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CAT6A and Beyond Cabling Explained

CAT6A cabling is a 10-Gigabit Ethernet (10-GbE) over standard copper cabling. The "A" stands for "augmented" and indicates the enhanced performance of this cable compared to previous versions, such as CAT6. CAT6A Ethernet cable extends electrical specifications from 250 MHz to 500 MHz. CAT6A is backwards-compatible with CAT5e and CAT6 technology.

CAT6 vs CAT6A

CAT6A Ethernet cable offers 10 times the network speed of CAT6 and twice the bandwidth. In fact, it has enough bandwidth to accommodate automation, IoT, and artificial intelligence systems, which are becoming increasingly common in manufacturing and other sectors. CAT6A cabling supports 10-Gbps Ethernet runs at full 100 meters as well as NBASE-T multi-gig applications. It also offers improved thermal properties for Power over Ethernet (four-pair PoE is close to 100 watts).

Types of CAT6A Cable

CAT6A unshielded UTP cable is about 40% larger than CAT6 cable. The extra size (and weight) is because of better shielding on CAT6A cables, which reduces interference. CAT6A features larger copper conductors, usually 23 AWG with thicker cable jacket to minimize ANEXT. The outside diameter of CAT6A cabling 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, for example, you can run three CAT6A cables in a 3/4" conduit vs. five CAT6 cables.

CAT6A shielded F/UTP virtually eliminates the problem of ANEXT. The F indicates an outer overall foil shield that surrounds the four twisted pairs which eliminates any external alien crosstalk. When CAT6A cable is shielded, it tends to have a smaller cable diameter, whereas CAT6A UTP unshielded cable tends to have a larger cable diameter. This creates more of a distance between the individual cables and also in cabling bundles to eliminate any external alien crosstalk.

CAT6A Cable Specifications

Many cabling standards recommend CAT6A Ethernet cable for new builds, including TIA TSB 162 (for Wi-Fi), TSB 184-A (for PoE), TIA 1179 (for healthcare) and TIA 4966 (for education). CAT6A cable specification is also covered in ANSI/TIA-568-D.2 (Balanced Twisted-Pair Telecommunications Cabling and Components Standard) published in July 2018. The standard defines 10-Gigabit data transmission over a 4-connector twisted-pair copper cable for a distance of 100 meters on CAT6A copper cabling. This ensures that the system is ready to support IEEE 802.3an, the IEEE standard for 10GBASE-T.

CAT6A Uses

CAT6A Ethernet cable is good choice for high bandwidth wireless, augmented reality, artificial intelligence or any other applications that require more than 1-gigabit Ethernet speeds. CAT6A cable is backwards compatible with CAT6 and CAT5e.

CAT7 Cable

CAT6A and CAT7 shielded twisted-pair cable both support 10 Gbps, and, in practice, perform identically, although CAT7 supports more bandwidth. CAT6A costs less and is less bulky than CAT7, so it is easier to terminate. CAT7 is constructed of S/FTP (screened/foiled twisted pair) cable, which has four individually shielded pairs and an outer screen braid around all four pairs. While CAT6A is ANSI/TIA 568 recognized, CAT7 is not as of this writing. CAT7, however, complies with ISO/IEC 11801.

CAT8 Cable

The next cable level is CAT8, which is currently available and TIA recognized. CAT8 cable supports speeds of 40 Gbps at distances of up to 30 meters or 10 Gbps at distances of up to 100 meters.

Below is a comparison chart for currently available CATx cables.

CategoryStandard BandwidthMax. Data RateShieldingStandard
CAT5e100 MHz (up to 350)1000 MbpsUTP or STPANSI/TIA 568
CAT6250 MHz (up to 550)1000 MbpsUTP or STPANSI/TIA 568
CAT6A500 MHz (up to 550)10 GbpsUTP or STPANSI/TIA 568
CAT7600 MHz10 GbpsShielded onlyISO/IEC 11801
CAT82000 MHz25 Gbps or 40 GbpsShielded onlyANSI/TIA 568

Where to Find CAT6A Cables

Black Box offers a range of CAT6A bulk cable and CAT6A patch cables that are guaranteed for life. Use our Cable Selector to find the right cable for your application, or contact us at 877-877-2269 or info@blackbox.com for assistance.

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