Black Box Explains...Solid vs. stranded cable.
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
Black Box Explains...Category 5, 5e, and 6 copper wiring standards.
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, was the de facto standard for 100-Mbps networks during the 1990s. It is no longer recognized by the TIA/EIA for use in data networking.
Category 5e (CAT5e)–ISO/IEC 11801 Class D, ratified in 1999, is designed to enable twisted-pair cabling to support full-duplex, 4-pair transmission in 100-MHz applications. The CAT5e standard added more headroom and established new requirements to support Gigabit Ethernet over a worst case four-connector channel. These include stricter specs for Near-End Crosstalk (NEXT) and Return Loss (RL). The standard also introduced the required measurements for Power Sum Near-End Crosstalk (PS-NEXT), Equal-Level Far-End Crosstalk (EL-FEXT), and Power Sum Equal-Level Far-End Crosstalk (PS-ELFEXT). CAT5e is still used in many organizations, although it is no longer recognized for new 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. In recent years, it has been the cable 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.
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 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.
There are two types of CAT6a cable, UTP and F/UTP. For a discussion of the differences, see the white paper in our Resources section.
Category 7 (CAT7)–Class F was published in 2002 by the ISO/IEC. It is not a TIA recognized standard. Class 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 offers greater capacity for demanding applications such as broadband video. It’s also well suited for applications where fiber optic cable would typically be used—but it costs less. Because each CAT7 pair is fully shielded, it's ideal for areas prone to EMI/RFI. Class 7 cable offers 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 is currently in ISO standards for channel performance in Amendment 1, recently component performance has been ratified in Amendment 2. The formal names are ISO 11801 Amendment 1 (2008) and ISO 11801 Amendment 2 (2010). Class Fa cable is a fully shielded cable that extends frequency from 600 MHz to 1000 MHz. It can easily handle 10-GbE and offers users a lifespan of 15 years or more. It has even been discussed that Class Fa cable is the future for 40GBASE-T or more.
For a comparison chart of category performance standards, see the Buyer's Guide in the Resources section.
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.
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 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.