Wi-Fi 5 (AC) vs. Wi-Fi 6 (AX)

Wait, another new wireless standard?

Just when everyone has hopped onboard 802.11ac, we now have a new wireless standard to contend with. But if 802.11ax is all that it is made out to be, the switch would be worth it.

Shortcomings of 802.11ac

802.11ac routers are fast but they are not ideal for situations where there are many, many client devices.

802.11ac does a number of things well but it is bad at some others. Speed, for instance, isn’t its biggest problem. 802.11ac can actually deliver very fast Wi-Fi speeds. The fastest 802.11ac routers today can deliver speeds of up to 2,167Mbps on a single 5GHz network.

The biggest problem that it faces is congestion that occurs because of the sheer number of connected devices that we have today. Today, the average number of connected devices per household is around 20. This includes devices like your desktops, notebooks, phones, tablets, webcams, TVs, media streaming boxes, smart home sensors, and more. And analysts believe it could double in the next two years. Just ask yourselves, how many devices do you really have connected to your router via Wi-Fi?

The high number of connected devices puts a severe strain on a router’s performance. This is because today's routers can typically only transmit or receive signals at any one time. This is why performance degrades rapidly as more devices are connected to the router. The router has to divide its time up amongst more connected devices and the ‘wait’ to get served by the router becomes longer as more and more devices join the network. This is why Wi-Fi slows to a crawl in crowded spaces like offices, airports, and stadiums.

Doesn’t MU-MIMO in 802.11ac solve this?

MU-MIMO is a step in the right direction but it has severe limitations.

  

Not exactly. MU-MIMO has some severe limitations. But a quick primer: MU-MIMO (Multi-User Multiple Input) was introduced as part of an update to 802.11ac. It improves congestion by allowing the router to communicate with multiple output devices simultaneously. But it has some limitations. It requires MU-MIMO compatible routers and clients, it only works on the downlink, and it can only communicate with up to three devices simultaneously. This is probably good enough for most homes but it is woefully insufficient for public use where they can be hundreds if not thousands of devices.

So how does 802.11ax solve this?

802.11ax is all about increasing capacity rather than increasing peak speed.

 

802.11ax seeks to improve Wi-Fi in two ways. One is to increase the speed of each stream and the second is to make each router more efficient by allowing it to communicate with multiple devices simultaneously.

Like 802.11ac, 802.11ax will operate in the 5GHz spectrum. It will support up to 160MHz channels giving each 802.11ax stream a maximum theoretical bandwidth of 3.5Gbps. This compares favorably to the maximum bandwidth of a single 802.11ac stream which is just 866Mbps. 802.11ax routers that support up to four streams could, therefore, provide a maximum theoretical bandwidth of up to 14Gbps! Real-world performance would probably be nothing close to these figures but this is still a massive improvement over existing 802.11ac routers.

 

OFDMA chops up each channel into smaller sub-channels so that the router can transmit to multiple devices simultaneously.

 

Arguably, the biggest improvement of 802.11ax is its ability to accommodate multiple client devices simultaneously. This is done using OFDMA digital modulation technology or orthogonal frequency division multiple access as it's known in full form. This particular technology comes from the world of LTE and is the reason why LTE works so well. How often does your smartphone's reception become unresponsive? To put it simply, OFDMA chops up each Wi-Fi channel into hundreds of smaller sub-channels, each with a slightly different frequency. The signals are then turned orthogonally so that they can be stacked on top of each other and de-multiplexed. With OFDMA, a single channel can accommodate as many as 30 clients.

 

ODFMA addresses the problem of congestion by taking chopping up channels so that multiple devices can be served simultaneously.

In plain English, it simply means that 802.11ax routers can combine transmissions and send data to multiple devices simultaneously. Compared to most 802.11ac routers which can only send data to a single device at any one time, you can see that 802.11ax routers are going to be a lot more efficient.Here's an analogy. Today's routers are akin to delivery trucks that can only carry a single package and therefore can only make one delivery per trip. 802.11ax routers, on the other hand, are delivery trucks that can carry multiple packages and can, therefore, make multiple deliveries every trip. No prizes for guessing which is more effective.

What about MU-MIMO in 802.11ax?

802.11ax will support MU-MIMO too and it will do so on both downlink and uplink transmissions.

How is MU-MIMO different from OFDMA?

OFDMA allows far more efficient use of channel bandwidth whereas MU-MIMO allows the router to dedicate separate spatial streams to different devices. The two technologies can work together in 802.11ax routers to allow it to serve much more devices than your typical 802.11ac router can.

Range Comparison between ac and ax?

No matter what, the range of 2.4GHz networks will always be greater.

802.11ax works in the 5GHz and 2.4GHz spectrum so range would be largely better than 802.11ac simply because of support of 2.4GHz. In the faster 5GHz spectrum, we should see 802.11ax provide about the same range as 802.11ac - 5GHz waves can only travel so far because the laws of physics are immutable. Let’s not forget, with the right mix of devices you can still achieve very good speeds over 2.4GHz.

Should I upgrade to 802.11ax?

Contact Us to find out more or schedule a site visit so that our network specialist can advise you accordingly.

Cable Distance Limits

Cables will always have some sort of “maximum signal” rating, depending on the type of the cable. For ethernet cables, it will be the maximum upload/download speed. For HDMI, it will be the maximum resolution of the video. And so on and so forth for other cables. Any type of “maximum” rating should be taken with a grain of salt.

Those ratings are the best possible rating the cable is capable of under theoretical, perfect conditions. For example, modern HDMI cables are all rated for 4k. But if the HDMI cable is running through a coupler, users will almost certainly not get 4k. Each time a signal passes through a connection, even just connecting a cable to something like a TV or computer, the signal quality degrades a little. Using devices like extenders and couplers will make the signal weaker; for example, coupling a 10’ cable to a 5’ cable will result in a weaker signal than just using a single 15’ cable.

Another key factor for signal quality is the distance of the cable. The further a signal has to travel, the more it will degrade by the time it gets from Point A to Point B. Going back to our HDMI example, a 15’ cord will give a clearer image than a 50’ cable. It is possible to get around this issue using an extender/booster. Some cables are also more subject to this issue than others, so doing a little research before running a particularly long cable never hurts.

When using cables with two different ends, the distance limit will be subject to whichever type of connector has the shorter maximum distance. For example, a standalone HDMI cable can go up to 65’ while a standard DisplayPort cable can go up to 15’. Therefore, an HDMI to DisplayPort cable will be stuck at 15’ for its maximum length.

Other factors such as electromagnetic interference or radio wave interference can also come into play. If the cable will be run near electrical cords or in an area near something like a radio tower, these issues can be mitigated by using shielded cables.

With this information in mind, remember that the rest of this article highlights the maximum distance a cable can run and still work. Some of these numbers are not officially acknowledged as industry standards, but real-world experience has taught us what to look for.

Cable Distance Limits - Data

Cable Type (Data)Distance Limit (Meter)Distance Limit (Feet)
Ethernet100 M328 Feet
USB (Passive)4.5 M15 Feet
USB (Passive + Active)29 M95 Feet
USB (Ethernet Extension)61 M200 Feet
Firewire72 M236 Feet
Serial Cable (Standard)15 M49 Feet
Serial Cable (With Signal Degradation)60 M197 Feet
Single-Mode Fiber OpticNo Practical LimitNo Practical Limit
OM1 Multimode Fiber Optic300 M984 Feet
OM2 Multimode Fiber Optic600 M1968 Feet
OM3 Multimode Fiber Optic300 M984 Feet
OM4 Multimode Fiber Optic550 M1804 Feet

Ethernet
There are a few different versions of ethernet cable, but they all have a maximum distance of 100 meters (328 feet). It should be noted that Cat7 cable has harsher distance limits than Cat5e, Cat6, and Cat6a. Cat7 gets advertised for its 100 Gbps speed, but that will only work for distances up to 15 meters (slightly over 49 feet). Beyond that, it drops to the same 10 Gbps speed of Cat6 and Cat6a (although it still retains its superior 850 Mhz bandwidth).

USB

Passive (standard) USB cables have a maximum length of 15’. This limit can be overcome by using active USB extension cables. The active cables contain a microchip repeater that bypasses the normal 15’ limit of passive cables.

When daisy-chaining USB cables, there can be no more than 15’ of passive cable total. If you have a 10’ passive USB cable and try to attach a passive 10’ extension cord to it, the cable will not work. However, using a 5’ passive extension would work because the total amount of passive cable would only be 15’. These passive/active rules hold true for all the different types of USB cables.

An extender balun allows users to use an ethernet cable as an extension for USB. Different extenders have different maximum distance ratings but generally range somewhere from 150’ to 200’.

Firewire

FireWire has a maximum length of 72 meters (236 feet). Individual cables are only manufactured up to 4.5 meters (14.8 feet) long; going further than that means the cables must be daisy-chained together. A maximum of 16 cables can be used in a single chain.

Serial Cable

Serial cables primarily consist of DB9, DB15, DB25, and DB37. They are also called RS-232, although that term usually refers to DB9 specifically. All of these have a maximum individual length of 15 meters (slightly over 49 feet). Extension cords can be used but past the 15-meter length, the signal will start to degrade. At 30 meters, the signal will have half the normal strength. At 60 meters, ¼ the normal strength. Going beyond 60 meters is not recommended.

Single-Mode Fiber Optic

Single-mode fiber can run for many kilometers before it stops working. Unless the cable is being lain long-distance for a telecom company, distance limits should never be an issue for single-mode fiber.

OM1 Multimode Fiber Optic

OM1 is the basic version of multi-mode cable, being able to maintain 1GB data speeds for up to 300 meters.

OM2 Multimode Fiber Optic

OM2 has the same data transmission speed as OM1 but doubles its maximum length for 600 meters total.

OM3 Multimode Fiber Optic

OM3 has the same 300-meter distance limit as OM1 but is also capable of transmitting data ten times faster at 10GB.

OM4 Multimode Fiber Optic

OM4 carries a 10GB up to 550 meters, providing a distance upgrade to OM3 (similar to how OM2 has the same speed but a greater maximum length than OM1).

Cable Distance Limits - Audio Only

Cable Type (Audio Only)Distance Limit (Meter)Distance Limit (Feet)
2.5MM / 3.5MM (Regular)45 M150 Feet
3.5MM (With Extender)76 M250 Feet
XLR (Official)30M100 Feet
XLR (Theoretical)300 M1000 Feet
Optical Toslink 15 M49 Feet
Speaker WireSee Detailed Table BelowSee Detailed Table Below

2.5MM / 3.5MM
2.5mm, 3.5mm (also called headphone cables), and ¼” audio cables have a maximum distance of 150’ on average. Off-the-shelf, standard audio cables will be rated with 150’ in mind. It is possible to go further by custom-making something using thicker cable than usual. The lower the AWG, the greater the distance you can go.

3.5mm can go up to 250’ by using a balun, which allows ethernet cable to be used as an extension.

XLR

Practically, an XLR cable can run for 100’ before it starts running into problems. Not problems with the signal quality, but problems with having to manage a massive physical cable. XLR is usually used with microphones, amplifiers, or similar equipment. With the right equipment, a boosted and shielded XLR cable could run upwards of 1000’ without losing signal quality. Keep in mind that the further the cable runs, the less likely this will go off without a hitch

Optical Toslink

Toslink signals are just as limited by the equipment they are connected to as the cable itself. Low-quality and older cables may only support optical signals up to 5 or 10 meters. Modern Toslink typically runs 15 meters, although some brand-new electronics (mainly computers and satellite receivers) can use up to 30 meters. If extra distance is needed, do not buy the least expensive Toslink cables you can find (you will get what you pay for).

Speaker Wire

Speaker wire is a bit more complicated than other cables when it comes to distance limits. Depending ohms and AWG of the cable, the maximum distance changes. The chart below provides a simple conversion.

Wire Gauge4 ohms6 ohms8 ohms
22 AWG6 Feet9 Feet12 Feet
20 AWG10 Feet15 Feet20 Feet
18 AWG16 Feet24 Feet32 Feet
16 AWG24 Feet36 Feet48 Feet
14 AWG40 Feet60 Feet80 Feet
12 AWG60 Feet90 Feet120 Feet
10 AWG100 Feet150 Feet200 Feet

Cable Distance Limits - Video Only

Cable Type (Video Only)Distance Limit (Meter)Distance Limit (Feet)
S-Video45 M150 Feet
S-Video (With Extender)198 M650 Feet
VGA45 M150 Feet
VGA (With Extender)198 M650 Feet
DVI (Digital)15 M49 Feet
DVI (Analog)5 M16 Feet

S-Video

S-video is an older type of connection, now considered obsolete. Newer electronics are not built with s-video included, but this older technology had plenty of time to be developed in its heyday. When using an older TV, VCR, or other electronic, 150 feet will be the distance limit.

With an extender balun, ethernet cables can be used to extend s-video up to 650’. Keep in mind that a single ethernet cable can only go up to 328’. If extending the S-video past that, ethernet extensions will also be needed.

VGA

VGA is an analog signal and will get weaker over longer distances. For high-quality video, the maximum recommended distance is 25 feet. From 26-100’, mid-level quality video will be received. Past 100’, the video resolution will be low-quality.

Using a balun, ethernet can be used as an extension cable to allow VGA to go up to 650’. Keep in mind that individual ethernet lines can only go 328’, so anything past that will require ethernet extensions as well.

DVI

For maximum signal quality, DVI cables will work up to 5 meters. 5 meters is also the maximum length for DVI-A (analog) cables. The 5-meter limit extends to DVI-I (integrated) since it is capable of analog as well as digital. Any distance from 6 to 15 meters will result in lower signal quality but is available for DVI-D (digital) cables.

Whether a DVI cable is single-link or dual-link does not affect the maximum distance limit. However, dual-link cables have higher bandwidth and will suffer less degradation over longer distances.

Cable Distance Limits - Audio / Video

Cable Type (Audio / Video)Distance Limit (Meter)Distance Limit (Feet)
Composite RCA30 M100 Feet
Composite RCA (With Extender)76 M250 Feet
Component RCA30 M100 Feet
HDMI (Standard)19 M65 Feet
HDMI (Ethernet Extender)114 M375 Feet
HDMI (Fiber Optic Extender)300 M1000 Feet
Display Port7 M25 Feet
Mini Display Port4 M15 Feet

Component RCA

Component RCA (usually just called “component”) is the type of RCA with five cables: red & white for audio and red, blue, and green for video. The quality of the cable makes a big difference in the quality of the image. Well-made component cables can go up to 100’ while retaining HD quality. However, the maximum recommended distance to guarantee HD quality is 16’. Going past 16’ could result in standard definition video, with the odds of lower quality increasing as the cable gets longer.

HDMI

While there are various types of HDMI connections (regular, Mini, Micro), they are all subject to the same distance limits. However, types of HDMI connected to smaller devices like cell phones and tablets are generally only available in shorter lengths since those devices are usually left close to the TV or monitor they are connected to.

The quality of the cable will determine the maximum distance. Basic cables, for example, can only go up to 20’. Mid-grade HDMI goes up to 50’ while the top quality cables go up to 65’. When going beyond 50’ on a single cable, issues with image quality may start to crop up. In these instances, joining two cables together with a booster is the easiest course of action. When trying to maintain a 4k signal, aim at keeping the cable under 16’. Going past that limit can still provide an HD signal, but not necessarily a 4k one.

If a booster is not enough, using a balun extender will allow ethernet cable to be used to extend the HDMI signal. Different baluns have different maximum lengths so be sure to select one that works with your specific set-up.

In extreme cases, multimode LC fiber cable can be used with a special balun that will run the HDMI signal for up to 1000’.

Display Port

Recent innovations have allowed DisplayPort cables to extend to 25’, with the old limitation being 15’. Unless you have a DisplayPort cable that is very new, 15’ is likely the maximum distance on it. For Mini DisplayPort, 15’ is still the hard cap on its distance limit. The 15’ limit also applies to DisplayPort cables that go to other formats (HDMI, DVI, VGA).

Ethernet Cable Types: UTP, STP and FTP

A quick note about twisted pairs: the technique was invented by Mr. Telephone himself, Alexander Graham Bell, back in the late 19th century. Telephone cables originally had just straight conductors, but as electrical power distribution became common, interference from power lines became a common issue with the transfer of telephone signals. Bell found that he could greatly reduce the electromagnetic interference (EMI) that was created by nearby electrical lines simply by twisting the telephone conductor wires. That same breakthrough approach is still used today in Ethernet cables as an anti-interference measure; all of the types of cables we’ve mentioned use twisted pairs of conductors.

However, it’s not always enough. Some environments are prone to greater-than-normal amounts of EMI, so there are cables designed to provide even more protection against interference. The protection is called shielding, and it brings us back to “U,” “F” and “S.”

Unshielded Ethernet Cables

UTP - Unshielded Twisted Pair

Normal twisted-pair Ethernet cables will usually perform just fine without extra shielding when used in home and small office networks that don’t have lots of equipment that will cause EMI. Since it’s unshielded (“U”), it’s referred to as “unshielded twisted pair” cable (or UTP for short). It’s much less expensive to manufacture cables without extra internal shielding, so UTP is the least-expensive Ethernet cable you can buy.

With no stiff shielding material inside, UTP is the thinnest and most flexible Ethernet cable on the market, making it the easiest to work with and install. It also has the extra advantage of not requiring a ground connection; more on that shortly. The majority of Ethernet patch cables or bulk cables that you’ll see sold are UTP.

Unshielded Ethernet Cables

U/UTP - Unshielded Twisted Pair

Also known as UTP, this is currently the most common and basic method of cable construction, consisting of pairs of wires twisted together. There is no shielding, instead the symmetrical twist in the wires create a balanced transmission line, helping to reduce electrical noise and EMI. In addition, the different twist rates of each pair can be used to reduce crosstalk. In higher category cables, a cross-web filler may be found separating the individual pairs to help reduce alien crosstalk from adjacent cables.

F/UTP - Foiled with Unshielded Twisted Pair

Often referred to as FTP, this type of cable features an overall foil shield wrapped around unshielded twisted pairs and a drain wire. When the drain wire is correctly connected, unwanted noise is redirected to ground, offering extra protection against EMI/RFI.

S/UTP - Shielded with Unshielded Twisted Pair

This cable construction has an overall braid screen with unshielded twisted pairs. This cable is often referred to as an STP, however this term should be used with caution due to other shielded cables also using this term. Always check whether the cable will have any shielding and whether individual pairs have their own shield. The cable is capable of supporting higher transmission rates across longer distances than U/UTP and provides better mechanical strength and grounding due to the braid.

SF/UTP - Shielded with Unshielded Twisted Pair

This cable has both an overall braid shield and foil shield with unshielded twisted pairs. This cable offers effective protection from EMI both from the cable and into the cable as well as much better grounding due to the additional braid.

Shielded Ethernet Cables

We now consider FTP and STP, which are each shielded Ethernet cables. The terms can be a bit confusing because they’re often used interchangeably, and each has extra components inside the cable in order to protect signals from interference. However, there is a difference between them.

STP - Shielded Twisted Pair

Independent shielded twisted-pair STP, each pair of lines has a foil shield, four pairs of wire together, there is a common metal braided shield, which is the standard structure of the seven categories of line . It is suitable for high-speed network applications, providing highly secure transmission, to support future new applications, help to harmonize the application of current network routing platform that enables e-mail to multimedia video from a variety of information, can be in the same set of high-speed system transmission.

FTP - Foiled Twisted Pair

FTP cable specifically uses a foil (“F”) shield wrapped around the outside of the twisted pair package, and does not protect the pairs individually. STP cable normally covers each of the twisted pairs separately with either foil or tightly-braided wire, with another layer of foil or braided shielding covering the entire conductor package.

U/FTP - Unshielded with Foiled Twisted Pair

This type of cable has no overall shielding but the individual twisted pairs are wrapped in a foil screen, offering some protection from EMI and crosstalk from adjacent pairs and other cables.

F/FTP - Foiled with Foiled Twisted Pair

This type of cable features an overall foil shield with individually foil tape shielded twisted pairs. These are similar to F/UTP cables, with the addition of a foil shield around each twisted pair. The cable construction is designed to provide the assembly with greater protection from crosstalk from adjacent pairs and other cables, RFI and EMI.

S/FTP - Shielded with Foiled Twisted Pair

Similar to F/FTP, the individual twisted pairs are wrapped in a foil tape before being wrapped in an overall flexible yet mechanically strong braid screen. The additional foil on the twisted pairs helps to reduce crosstalk from adjacent pairs and other cables. The braid provides better grounding.

SF/FTP - Shielded with Foiled Twisted Pair

Offering the maximum protection from RFI/EMI, crosstalk and alien crosstalk, this cable has both an overall braid shield and foil shield, with individually foil tape screened twisted pairs. This type of cable provides the best level of protection from interference and better grounding due to the braid.

Conclusion

It’s more difficult to work with STP and FTP Ethernet cable because the extra shielding makes it thicker and stiffer, and because the need to keep the shielding intact makes the cable more fragile. Both types of cable also require a ground connection, since that’s where the interference snagged by the shielding is shunted. Shielded cables are best installed and maintained by professionals; of course, those are the people most likely to use them since UTP is sufficient for almost all home and casual applications.

Finally, a little extra information for the sake of completeness. If you’re confronted with a choice between straight-through or crossover cables, you’ll almost always want the straight-through cable. Crossover cables have some of the conductor wires reversed at the connectors but are only used these days to connect to very old computers or network switches.

Ethernet Cable Specifications

Different Ethernet Categories

Cable CategoryCable TypeMax. Data Transmission SpeedMax. BandwidthEthernet Standard
Cat 1UTP1 Mbps1MHzNot used for data
Cat 2UTP4 Mbps10MHzToken Ring
Cat 3UTP10 Mbps16MHz10BASE-T
Cat 4UTP20 Mbps20MHzToken Ring
Cat 5UTP100 Mbps100MHz100BASE-T
Cat 5eUTP1000 Mbps100MHz1000BASE-T
Cat 6UTP or STP10 Gbps250MHz10GBASE-T
Cat 6aSTP10 Gbps500MHz10GBASE-T
Cat 7STP or FTP10 Gbps600MHzNot drafted yet

Notes:
* 1 Gbps = 1000 Mbps
UTP, STP and FTP? Learn more about ethernet cable types Here.

Ethernet Cables Categories in more Detail

Category 1

This cable contains only two pairs (4 wires). This cable was used in the telephone network for voice transmission.

Category 2

This cable and all further cables have a minimum of 8 wires (4 pairs). This cable was used in the token-ring network.

Category 3

Cat3 cable is an earlier generation of Ethernet but can still be seen in older deployments. With the ability to support a maximum frequency of 16 MHz, this type of Ethernet can still be used for two-line telephone systems and 10BASE-T networks. CAT3 cable can also be used for alarm system installation or similar applications. CAT3 cable can have 2, 3, or 4 copper pairs (though uncommon). Category 5e cable, however, has become the default Ethernet category of choice with the ability to support faster speeds and frequencies.

Category 4

This cable was used in advanced Token-ring networks.

Category 5

Cat5 Ethernet, introduced 10/100 Mbps Ethernet over distances of up to 100 meters, also known as Fast Ethernet. Even though some older deployments still use CAT5 cable, it is now considered obsolete and has since been replaced by Cat5e.

Category 5e

Though Cat5 and Cat5e cables are physically similar, Category 5e Ethernet adheres to more stringent IEEE standards. “E” is for enhanced, meaning a lower-noise version where the potential for crosstalk is reduced. Crosstalk is interference that transfers from adjacent wires.

Cat5e is the most common type of cabling used for deployments due to its ability to support Gigabit speeds at a cost-effective price. Even though both Cat5 and Cat5e support a maximum frequency of up to 100MHz, Cat5e has completely replaced its predecessor. Gigabit Ethernet utilizes 4 data pairs in comparison to Fast Ethernet which utilizes 2 data pairs.

Further, Cat 5e supports speeds of up to 1000 Mbps. It’s flexible enough for small space installations like residences, though it is still used in commercial spaces. Of all the current cabling options, Cat5e is your least expensive option.

Category 6

Cat6 wiring can support up to 10 Gbps and frequencies of up to 250 MHz. While Cat5e cable features 1.5-2 twists per cm, Cat6 cables are more tightly wound and feature 2 or more twists per cm. (The amount of twists per cm varies upon each cable manufacturer).

Cat6 cables also sport thicker sheaths in comparison to Cat5e. Though standard Ethernet supports distances of up to 100 meters, CAT6 cable only supports 37-55 meters (depending on crosstalk) when transmitting 10 Gbps speeds. Its thicker sheath protects against Near End Crosstalk (NEXT) and Alien Crosstalk (AXT).

Even though Cat6 and Cat6a cabling offer higher performance rates, many LANs still opt for CAT5e due to its cost-effectiveness and ability to support Gigabit speeds.

Category 6a

Cat6a supports bandwidth frequencies of up to 500 MHz, twice the amount of Cat6 cable, and can also support 10Gbps like its predecessor. However, unlike Cat6 cabling, Cat6a can support 10 Gigabit Ethernet at 100 meters. [Cat6 cabling on the other hand, can transmit the same speeds at up to 37 meters.]

Cat6a also features more robust sheathing which eliminates alien crosstalk (AXT) and improves upon the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR). “A” = augmented. The stronger sheathing makes Cat6a cabling considerably thicker than Cat6, also making it less flexible to work with, and therefore, better suited for industrial environments at a lower price point.

Category 7

Cat7 can also support 10 Gbps, but laboratory testing has successfully shown its ability to transmit up to 40 Gb at 50 meters and even 100 Gb at 15 meters. The newer “Class F” cabling can support frequencies of up to 600 Mhz. That said, Cat7 has not been approved as a cable standard for telecommunications.

Cat7 offers extensive shielding to reduce signal attenuation and is relatively stiff in comparison to previous generations of cabling. Both individual pairs are shielded, with an additional layer of shielding over the entire cable. The shielding needs to be grounded and Cat7 also requires special GigaGate45 (GG45) connectors to take full advantage of higher performance features.

All in all, Cat6a can perform just about the same as Cat7 but at a lower price point. Most of our AV and IP surveillance customers opt for Cat6a STP or Cat6a FTP. Both offer shielding from alien crosstalk and interference around high voltage lines.

Cat7 is suited for use in datacenters and large enterprise networks.

Category 8

Cat8 cable is still in the development stage and not yet ratified. According to the 2016 Ethernet Alliance Roadmap, it will be able to support 25GB and 40Gb Ethernet. Cat8 will be able to support even faster transmission rates at distances of up to 30 meters.

Category Cable Wiring

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