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Cat6 vs Cat7. What is the Difference and which should I choose for my installation?

The first consideration when choosing Cat6 vs Cat7 is what is the outcome you are trying to achieve with your data cabling infrastructure. Secondly what technology is that data cabling supporting. Thirdly what are my future expansion expectations, what will my transmission and cabling requirements be in the future. Lastly what am i able to install in my present building situation. Cat7 is a much larger and requires additional containment or space to install. Furthermore in some instances it may not be possible. Therefore when considering Cat6 vs Cat7 cabling there are a few areas to really think what is the best solution for me.

How does data cabling work?

Data cabling comes in various categories of cable which have have varying standards of performance. However regardless of category each cable is constructed in a very similar way. Each cable consists of 8 individual copper cores enclosed in a plastic outer sheath. These cores are continually twisted in pairs throughout the cables length within the outer sheath. This is to help avoid cross communication between the cables cores during transmission. In some cables a shield foil wraps around the center cores

These cores can vary is diameter and as the categories increase they become tighter twisted and have varying levels of separation to help further separate the signals as they carry faster and denser transmissions. Signals are sent across all 8 cores in both directions. Each category of cable is certified to a certain standard to how much bandwidth that cable can accommodate. This standards are all based on a transmission distance of 90 meters for the permanent link element of the cable and an allowance of 5m patch leads at each end. Therefore with regards to Cat6 vs Cat7 cables there will be a difference in the cables but they will both be certified to the same 90m link length.

What is data cabling used for?

Data cabling is used for connecting numerous types of technology. Furthermore it is the medium that takes the signals from each of these technologies and transmits those signals between devices. In addition via POE (Power over Ethernet) the data cabling can carry a power source as well as the signal between host switch and hardware such as a VOIP Phone or CCTV Camera.

Data cabling can be used to transmit for the following among many others

  • Telephones
  • Computers
  • Wifi Access Points
  • CCTV Cameras
  • Access Control
  • Building Management Systems
  • Audio Visual Systems
  • Aerials and Satellites

The aim of most data cabling installations is to install all the cabling to a single common termination point or a set of pre-designed common termination points. Therefore the data cabling within these areas can be used and switched for use for any type of technology. This is commonly known as Structured Cabling

What is Cat6?

Cat6 cabling consists of two standards. The Cat6 standard was ratified in 2002 and the Cat6a standard was introduced in 2009.

Cat6 cable is still seen as the basic standard for any new installation in the majority of standard office and building space. It is cost effective and has few limitations on its installation due to its core size. However in many cases people are still choosing to install Cat5e which is even more cost effective and easier to install due to a further reduced core size. The reason for this is Cat5e and Cat6 both transmit 1 gigabit speeds over the standard 90 metre cable distance. However Cat6 does have a bandwidth capability of 250mhz compared to 100Mhz in Cat5e.

Cat6 is also capable of transmitting 10 Gigabit  up to 55m which is a bespoke standard distance rather than the accepted 90m / 100m standard. Therefore when 10 gigabit is requited Cat6 is rarely specified in a new installation

Therefore when 10 Gigabit is the required standard Cat6a is the cable of choice. Cat6a has a bandwidth of 500Mhz and transmits 10 gigabit up to 90m / 100m. Therefore this is specified into most new installations when used as a standard design. However Cat6a cable is larger and less flexible than Cat5e or Cat6. Therefore when installing to an existing premises this needs to be taken into consideration. A large part of this is the additional shielding sometimes used in Cat6a cables

Considerations for installing Cat6a Cabling

  • Is the existing containment suitable for the cables
  • Can the increased bend radius of the Cat6a cables fit and go around the dado trunking
  • Do the floor boxes have enough depth for terminating the Cat6a modules

Each installation is unique. Therefore as mentioned previous you need to start with he outcome in mind and then choose the most suitable and possible cable choice.

What is Cat7?

The evolution from Cat6a to Cat7 involved adding shielding to each of the individual pairs as well as an overall cable shield. Cat7 due to its increased shielding is therefore capable of transmission speeds of 600MHZ. Category 7A performs up to 1000MHZ which shows massive increases in capabilities. In addition it uses a different type of connector. Although Cat6a and below patch leads can be used (which reduces its overall speed) it does require a total solution to include new patch leads and suitable transmitting data switches

It is able to transmit 40Gb at 50 metres and even 100Gb at 15 metres.

Cat7 isn’t currently seen often in the commercial environments. It mainly is used in home automation projects for high speed audio visual projects. Firstly due to the increased size and installation problems that come with large installations of Cat7 cabling. Secondly in homes there isn’t a large number of cables generally. However in commercial installations where there is a large cable requirements the costs can be off putting for most. Lastly the majority of commercial technology does not require any more than 10 gigabit transmission so Cat6a is more than suitable

Cat6 vs Cat7 Comparison Chart

The chart below compares Cat6 vs Cat7 and other cabling categories

Cat6 vs Cat7 Comparison Chart

In summary when designing your installation its best to look with the end in mind and from those requirements the most suitable cabling can be specified.

We offer free surveys and during these surveys we will be able to discuss those requirements and offer you the best solution

For further articles please visit https://www.nmcabling.co.uk/knowledge-centre/