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The ABCs of standards
There are two primary organizations dedicated to developing and setting structured cabling standards. In North America, standards are issued by the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA),... more/see it nowwhich is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). The TIA was formed in April 1988 after a merger with the Electronics Industry Association (EIA). That’s why its standards are commonly known as ANSI/TIA/EIA, TIA/EIA, or TIA.
Globally, the organizations that issue standards are the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Standards are often listed as ISO/IEC. Other organizations include the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), CENELEC (European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardizations), and the Japanese Standards Association (JSA/JSI).
The committees of all these organizations work together and the performance requirements of the standards are very similar. But there is some confusion in terminology.
The TIA cabling components (cables, connecting hardware, and patch cords) are labeled with a ”category.” These components together form a permanent link or channel that is also called a ”category.” The ISO/IEC defines the link and channel requirements with a ”class” designation. But the components are called a ”category.”
Category 5 (CAT5) —ratified in 1991. It is no longer recognized for use in networking.
Category 5e (CAT5e), ISO/IEC 11801 Class D, ratified in 1999, is designed to support full-duplex, 4-pair transmission in 100-MHz applications. The CAT5e standard introduced the measurement for PS-NEXT, EL-FEXT, and PS-ELFEXT. CAT5e is no longer recognized for new installations. It is commonly used for 1-GbE installations.
Category 6 (CAT6) – Class E has a specified frequency of 250 MHz, significantly improved bandwidth capacity over CAT5e, and easily handles Gigabit Ethernet transmissions. CAT6 supports 1000BASE-T and, depending on the installation, 10GBASE-T (10-GbE).
10-GbE over CAT6 introduces Alien Crosstalk (ANEXT), the unwanted coupling of signals between adjacent pairs and cables. Because ANEXT in CAT6 10-GbE networks is so dependent on installation practices, TIA TSB-155-A and ISO/IEC 24750 qualifies 10-GbE over CAT6 over channels of 121 to 180 feet (37 to 55 meters) and requires it to be 100% tested, which is extremely time consuming. To mitigate ANEXT in CAT6, it is recommended that the cables be unbundled, that the space between cables be increased, and that non-adjacent patch panel ports be used. If CAT6 F/UTP cable is used, mitigation is not necessary and the length limits do not apply. CAT6 is not recommended for new 10-GbE installations.
Augmented Category 6 (CAT6A) –Class Ea was ratified in February 2008. This standard calls for 10-Gigabit Ethernet data transmission over a 4-pair copper cabling system up to 100 meters. CAT6A extends CAT6 electrical specifications from 250 MHz to 500 MHz. It introduces the ANEXT requirement. It also replaces the term Equal Level Far-End Crosstalk (ELFEXT) with Attenuation to Crosstalk Ratio, Far-End (ACRF) to mesh with ISO terminology. CAT6A provides improved insertion loss over CAT6. It is a good choice for noisy environments with lots of EMI. CAT6A is also well-suited for use with PoE+.
CAT6A UTP cable is significantly larger than CAT6 cable. It features larger conductors, usually 22 AWG, and is designed with more space between the pairs to minimize ANEXT. The outside diameter of CAT6A cable averages 0.29"–0.35" compared to 0.21"–0.24" for CAT6 cable. This reduces the number of cables you can fit in a conduit. At a 40% fill ratio, you can run three CAT6A cables in a 3/4" conduit vs. five CAT6 cables.
CAT6A UTP vs. F/UTP. Although shielded cable has the reputation of being bigger, bulkier, and more difficult to handle and install than unshielded cable, this is not the case with CAT6A F/UTP cable. It is actually easier to handle, requires less space to maintain proper bend radius, and uses smaller conduits, cable trays, and pathways. CAT6A UTP has a larger outside diameter than CAT6A F/UTP cable. This creates a great difference in the fill rate of cabling pathways. An increase in the outside diameter of 0.1", from 0.25" to 0.35" for example, represents a 21% increase in fill volume. In general, CAT6A F/UTP provides a minimum of 35% more fill capacity than CAT6A UTP. In addition, innovations in connector technology have made terminating CAT6A F/UTP actually easier than terminating bulkier CAT6A UTP.
Category 7 (CAT7) –Class F was published in 2002 by the ISO/IEC. It is not a TIA recognized standard and TIA plans to skip over it.
Category 7 specifies minimum performance standards for fully shielded cable (individually shielded pairs surrounded by an overall shield) transmitting data at rates up to 600 MHz. It comes with one of two connector styles: the standard RJ plug and a non-RJ-style plug and socket interface specified in IEC 61076-2-104:2.
Category 7a (CAT7a) –Class Fa (Amendment 1 and 2 to ISO/IEC 11801, 2nd Ed.) is a fully shielded cable that extends frequency from 600 MHz to 1000 MHz.
Category 8 – The TIA decided to skip Category 7 and 7A and go to Category 8. The TR-42.7 subcommittee is establishing specs for a 40-Gbps twisted-pair solution with a 2-GHz frequency. The proposed standard is for use in a two-point channel in a data center at 30 meters. It is expected to be ratified in February 2016. The TR-42.7 subcommittee is also incorporating ISO/IEC Class II cabling performance criteria into the standard. It is expected to be called TIA-568-C.2-1. The difference between Class I and Class II is that Class II allows for three different styles of connectors that are not compatible with one another or with the RJ-45 connector. Class I uses an RJ-45 connector and is backward compatible with components up to Category 6A.
Category 6 (CAT6)–Class E has a specified frequency of 250 MHz, significantly improved bandwidth capacity over CAT5e, and easily handles Gigabit Ethernet transmissions. In recent years, it has been the... more/see it nowcable of choice for new structured cabling systems. CAT6 supports 1000BASE-T and, depending on the installation, 10GBASE-T (10-GbE).
10-GbE over CAT6 introduces the problem of Alien Crosstalk (ANEXT), the unwanted coupling of signals between adjacent pairs and cables. Because ANEXT in CAT6 10-GbE networks is so dependent on installation practices, TSB-155 qualifies 10-GbE over CAT6 up to 55 meters and requires it to be 100% tested. To mitigate ANEXT in CAT6, it is recommended that you unbundle the cables and increase the separation between the cables.
You can always contact Black Box Tech Support to answer your cabling questions. Our techs can recommend cable testers and steer you in the right direction when you’re installing new cabling. And the advice is FREE! collapse
Channel solution. You hear the term a lot these days to describe complete copper or fiber cabling systems. But what exactly is a channel solution and what are its benefits?... more/see it now
A channel solution is a cabling system from the data center to the desktop where every cable, jack, and patch panel is designed to work together and give you consistent end-to-end performance when compared with the EIA/TIA requirements.
A channel solution is beneficial because you have some assurance that your cabling components will perform as specified. Without that assurance, one part may not be doing its job, so your entire system may not be performing up to standard, which is a problem — especially if you rely on bandwidth-heavy links for video and voice.
What to look for.
There are a lot of channel solutions advertised on the Internet and elsewhere. So what exactly should you be looking for?
For one, make sure it’s a fully tested, guaranteed channel solution. The facts show an inferior cabling system can cause up to 70 percent of network downtime — even though it usually represents only 5 percent of an initial network investment. So don’t risk widespread failure by skimping on a system that doesn’t offer guaranteed channel performance. You need to make sure the products are engineered to meet or go beyond the key measurements for CAT5e or CAT6 performance.
And, sure, they may be designed to work together, but does the supplier absolutely guarantee how well they perform as part of a channel — end to end? Don’t just rely on what the supplier says. They may claim their products meet CAT5e or CAT6 requirements, but the proof is in the performance. Start by asking if the channel solution is independently tested and certified by a reputable third party. There are a lot of suppliers out there who don’t have the trademarked ETL approval logo, for example.
What ETL Verified means.
The ETL logo certifies that a channel solution has been found to be in compliance with recognized standards.
To ensure consistent top quality, Black Box participates in independent third-party testing by InterTek Testing Services/ETL Semko, Inc. Once a quarter, an Intertek inspector visits
Black Box and randomly selects cable and cabling products
The GigaTrue® CAT6 and GigaBase® CAT5e Solid Bulk Cable are ETL Verified at the component level to verify that they conform to the applicable industry standards.
The GigaTrue® CAT6 and GigaBase® CAT5e Channels, consisting of bulk cable, patch cable, jacks, patch panels, and wiring blocks, are tested and verified according to industry standards in a LAN environment under InterTek’s Cabling System Channel Verification Program. For the latest test results, contact our FREE Tech Support.
Straight-pinned cable has the most common type of pinning. The send and receive pairs are wired straight-through on either end of the cable.
Crossover cable is generally used for peer-to-peer connections.... more/see it nowThe send and receive pairs are crossed between Connector A to Connector B on either end of the cable. collapse
The environment determines whether cable should be shielded or unshielded.
Shielding is the sheath surrounding and protecting the cable wires from electromagnetic leakage and interference. Sources of this electromagnetic activity... more/see it now(EMI)—commonly referred to as noise—include elevator motors, fluorescent lights, generators, air conditioners, and photocopiers. To protect data in areas with high EMI, choose a shielded cable.
Foil is the most basic cable shield, but a copper-braid shield provides more protection. Shielding also protects cables from rodent damage. Use a foil-shielded cable in busy office or retail environments. For industrial environments, you might want to choose a copper-braid shield.
For quiet office environments, choose unshielded cable. collapse
In June 2006, the IEEE approved the standard for 10 Gigabit/sec Ethernet, or 10GBASE-T (10-GbE). 10-GbE transmission requires a bandwidth of 500 MHz.
The 10-GbE standards.
The cabling industry is developing... more/see it nowtwo different standards that can be used in 10-GbE applications. One is for use with Category 6 (CAT6) cable, and one is for Augmented Category 6 (CAT6a).
Before discussing the standards, a definition of Alien Crosstalk is needed.
Alien Crosstalk (ANEXT) is a critical measurement unique to 10-GbE systems. Crosstalk, measured in 10/100/1000BASE-T systems, is the mixing of signals between wire pairs within a cable. Alien Crosstalk is the measurement of the signal coupling between wire pairs in different, adjacent cables.
The amount of ANEXT depends on a number of factors, including the promixity of adjacent cables and connectors, the cable length, cable twist density, and EMI. Patch panels and connecting hardware are also affected by ANEXT.
With ANEXT, the affected cable is
called the disturbed or victim cable. The surrounding cables are the disturbers.
10-GbE using CAT6.
The first set of standards defines cabling performance when using Category 6/Class E cabling for 10-GbE applications. The TIA/EIA version will be the Technical Systems Bulletin 155 (TSB 155). ISO/IEC TR 24750 is a technical report to be used for measuring existing Class E systems.
No matter what the cable length is, CAT6 cable must meet 10-GbE electrical and ANEXT specifications up to 500 MHz. However, the CAT6 standard now specifies measurements only to 250 MHz, and it does not have an ANEXT requirement. There is no guarantee CAT6 can support a 10-GbE system. But the TSB provides guidelines for ways to help mitigate ANEXT. One way to lessen or eliminate ANEXT is to use shielded equipment and cables. Another way is to follow installation guidelines, such as using non-adjacent patch panels, separating equipment cords, unbundling horizontal cabling, etc.
10GbE using CAT6a.
The second set of standards will define Augmented Category 6 (CAT6a) and Augmented Class E (Class Ea) cabling. The newer, augmented cabling systems are designed to support 10-GbE over a 100-meter horizontal channel.
The TIA/EIA version is in draft and will be published as ANSI/TIA/EIA-568B.2-AD10. It recognizes both UTP and STP CAT6a systems. It also extends CAT6 electrical parameters such as NEXT, FEXT, return loss, insertion loss, and more to 500 MHz. It specifies near- and far-end Alien Crosstalk (ANEXT, AFEXT) to 500 MHz. It also goes beyond IEEE 802.3an by establishing the electrical requirements for the permanent link and cabling components. The ISO Class Ea standard will be published in a new edition of the 11801 standard.
These standards specify requirements for each component in the channel, such as cable and connecting hardware, as well as for the permanent link and the channel. collapse
Solid-conductor cable is designed for backbone and horizontal cable runs. Use it for runs between two wiring closets or from the wiring closet to a wallplate. Solid cable shouldn’t be... more/see it nowbent, flexed, or twisted repeatedly. Its attenuation is lower than that of stranded-conductor cable.
Stranded cable is for use in shorter runs between network interface cards (NICs) and wallplates or between concentrators and patch panels, hubs, and other rackmounted equipment. Stranded-conductor cable is much more flexible than solid-core cable. However, attenuation is higher in stranded-conductor cable, so the total length of stranded cable in your system should be kept to a minimum to reduce signal degradation. collapse
When using a Category 6 system, the full specification includes the testing of each part individually and in an end-to-end-channel. Because CAT6 is an open standard, products from different vendors... more/see it nowshould work together.
Channel testing includes patch cable, bulk cable, jacks, patch panels, etc. These tests cover a number of measurements, including: attenuation, NEXT, PS-NEXT, EL-FEXT, ACR, PS-ACR, EL-FEXT, PS-ELFEXT, and Return Loss. Products that are tested together should work together as specified. In theory, products from all manufacturers are interchangeable. But, if products from different manufacturers are inserted in a channel, end-to-end CAT6 performance may be compromised.
Component testing, on the other hand, is much stricter even though only two characteristics are measured: crosstalk and return loss. Although all CAT6 products should be interchangeable, products labeled as component are guaranteed to perform
to a CAT6 level in a channel with products from different manufacturers.
For more information on cable, channel, and component specs, see below.
Buyer’s Guide: CAT5e vs. CAT6 Cable
Standard — CAT5e: TIA-568-B.2; CAT6: TIA-568-B.2-1
Frequency — CAT5e: 100 MHz; CAT6: 250 MHz
Attenuation (maximum at 100 MHz) —
Cable: CAT5e: 22 dB; CAT6: 19.8 dB
Connector: CAT5e: 0.4 dB; CAT6: 0.2 dB
Channel: CAT5e: 24.0 dB; CAT6: 21.3 dB
NEXT (minimum at 100 MHz) —
Cable: CAT5e: 35.3 dB; CAT6: 44.3 dB
Connector: CAT5e: 43.0 dB; CAT6: 54.0 dB
Channel: CAT5e: 30.1 dB; CAT6: 39.9 dB
PS-NEXT (minimum at 100 MHz) — 32.3 dB 42.3 dB
EL-FEXT (minimum at 100 MHz) —
Cable: CAT5e: 23.8 dB; CAT6: 27.8 dB
Connector: CAT5e: 35.1 dB; CAT6: 43.1 dB
Channel: CAT5e: 17.4 dB; CAT6: 23.3 dB
PS-ELFEXT (minimum at 100 MHz) — CAT5e: 20.8 dB; CAT6: 24.8 dB
Return Loss (minimum at 100 MHz) —
Cable: CAT5e: 20.1 dB; CAT6: 20.1 dB
Connector: CAT5e: 20.0 dB: CAT6: 24.0 dB
Channel: CAT5e: 10.0 dB; CAT6: 12.0 dB
Characteristic Impedance — Both: 100 ohms ± 15%
Delay Skew (maximum per 100 m) — Both: 45 ns
NOTE: In Attenuation testing, the lower the number, the better. In NEXT, EL-FEXT, and Return Loss testing, the higher the number, the better.
Augmented Category 6 (CAT6a)–Class Ea was ratified in February 2008. This standard calls for 10-Gigabit Ethernet data transmission over a 4-pair copper cabling system up to 100 meters. CAT6a extends... more/see it nowCAT6 electrical specifications from 250 MHz to 500 MHz. It introduces the ANEXT requirement. It also replaces the term Equal Level Far-End Crosstalk (ELFEXT) with Attenuation to Crosstalk Ratio, Far-End (ACRF) to mesh with ISO terminology. CAT6a provides improved insertion loss over CAT6. It is a good choice for noisy environments with lots of EMI. CAT6a is also well-suited for use with PoE+.
CAT6a UTP cable is significantly larger than CAT6 cable. It features larger conductors, usually 22 AWG, and is designed with more space between the pairs to minimize ANEXT. The outside diameter of CAT6a cable averages 0.29–0.35" compared to 0.21–0.24" for CAT6 cable. This reduces number of cables you can fit in a conduit. At a 40% fill ratio, you can run three CAT6a cables in a 3/4" conduit vs. five CAT6
There are two types of CAT6a cable, UTP and F/UTP.
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