A simplified summary of the specifications for the most common categories used today can help you decide which is right for you.

FREQUENCY DISTANCE

Category 5-100 mbps-100 meters (328 feet)

Category 5e-1 Gigabit/sec.-100 meters (328 feet)

Category 6- 3 Gigabit/sec-100 meters (328 feet)

Category 6A – 10 Gigabit/sec – 100 meters (328 feet)

If you have very short trips, you may be able to use the cable with a lower rating than officially required. For example, on a 10 Gigabit application it is usually possible to go up to 35 meters on a Category 6 cable. Another possible application is a 30 foot run of 3 Gigabit on a Cat 5e cable which should work properly because it is such a short run. If you have the luxury of trying out short applications, you may be able to operate with cable rated in a lower category than 100 meter rated cable for the required speed.

There are also considerations when the cable runs near power lines or fluorescent tubes where there is a possibility of increased crosstalk, which may have to be handled. In a well-designed data center cable layout, there are often 4 separate layers of cables, including copper cables, fiber cables, power cables and ground wires. Certain cable layouts have crosstalk considerations that may indicate the use of (ScTP) parent shielded pairs, or (STP) shielded pairs and parent shielding instead of (UTP) unshielded twisted pair cable.

Installation is also very important to ensure that the system delivers the standards for which the components are designed. Sloppy punch-downs on the 110 patch panels can affect system operation.

Also, a Cat5E Jumper put in series in a system with Cat 6 cable components will bring the entire Cat 6 run down to a Cat 5e level or less.

Finally, it is important to design the computer system with future requirements in mind. If the system needs to be upgraded in the foreseeable future to handle higher frequencies or longer runs or a combination of both, it is usually much more expensive when labor costs are taken into account to have to make major changes. Therefore, the cable level should include the increased capacity required in the future, at the initial installation.

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