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Shielded or Unshielded Cat5e?

The majority of standard installations for cat5e and Cat6 are undertaken with UTP data cabling. However, there are certain situations and certain manufacturers who specify that shielded cabling should be used. 

Common questions are as follows

  1.  Shielded or unshielded cat5e?
  2.  Do I need a shielded CAT5e cable?
  3.  When should I use shielded Cat5?
  4.  When should you use shielded Ethernet cable?
  5.  Why would you use shielded cable?
  6.  Should I use shielded or unshielded Cat6?
  7.  How do you know if cat5e is shielded?
  8.  Which is better STP or UTP?
  9.  Does shielded Ethernet cable need to be grounded?

The sections below cover these as a combination. Our project team is happy to discuss specific requirements further. We can also arrange a free survey to discuss your specific needs.

Cat5e FTP vs UTP - Shielded or Unshielded Cat5e?

UTP stands for Unshielded Twisted Pair, while FTP stands for Foiled Twisted Pair. However, how do we compare Cat5e FTP vs UTP?

UTP cables do not have any shielding. They just have single plastic sleeve insulation around the wires. However, on the other hand, FTP cables have a metal shield around all pairs together and then the outer plastic sleeve insulation.

The Cat5e FTP category gives an extra security shield. Therefore, the twisted pairs of Cat5e cable wires have foil security around them. Furthermore, this foil further protects the wires from EMI and crosstalk.

Therefore, when choosing between shielded or unshielded cat5e, the main reasoning will be based on the outside interference that may be present

Cat5e cables - general outline

Cat5e cables can transmit data at the speed of 100 Mbit/s over 100 meters. In addition, this allowance is usually for a 90m permanent cable link and an allowance for 5m patch leads each end

Cat5e in all formats contain four twisted pairs. Generally, unlike their higher category counterparts such as Cat6, Cat7 and Cat8, they have no additional separation inside the cable between pairs

Cat5e was the first major standard for data cabling installation within a structured cabling design. In addition, with its ability to handle 1 Gigabit traffic, it was a suitable choice for various hardware uses. These systems included computers, telephones, CCTV, WiFi, access control, and many others

However, in many modern installations CAT6, Cat6a, and even Cat7 cables are being used as a substitute for CAT5e. They offer better crosstalk protection and help to work at more than 1Gbps speed. Cat6a and beyond are now the standard for new installations due to their ability to transmit 10 Gigabit at 90 / 100m.In addition, Cat7 andd Cat8 are common in data centre environments and in some commercial and residential data cabling installations

Features of Cat5e

  1. They form part of a structured cabling design
  2. These cables are rated for 100MHz High-Speed Data Applications
  3. The cable is capable of Gigabit Ethernet
  4. They consist of 4 pairs of coloured cores
  5. Category 5e wires are considered as cost-effective cables.
  6. The highest cable length is 90 or 100 meters.
    1. 90m permanent cable length plus a pair of 5m patch leads
    2. 100m direct hardware to hardware link

Where would standard Cat5e cables be used

For the majority of installations, Cat5e cables would be specified as standard Cat5e cables. Furthermore, these would be specified in all-new installations as CPR-compliant cables.

CPR regulations are there to ensure the correct cables are installed concerning fire and safety. In addition, this ensures that the cables are safe in case of a fire. Furthermore, this applies to all cable categories regardless if they are Cat5e, Cat6, Cat7, or Cat8. Also the same for UTP and FTP.

We have written two articles on these regulations, and they can be found below

Do I have to install a Euroclass Compliant data cabling in data cabling installation?

What are the CPR regulations for data cables?

A slide show PDF from one of our manufacturers also outlines this. Click Here

Where would Cat5e FTP be used - When should I use shielded Cat5?

What do Shielded Cables Do?

The main advantage of shielded Cat5e and other cables is that they insulate the inner cores from electrical interference. In addition, they protect from all elements of EMI or electromagnetic interference.

EMI is electrical interference that is naturally found in the outside world and outside your cabling installation.

These interferences can include

  • Natural EMI such as lightning, storms, and natural electrical charges
  • Electrical equipment interference
  • Omissions from electronic equipment
    • Power lines
    • WiFi
    • Mobile Phones
    • Microwaves
  • Generators
  • Lighting
  • Electrical installations

Shielded cables also increase the protection of noise from other data cables or even within its cable. Crosstalk is the disruption of the signal of the cable from either the other cores inside the same cable or from other data cables in the installation. External crosstalk is known as alien crosstalk.

When should I use Shielded data cables and why would you use shielded cable?

Following on from the listing above where electrical interference is found, these naturally are areas where shielded can be considered as a suitable upgrade to shielded data cabling

These are areas where electrical interference and EMI are bound to be high

These buildings or situations may include the following

  • Data Centres
  • Warehouses (especially industrial)
  • Travel centers such as train stations and airports
  • Industrial buildings where large electrical elements are found
  • Distribution Centres
  • Medical Buildings

The preferred cable specification will always depend on the situation and the area of installation. Furthermore, it will be based on the surrounding installations and other services

How do you know if Cat5e is shielded?

The main visible proof of any data cable being shielded is the presence of a foil shielding around the cable. This will either be a shielding around all 4 pairs or each pair of cores. Either way, this will be a shielded data cable. Furthermore, there will be a drain wire. A drain wire is a metal wire separate from the 4 main pairs. This wire is terminated to the jack or module along with the transmission pairs to create the grounding. The drain wire is clearly visible in all data cables.

Does shielded Ethernet cable need to be grounded?

Simply yes, shielded Ethernet cable needs to be grounded. Each cable and connection medium such as a jack, module, or panel will have a different termination method. Without terminating the ground correctly, the shielding benefit is lost. Furthermore, without correct grounding, the interference can beworseh than having no shielding at all

For further articles with regards to Cat5e FTP vs UTP cabling please visit our Knowledge Center HERE

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