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...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...10-Gigabit Ethernet.
10-Gigabit Ethernet, sometimes called 10-GbE or 10 GigE, is the latest improvement on the Ethernet standard, ratified in 2003 for fiber as the 802.3ae standard, in 2004 for twinax cable... more/see it now
as the 802.3ak standard, and in 2006 for UTP as the 802.3an standard.
10-Gigabit Ethernet offers ten times the speed of Gigabit Ethernet. This extraordinary throughput plus compatibility with existing Ethernet standards has resulted in 10-Gigabit Ethernet quickly becoming the new standard for high-speed network backbones, largely supplanting older technologies such as ATM over SONET. 10-Gigabit Ethernet has even made inroads in the area of storage area networks (SAN) where Fibre Channel has long been the dominant standard. This new Ethernet standard offers a fast, simple, relatively inexpensive way to incorporate super high-speed links into your network.
Because 10-Gigabit Ethernet is simply an extension of the existing Ethernet standards family, it’s a true Ethernet standard—it’s totally backwards compatible and retains full compatibility with 10-/100-/1000-Mbps Ethernet. It has no impact on existing Ethernet nodes, enabling you to seamlessly upgrade your network with straightforward upgrade paths and scalability.
10-Gigabit Ethernet is less costly to install than older high-speed standards such as ATM.
And not only is it relatively inexpensive to install, but the cost of network maintenance and management also stays low—10-Gigabit Ethernet can easily be managed by local network administrators.
10-Gigabit Ethernet is also more efficient than other high-speed standards. Because it uses the same Ethernet frames as earlier Ethernet standards, it can be integrated into your network using switches rather than routers. Packets don’t need to be fragmented, reassembled, or translated for data to get through.
Unlike earlier Ethernet standards, which operate in half- or full-duplex, 10-Gigabit Ethernet operates in full-duplex only, eliminating collisions and abandoning the CSMA/CD protocol used to negotiate half-duplex links. It maintains MAC frame compatibility with earlier Ethernet standards with 64- to 1518-byte frame lengths. The 10-Gigabit standard does not support jumbo frames, although there are proprietary methods for accommodating them.
Fiber 10-Gigabit Ethernet standards
There are two groups of physical-layer (PHY) 10-Gigabit Ethernet standards for fiber:
LAN-PHY and WAN-PHY.
LAN-PHY is the most common group of standards. It’s used for simple switch and router
connections over privately owned fiber and uses a line rate of 10.3125 Gbps with 64B/66B
The other group of 10-Gigabit Ethernet standards, WAN-PHY, is used with SONET/SDH
interfaces for wide area networking across cities, states—even internationally.
10GBASE-SR (Short-Range) is a serial short-range fiber standard that operates over two multimode fibers. It has a range of 26 to 82 meters (85 to 269 ft.) over legacy 62.5-µm 850-nm fiber and up to 300 meters (984 ft.) over 50-µm 850-nm fiber.
10GBASE-LR (Long-Range) is a serial long-range 10-Gbps Ethernet standard that operates at ranges of up to 25 kilometers (15.5 mi.) on two 1310-nm single-mode fibers.
10GBASE-ER (Extended-Range) is similar to 10GBASE-LR but supports distances up to 40 kilometers (24.9 mi.) over two 1550-nm single-mode fibers.
10GBASE-LX4 uses Coarse-Wavelength Division Multiplexing (CWDM) to achieve ranges of 300 meters (984 ft.) over two legacy 850-nm multimode fibers or up to 10 kilometers (6.2 mi.) over two 1310-nm single-mode fibers. This standard multiplexes four data streams over four different wavelengths in the range of 1300 nm. Each wavelength carries 3.125 Gbps to achieve 10-Gigabit speed.
In fiber-based Gigabit Ethernet, the 10GBASE-SR, 10GBASE-LR, and 10GBASE-ER LAN-PHY standards have WAN-PHY equivalents called 10GBASE-SW, 10GBASE-LW, and 10GBASE-EW. There is no WAN-PHY standard corresponding to 10GBASE-LX4.
WAN-PHY standards are designed to operate across high-speed systems such as SONET and SDH. These systems are often telco operated and can be used to provide high-speed data delivery worldwide. WAN-PHY 10-Gigabit Ethernet operates within SDH and SONET using an SDH/SONET frame running at 9.953 Gbps without the need to directly map Ethernet frames into SDH/SONET.
WAN-PHY is transparent to data—from the user’s perspective it looks exactly the same as LAN-PHY.
10-Gigabit Ethernet over Copper
10GBASE-CX4 is a standard that enables Ethernet to run over CX4 cable, which consists of four twinaxial copper pairs bundled into a single cable. CX4 cable is also used in high-speed InfiniBand® and Fibre Channel storage applications.
Although CX4 cable is somewhat less expensive to install than fiber optic cable, it’s limited to distances of up to 15 meters. Because this standard uses such a specialized cable at short distances, 10GBASE-CX4 is generally used only in limited data center applications such as connecting servers or switches.
10GBASE-Kx is backplane 10-Gigabit Ethernet and consists of two standards. 10GBASE-KR is a serial standard compatible with 10GBASE-SR, 10GBASE-LR, and 10GBASE-ER. 10GBASE-KX4 is compatible with 10GBASE-LX4. These standards use up to 40 inches of copper printed circuit board with two connectors in place of cable. These very specialized standards are used primarily for switches, routers, and blade servers in data center applications.
10GBASE-T is the 10-Gigabit standard that uses the familiar shielded or unshielded copper UTP cable. It operates at distances of up to 55 meters (180 ft.) over existing Category 6 cabling or up to 100 meters (328 ft.) over augmented Category 6, or “6a,” cable, which is specially designed to reduce crosstalk between UTP cables. Category 6a cable is somewhat bulkier than Category 6 cable but retains the familiar RJ-45 connectors.
To send data at these extremely high speeds across four-pair UTP cable, 10GBASE-T uses sophisticated digital signal processing to suppress crosstalk between pairs and to remove signal reflections.
10-Gigabit Ethernet Applications
> 10-Gigabit Ethernet is already being deployed in applications requiring extremely
> As a lower-cost alternative to Fibre Channel in storage area networking (SAN)
> High-speed server interconnects in server clusters.
> Aggregation of Gigabit segments into 10-Gigabit Ethernet trunk lines.
> High-speed switch-to-switch links in data centers.
> Extremely long-distance Ethernet links over public SONET infrastructure.
Although 10-Gigabit Ethernet is currently being implemented only by extremely high-volume users such as enterprise networks, universities, telecommunications carriers, and Internet service providers, it’s probably only a matter of time before it’s delivering video to your desktop. Remember that only a few years ago, a mere 100-Mbps was impressive enough to be called “Fast Ethernet.”
Black Box Explains...10-GbE, CAT6A, and ANEXT.
The IEEE released the 802.3an 10GBASE-T standard in June 2006. This standard specifies 10-Gbps data transmission
over four-pair copper cabling. 10-Gigabit Ethernet (10-GbE) transmission includes up to 37 meters of... more/see it nowCAT6 cable (with installation mitigation techniques), 100 meters of Augmented Category 6 (CAT6A) UTP or F/UTP cable or 100 meters
of S/FTP CAT7/Class F cable.
CAT6A is the ANSI/TIA 10-Gigabit Ethernet (10-GbE) over copper standard. Its requirements are covered in ANSI/TIA-568-C.2 (Balanced Twisted-Pair Communications Cabling and Components Standard) published in August 2009. It defines 10-Gigabit data transmission over a 4-connector twisted-pair CAT6A copper cable for a distance of 100 meters.
Category 6A cabling is designed to support next-generation applications, including the transfer of large amounts of data at high speeds, up to 10 Gbps. CAT6A extends electrical specifications to 500 MHz from 250 MHz for CAT6 cabling. CAT6A cables are fully backward compatible with previous categories, including CAT6 and 5e. Category 6A is also designed to support bundled cable installations up to 100 meters and PoE+ low-power implementations. The standard includes the performance parameter, Alien Crosstalk (ANEXT). Because of its higher performance transmission speeds and higher MHz rating, CAT6A cable needs to be tested for external noise outside the cable, which wasn’t a concern with previous cabling categories. CAT6A UTP also has a much larger diameter than previous cables.
Alien crosstalk (ANEXT) is a critical and unique measurement in 10-GbE systems. Crosstalk, measured in 10/100/1000BASE-T systems, is the mixing of signals between wire pairs within a cable. Alien Crosstalk, in 10-GbE systems, is the measurement of the unwanted signal coupling between wire pairs in different and adjacent cables or from one balanced twisted-pair component, channel, or permanent link to another.
The amount of ANEXT depends on a number of factors, including the type of cable, cable jacket, cable length, cable twist density, proximity of adjacent cables, and connectors, and EMI. Patch panels and connecting hardware are also affected by ANEXT.
With Alien Crosstalk, the affected cable is called the victim cable. The surrounding cables are the disturber cables.
There are a number of ways to mitigate the effects of ANEXT in CAT6A runs. 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 that 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. CAT6A UTP cable needs to be tested for ANEXT. This is a complex and time-consuming process in which all possible wire-pair combinations need to be tested for ANEXT and far-end ANEXT. It can take 50 minutes to test one link in a bundle of 24 CAT 6A UTP cables.
To virtually eliminate the problem of ANEXT, you can use CAT6A F/UTP cable. The F indicates an outer foil shield encasing four unshielded twisted pairs. This cable is also a good choice when security is an issue because it doesn’t emit signals. In addition, CAT6A F/UTP cable works well in noisy environments with a lot of EMI/RFI.
Installation of CAT6A F/UTP is simpler, too, because the cable features a smaller outside diameter than CAT6A UTP. Its construction makes it easier to pull and more resilient. The cable also has a smaller diameter so you can run more cables in a conduit or pathway, and have greater patch panel port density.
For more information, see the CAT6A F/UTP vs. UTP: What You Need to Know white paper in the Resources section at blackbox.com.
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.
Black Box Explains...Alien crosstalk.
Alien crosstalk (ANEXT) is a critical and unique measurement in 10-GbE systems. Crosstalk, used in 10/100/1000BASE-T systems, measures the mixing of signals between wire pairs within a cable. Alien Crosstalk,... more/see it nowin 10-GbE systems, 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 Alien Crosstalk.
With Alien Crosstalk, the affected cable is called the disturbed or victim cable. The surrounding cables are the disturber cables.
Black Box Explains...Augmented Category 6 (CAT6A).
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.