Which Structured Cabling to use?
CAT 5E, CAT 6, CAT 6A, Cat 7, CAT 7A, CAT 8 LAN cables
When it comes to data or LAN cabling, most will ultimately look at the cable performance when deciding on whether to install CAT 5E, CAT 6, CAT 6A LAN cable or Cat 7, CAT7A and also CAT8.
Over the last years, Category 6 (CAT 6) cable has become a basic minimum requirement for new buildings in order to support Gigabit network applications and support bandwidths of up to 250MHz. CAT 6 is also replacing CAT 5E in residential environments. Category 6A (CAT 6A) which supports data rates of 10G up to 100 metres and a bandwidth of up to 500MHz has begun to grow in popularity. Many Data Centres, hospitals and universities have adopted CAT6A as a new minimum requirement. Other developments in CAT7, CAT7A and also CAT8 are continuing which will support even higher data transfer rates and bandwidths.
Copper cable outer sheath
The factor that is often overlooked when choosing an installation cable is its outer sheath - PVC (polyvinyl chloride) or LSZH (Low Smoke Zero Halogen).
The outer cable sheath is very important as it protects the internal copper pairs from damage and acts as an insulator from external interference. However, when deciding on whether to use PVC or LSZH cable an important consideration should be how it will react in the event of a fire. The health and safety of individuals should always be the most important and deciding factor.
PVC cable jackets burn very easily and fire can easily spread from room to room or from floor to floor simply by burning along the cables. The other danger is that PVC releases hazardous gasses when it burns. If the fire was to spread or break out in an office or an area with people, the smoke and fumes emitted by PVC cable are toxic and corrosive and detrimental to your health.
One of the main benefits with LSZH (Low smoke zero halogens) cable is that it has a flame-resistant jacket that doesn’t emit toxic fumes even if it burns. This reduces the amount of toxic and corrosive gas emitted during combustion. In addition, a good LSZH cable will also be self-extinguishing to a certain point and will also help stop the fire from spreading.
Warren and Brown offers both PVC and LSZH copper cable options for in building use in CAT6 and CAT6A, however, we do recommend using LSZH wherever possible.
Shielded and unshielded cable
The construction of copper cables varies depending on whether it is a shielded or unshielded cable. Even amongst shielded cables, there is variation as to the shielding method used. The main types of cable used in today’s systems are:
- U/UTP cable consists of 4 unshielded twisted pairs and no outer shielding. This is an unshielded cable.
- U/FTP cable configuration has all four pairs individually shielded and no outer shielding. This is a shielded cable. - F/UTP cable consists of 4 unshielded twisted pairs however it contains an outer foil shield. This is a shielded cable.
- S/FTP (screened/foiled twisted pair) cable, normally a CAT7 cable that has four individually shielded pairs and an outer screen braid around all four pairs. This is a shielded cable.
In summary, there are many factors to consider when deciding on what cabling network to install. However, CAT6A is proving to be a wise choice due to it’s ability to future proof against increased networking speeds. CAT 6A is available in either a shielded or unshielded solution and each option has it’s own place. CAT6A is also backwards compatible with CAT6 and CAT5E due to the continued use of the RJ45 connector. CAT 6A is proving to be a cost-effective solution for current and emerging applications as it supports higher bandwidths and 10Gbps network speeds up to 100 metres.
In addition, CAT6A and structured cabling products can be used for applications other than voice and data, such as Building Automation, CCTV, Access Control and many others. Therefore, the potential to Integrate all of these applications on to a single cabling infrastructure provides another advantage.
If you would like to know more or would like assistance in designing or choosing the right cabling infrastructure, speak to the team at Warren and Brown as we will be glad to assist you in Driving Your Network Further!