While 3G and 4G Ethernet networks may have sufficed in the past, the advanced digital era now demands greater data capacity. One solution is in 10G networks, with 10 gigabits per second connecting markets to each other, to data centers, and to the Internet. Category 6A (CAT6A) cables enable 10G transmissions and are the cable of choice for structured cabling networks. If you are one of many data center managers with a 10G network today, you may need advice on selecting the right CAT6A cables to support your infrastructure. Here are tips and information from the pros at C Enterprises.
Two Types of CAT6A Cables
There are currently two main types of Category 6A cables – shielded and unshielded. While both fully support 10G networks up to 100 meters in channel length (ensuring they can support the fastest Ethernet connections), there are pros and cons that separate the two. The CAT6A shielded cable pair has a cable shield, making it more secure. The metallic barrier lends superior protection from external noise. The shielded CAT6A tends to perform better than its unshielded counterparts.
The setup of a shielded CAT6A, from interior to exterior, is as follows – conductor, insulation, cable shield, sheath. The unshielded cable has everything except for the cable shield. Studies have displayed the differences in alien crosstalk performance (AXT) between the two main types of CAT6A cables. AXT is the electromagnetic noise that can occur in a cable that’s adjacent to one or more other cables. Alien crosstalk stems from multiple signals, resulting in a complex mix-up of electromagnetic noise.
During an AXT test, researchers found that shielded CAT6A cables do an excellent job of eliminating alien crosstalk, improving the network’s performance. The shielded cable has a wider margin between the decibel and the decibel limit. Wider margins are more desirable in CAT6A cabling.
Furthermore, shielded CAT6A cables help prevent electromagnetic interference, as well as radiofrequency interference from coupling with twisted pairs. Lack of interference means much less noise from nearby sources like generators or machinery. If your 10G network operates in an industrial environment, shielded cables are the ideal choice.
What to Consider When Making Your Decision
At C Enterprises, we’ve helped hundreds of users decide between shielded and unshielded CAT6A cabling for 10G networks, as well as between other types of Category 6A cables. In our experience, there are four main elements to consider when making your decision:
- Data center space. CAT6A operates at twice the frequency of CAT6 (500 MHz). To control noise and alien crosstalk at this level, CAT6A cables must be up to 50 percent larger than CAT6 cables. Newer models, however, are only about 15 percent larger. Take into account the CAT6A’s larger size and weight in relation to how much room you have in your data center.
- Bend radius. Where are your CAT6A cables going? When routing cables in condensed spaces, such as inside the walls, realize that the larger cable diameters of CAT6A cables demand a larger bend radius. You must also consider bend radius in airflow within racks or cable trays.
- Length of installation. Due to their larger size, CAT6A cables take more installation expertise and time to install. Larger, thicker cables are more difficult to work with, prepare, and terminate. Factor in a longer, more complex installation for CAT6As when you weigh your cabling options.
- Electromagnetic interference shielding. Shielded cables will only provide better protection from noise if you purchase from a trusted provider. The effectiveness of the shield depends on the cable termination, twisted pair balance, and the quality of the connections.
For more information on CAT6A cables for 10G networks or advice on which cables are right for your infrastructure, contact C Enterprises.