ability to future proof your investment it is no longer a viable option.

Cat5E does not support PoE Applications.

What is Cat6 Cable?

Cat6 cabling is a slightly improved version of Cat5E, it supports the transfer of Gigabit Ethernet at the same speed although at a higher frequency. 

Cat6 will support some PoE applications as well.

For a standard office network setup of Phones, PC’s and Wireless Access Points – Cat6 is a good option – value for money.

What is Cat6A Cable?

Cat6A is the premier offering in the copper data cabling range, supporting 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10,000 Mb/s @ 500MHz) upto 100m. 

Cat6A will support your standard office setup of phones, internet and wireless access points and in addition to this many of the new applications and offerings:

  • LED Lighting upto 90w
  • BMS Systems
  • Lighting Control etc.
  • Security 

Cat6A is a the most expensive of the three offerings and at the same time when thinking about data cabling installation it is the smart choice. It offers the highest level of future proofing your installation as many of the innovative applications are being developed for this particular cable.

Why invest in a structured cabling system when wifi keeps improving? 

Data Cabling vs Wifi

Whist there have been leaps and bounds in improvements with Wifi, it is still not as reliable or secure as a wired connection. 

With each device – phones/laptops/tablets competing for wireless internet or access to the network the signal strength diminishes as well as the speed of service. 

Our recommendation is to always have 1x data outlet per desk and to have wifi available in the office as well. This way your staff have the freedom of using the wireless to work around the office and the security to connect to a secure line if the wifi is down. 

If you are moving into a new office space, or looking to reconfigure your existing workplace, our team at Rotric can provide you with the information you need to make the right choice in data cabling.