Difference Between Cat6 and Cat6A

The Gigabit Ethernet cabling has seen many revolutionary changes in the last few decades. Different types of cables are introduced in the market by different manufacturers. Each of them comes with different features and structures.

Especially, a newer version of cable is introduced in the market under category 6 known as Cat6a cable. It is an updated version of its previous variant Cat6. The name Cat6a defines itself as “a” for “Augmented” and “Cat” for “Category”.

Now the question arises, what are those augmented features in Cat6a Ethernet cable? It offers twice a speed for data transmission with enhanced bandwidth capacity. The Cat6a Ethernet cable comes with a bandwidth of 500MHZ as compared to Cat6’s 250MHz. With that, it is capable of performing well against interference factors like crosstalk and EMI.

The Cat6a cable is a reliable source of delivering high data transmission speeds up to a longer distance. With that, it has some other advanced features as well which we will discuss below that prove its superiority over Cat6 cable.

Some Noticeable Differentiating Features

Conductor Wires Structure

The advanced networking cables generally possess firmly twisted pairs of copper wires. Usually, we find 4 pairs of twisted pairs of conductor wires in these modern-day Ethernet cables.  These wires are utilized for data transmission. The length and impedance of the cable can hinder the information transmission process.

The twists on conductor wires play a vital role in their performance. A cable with a firmly twisted set of conductor wires can resolve both issues of performing well against interference factors as well as delivering data to larger distances effectively. Therefore, one of the greatest differences between the older variants and newer variants of Ethernet cables is their wiring structures.

The Cat6a cable comes with a firmly twisted pair of conductor wires that makes it more reliable and efficient in comparison to the Cat6 cable. Therefore, we can say that the wiring structure puts a great influence on the performance of the cables.

Impact of Higher Bandwidth

The Cat6 and Cat6a offer the same data transfer speeds of 10Gbps. The major difference comes in the shape of their bandwidth capacities. The Cat6a comes with a double bandwidth frequency of 500MHz as compared to Cat6’s 250MHz.  

The higher bandwidth frequency allows the Cat6a cable to transmit data with more reliability to greater distances. Therefore, it is renowned to transmit data at a speed of 10Gbps up to a distance to 100meters efficiently whereas, the older version of category 6 Ethernet cable transfers data at the same speed up to a distance of 50 meters only. 

Shielded & Unshielded Variants

Another comparable but reasonably small distinction found in the variants of Cat6 and Cat6a cables is their insulation types. Some variants come with additional shielding in the form of foil covering its inner twisted pair of conductor wires. The Ethernet cable variants that come with this extra shielding are known as shielded twisted pair (STP) cables. The ones in which this extra shielding layer is not present, are known as unshielded twisted pair (UTP) cables.

Most of the Cat6 variants available in the market are unshielded ones. Although, you will find few that possess this extra shielding feature as well. In contrast, almost all the Cat6a cable variants possess this extra shielding feature. You will find very few UTP variants of Cat6a.

This extra shielding features greatly enhance the performance of the cable against interference factors such as EMI and crosstalk. In other words, it improves the reliability of the cable. Therefore, it is recommended to install a shielded variant of Cat6a cable at locations where interference factors are high.    

The normal workspace or private venture client will seldom require a shielded Ethernet cable. It is most likely used in huge commercial networks like in hospitals, schools, and others.

Durability

The newer versions of Ethernet cable like Cat6a come with central column support and extra shielding features. These features make the Cat6a cable heavier and bulkier in comparison to the Cat6 cable. This is the reason why cable trays used for the installation of Ethernet cables are not able to hold as many Cat6a cables in them as they can hold Cat6 cables.

However, Ethernet cables do appear to be solid outwardly but their internal functions are delicate. Therefore, it is significant not to twist cables excessively, as this can harm inside wiring and reduce their efficiency hugely.

The bend radius is normally mentioned in the cable specifications. It shows how much a cable can be twisted. If the bend radius of a cable is high, the less you can bend it. A flexible cable comes with a lower bend radius.

The structure of Cat6a cable makes them heavy and bulkier. Mostly, they come with a larger bend radius than Cat6 cables. This means that Cat6a cables are less flexible in comparison to Cat6 cables. You cannot bend Cat6a cables too much during their installation.        

Comparison Table

  Cat6 Cat6a
Frequency 0-250MHz min- 550MHz Max Up to 750MHz
Data Transfer Speeds 1Gbps up to a distance of 100 meters 10Gbps up to a distance of 55 meters 10Gbps up to a distance of 33 meters in high interference conditions. 10Gbps in all conditions up to a distance of 100meters
Standard Gauge in Conductors 22-24 AWG 16-20 AWG
Connectors RJ45 RJ45

Conclusion

In this article, we have discussed different features of Cat6a and Cat6. By analyzing those features, we conclude that Cat6a cables are more efficient and reliable. They come with faster data transfer speed which is the main concern in modern-day network designing.

With that, they come with extra shielding on their inner wiring. This makes them highly efficient and effective against interference factors like EMI and crosstalk. So, they are a better option to be installed at locations where interference factors are high. The only drawback we see in Cat6a cables is that they are less flexible as compared to Cat6. Therefore, if you are installing an Ethernet cable at a location where you need to bend them extensively then Cat6a cable is not the right option for you. You must go for Cat6 cable at such locations.

Related Tags: Cat6 Plenum Rated, Cat6a Plenum 1000ft, Cat6 Plenum Pure Copper

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