When choosing cabling for your business, you want to find the sweet spot of performance and price, just as you do with most aspects of your business. Cabling might seem like an afterthought, but it’s actually an incredibly important component of your network, and the choice you make will determine how fast and efficient your network can be.
Here, we’ll discuss the different types of cabling, differentiate between Cat6 and Cat6a cablings, and explain why you might consider Cat6a cabling for your business.
What Is the Difference Between Cat6a Cabling and Wiring?
In short, Cat6a cabling and Cat6a wiring are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. The terms cabling and wiring simply refer to different components of the cabling system. Cabling typically refers to the entire cable as a whole, while wiring refers to the wires that are situated in the inner core of the cable.
What Are the Different Categories of Ethernet Cabling?
Ethernet cables come in eight main categories: Cat3, Cat5, Cat5e, Cat6, Cat6a, Cat7, Cat7a, and Cat8. Each of these cables has a different purpose and use case. In general, the higher the number, the higher quality cable, and the stronger and faster your network will be. To better understand Cat6a, it’s helpful to have a basic understanding of the other cables.
Cat3 can run at 10 Mbps and up to 16MHz. It’s an older type of cable that isn’t used as often today. However, it is still sometimes used for phone and alarm systems.
Cat5 can run at 100 Mbps and up to 100 MHz. It’s an older and slower type of cabling, but it is still sometimes used in homes. This type of cabling is best if you have outdated hardware that can only support Cat5 cables. Otherwise, most businesses and commercial buildings should opt for cables that can support higher speeds.
Cat5e can run at 1 Gbps and up to 100 MHz. It’s often used in homes and some small businesses, but it works best in smaller areas. If your business is large or you’re thinking of scaling in the future, it may not be the best choice.
Cat6 can run at 1 Gbps and up to 250 MHz. It’s a common cable used in commercial buildings, and it typically works well in small to medium-sized buildings.
Cat6a can run at 10 Gbps and up to 500 MHz. It’s another common cable used in commercial buildings. Because it’s thicker and less flexible than Cat6 cables, it tends to work best in large industrial and commercial areas.
The other three ethernet cable types are not currently approved for telecommunications use.
How To Choose the Right Ethernet Cable
As cables move up in number, they increase in potential speed but at a slight cost. Generally, cables higher in number are thicker, more difficult to install, and more expensive. That’s why it’s important to understand the different cabling categories and choose the strongest one you need to accomplish the daily workings of your business without choosing a cable that is beyond your needs.
To make sure a cable can support your needs, choose one that can run at the maximum speed of your wifi. If you have wifi that can run at 1Gbps but only have a cat5 cable, you won’t be getting the most out of your connection, and you may be frustrated with slow speeds. Similarly, choose cables that are compatible with your hardware. If you use older hardware in your business, check to see what cables your devices are compatible with.
Cat6 vs Cat6a Cabling
Cat6 and Cat6a cables are similar, but Cat6a cables can run slightly faster and can cover longer distances. They are also less susceptible to interference, which can increase both speed and coverage area. Overall, this gives them better performance than Cat6 cabling.
A Cat6a cable can cover a maximum length of 295 feet plus 16 feet patched onto either end. This leaves you with a cable length of 328 feet total. Cat6 cables, on the other hand, have a max length of 165 feet. With either type of cable, if you try to extend the length, your connection speed will likely suffer.
Cat6 and Cat6a cables both have eight copper wire conductors wrapped together into four pairs. The wires in Cat6a cabling are wrapped tighter together, which increases the overall performance while simultaneously reducing interference.
Cat6a cabling performs better than Cat6 cabling, especially when covering longer distances. However, Cat6a cables have drawbacks as well. Cat6a cables tend to be thick, heavy, and not very pliable. This makes them more difficult and more expensive to install.
Is Cat6a Cable Right For Your Business?
When it comes down to it, the right cable for your business is the best one you can afford, and it’s important not to overdo it as you’ll be wasting money with cable that is beyond your needs.
If you need cabling that can run at 10 Gbps and up to 500 MHz, and you need those cables to cover a large area, Cat6a cabling is ideal for your business.
Cat6a cabling is also ideal if you need Power over Ethernet (PoE), which is when you use the ethernet cables to power devices. This is often used for things like security cameras or motion lighting.
Of course, before choosing cabling, make sure your equipment and network can support the speeds offered by Cat6a cables. If they can’t and you’re not looking to upgrade your hardware any time soon, it wouldn’t make sense to choose Cat6a cables. In this case, Cat6 would be a wise choice for your business.