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Cat 6A & 7A Cabling systems

Two new cabling standards to provide more bandwidth for the ever increasing megabit hungry networks.

It would seem that existing Cat 6 and 7 cabling systems have become redundant before they even took off and have been replaced by Augmented Category 6 (Cat 6A) and Augmented Category 7 (Cat 7A).

Cat 6A

Cat 6A is a 500MHz cabling system which can be UTP, FTP or SFTP and was designed to meet the criteria for 10 Gigabit applications, whilst Cat 7A is a 1000MHz cabling solution which has been developed to support the emerging 40 Gigabit Ethernet systems.

The TIA/EIA have stated that 10GbaseT should be possible over existing Cat 6 installations up to 37m, and if the environment is not susceptible to Alien Crosstalk noise, even up to 55m. Running 10 Gigabit Ethernet over Cat 6 is said to be unreliable at more than approximately 55m, so the development of Cat 6A was driven by the need to reliably run 10GBaseT up to 100m.

Here are the bandwidth and construction comparisons for the various types of network cables:

Cat 5e up to 100MHz - UTP or FTP

Cat 6 up to 250MHz - UTP, FTP or SFTP

Cat 6a up to 500MHz - UTP, FTP or SFTP

Cat 7 up to 600MHz - SFTP

Cat 7a up to 1000MHz - SFTP

Key to cable construction:

UTP - Unshielded Twisted Pair

FTP - Foil screened Twisted Pair

SFTP - Shielded and Foil screened Twisted Pair (an overall braided screen within which the individual pairs have a foil screen)

Cat 7A

There are two types of connector for Cat 7A systems. The first is the version developed by Nexans (IEC 60603-7-71, also available from other manufacturers) and is known as the GG45. This type is backwards compatible with the RJ45 by the clever use of switch within the jack that changes the pole layout from 8 contacts in a line (as in the RJ45), to four pairs of contacts at the corners. Ingenious!

This means that the existing RJ45 type leads and hardware can be used on the cabling plant, and when the hardware is updated all that is required to go to full 1000MHz is to change the patch leads. This seems to be an ideal solution as they are capable of pair isolation for the emerging high-speed technologies. There is a wealth of information for the GG45 on the Nexans website.

The other type of connector is the 'non-backwards compatible' version often referred to as 'TERA' (IEC 61076-3-104). These have the contacts arranged as four pairs of contacts at the four corners to achieve maximum pair isolation.

The ISO recommends the GG45 as the preferred connector for Data Centre installations, but allows the 'TERA' to be used where cable sharing is more important than backwards compatibility.

CAT6 & CAT6a

Strict Specifications With More Stringent Cross talk and System Noise Features.

Category 6 cable, commonly referred to as Cat-6, is a cable standard for Gigabit Ethernet and other network protocols that is backward compatible with the Category 5/5e and Category 3 cable standards. Cat-6 features more stringent specifications for cross talk and system noise. The cable standard provides performance of up to 250 MHz and is suitable for 10BASE-T / 100BASE-TX and 1000BASE-T / 1000BASE-TX (Gigabit Ethernet).

The cable contains four twisted copper wire pairs. This is the same as CAT5 and CAT5e copper cable standards. Cat-6 is also made with 23 gauge wire, however this is not a requirement. The ANSI/TIA-568-B.2-1 specification indicates the cable may be made with 22 to 24 AWG wire. For local area network patch cables, Cat-6 is normally terminated with 8P8C modular connectors. The modular connectors are the RJ-45" electrical connectors supplied by Rockdale and other connector companies. Cat-6 RJ45 connectors are made to higher standards with improved gold plating and higher performance design of contact pins alignment which reduce noise caused by cross talk and system interference. Attenuation, NEXT (Near End Cross talk), and PSNEXT (Power Sum NEXT) are all significantly lower when compared to Cat-5/5e. There is one problem with Cat-6 cables which is they are larger they increase in size. Therefore they are more difficult to attach to 8P8C connectors without a special modular attachments. They are technically not standard compliant if they do not insert into a RJ45 connector. The maximum allowed length of a Cat-6 cable is 100 meters (330 ft) when used for 10/100/1000 baseT and 55 meters (180 ft) when used for 10G baseT.


Strict Specifications For Crosstalk

Category 7 cable (Cat7), (ISO/IEC 11801:2002 category 7/class F), is a cable standard for Ethernet and other interconnect technologies. CAT 7 is backwards compatible with traditional Cat5 and Cat6 Ethernet. Cat7 features even more strict specifications for cross talk and system noise than Cat6. Shielding has been added for individual wire pairs on the Category 7 cable.

Cat7 has been designed as a standard for Gigabit Ethernet over 100m of copper cabling The cable contains four twisted copper wire pairs, just like the earlier standards. Cat7 can be terminated either with 8P8C compatible GG45 electrical connectors which incorporate the 8P8C standard or with TERA connectors. When combined with GG45 or TERA connectors, Cat7 cable is rated for transmission frequencies of up to 600 MHz. Rockdale connectors are designed specifically for these high speeds without contact pins and a printed circuit board with contact pads integrated into the RJ45 style housing.


For Frequencies up to 1000MHz

Category 7a which is also commonly referred to as Augmented Category 7, operates at frequencies up to 1000 MHz. CAT7a is designed for multiple applications in a single cable including 40 Gigabit Ethernet, 100 Gigabit Ethernet, and CATV (862 MHz).[1][2][3). Test results have shown 40 Gigabit Ethernet will work up to 50 meters and 100 Gigabit Ethernet is possible up to 15 meters. Small form factor products are available from Rockdale in both copper and fibre optics for the 40GB and 100 GB applications.

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