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Black Box Explains...Shielded vs. unshielded cable.

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

Black Box Explains…CAT6A UTP vs. F/UTP.

CAT6A is currently the cable of choice for future-proofing cabling installations and for 10-GbE networks.

There are two types of CAT6A cable, unshielded (UTP) and shielded (F/UTP). F/UTP denotes foiled/unshielded... more/see it nowtwisted pair and consists of four unshielded twisted pairs encased in an overall foil shield. This is not to be confused with an S/FTP (screened/foiled twisted pair) cable, which has four individually shielded twisted pairs encased in an overall braided shield.

CAT6A UTP is constructed in a certain way to help eliminate crosstalk and ANEXT. (ANEXT is the measurement of the signal coupling between wire pairs in different and adjacent cables.) This includes larger conductors (23 AWG minimum), tighter twists, an extra internal airspace, an internal separator between the pairs, and a thicker outer jacket. These features also increase the outer diameter of the cable, typically to .35 inches in diameter, up from .25 inches for CAT6 cable. This increased diameter creates a greater distance between pairs in adjacent links, thus reducing the between-channel signal coupling. But CAT6A UTP cable is still affected by ANEXT.

According to the standards, ANEXT can be improved by laying CAT6A UTP cable loosely in pathways and raceways with space between the cables. This contrasts to the tightly bundled runs of CAT6/5e cable we are used to. The tight bundles present a worst-case scenario of six cables around one, thus the center cable would be adversely affected by ANEXT. Testing for ANEXT is a complex and time-consuming process where all possible wire-pair combinations are checked. It can take up to 50 minutes to test one link in a bundle of 24 CAT6A UTP cables.

CAT6A F/UTP denotes foiled/unshielded twisted pairs and consists of four unshielded twisted pairs encased in an overall foil shield. ANEXT, and the time needed to test for it, can be greatly reduced, if not eliminated completely, by using CAT6A F/UTP. The foil shield acts as a barrier preventing external EMI/RFI from coupling onto the twisted pairs. It also prevents data signals from leaking out of the cable, making the cable more difficult to tap and better for secure installations. Studies also have shown that CAT6A F/UTP cable provides significantly more headroom (as much as 20 dB) than CAT6A UTP in 10-GbE over copper systems.

Bigger isn't always better.
CAT6A UTP cable has an overall allowable diameter of 0.354 inches. CAT6A F/UTP cable has an average outside diameter of 0.265–0.30 inches. That’s smaller than the smallest CAT6A UTP cable. An increase in the outside diameter (O.D.) of 0.1 inch, from 0.25 inches to 0.35 inches for example, represents a 21% increase in fill volume. In general, CAT6A F/UTP cable provides a minimum of 35% more fill capacity that CAT6A UTP cable.

Also because of its large diameter, CAT6A UTP requires a larger bend radius, more pathways, less dense patch panel connections, and extensive ANEXT testing.

CAT6A F/UTP cable is actually easier to handle, requires less bend radius, and uses smaller pathways. In addition, innovations in connector technology has made terminating CAT6A F/UTP cable simpler. In terms of grounding, the requirements for both UTP and F/UTP cable fall under TIA/EIA J-STD-607-A Commercial Building Grounding (Earthing) and Bonding Requirements for Telecommunications.

The advantages of CAT6A F/UTP vs. UTP
In summary, there are a number of advantages of using CAT6A F/UTP over CAT6A UTP in 10-GbE networks.

1. Shielding eliminates ANEXT and EMI/RFI problems and testing.
2. Data line security is enhanced because of shielding.
3. Lighter, slimmer cable provides higher port density.
4. Smaller outside diameter cable is easier to handle and reduces installation costs.
5. Shielded cable uses less space in conduits.

For more information, see the CAT6A F/UTP vs. UTP: What You Need to Know white paper in the Resources section at blackbox.com. collapse

Black Box Explains...10GBASE-T standard.

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).

Alien Crosstalk.
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

Black Box Explains…Component vs. channel testing.

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. collapse

Black Box Explains...What to look for in a channel solution.

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 definition.
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.

Its benefits.
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 for testing.

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. collapse

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