Industry standards that previously recommended Category 6A cabling only for data centres now recommend it for most LAN installations as well, due to applications demanding higher performance, more bandwidth, faster speeds and low latency.
Category 6 cables support Gigabit Ethernet data rates of 1 gigabit per second. They can accommodate 10 Gigabit Ethernet connections over a limited distance—164 feet for a single cable. Cat 6 cable contains four pairs of copper wire and uses all the pairs for signalling in order to obtain its high level of performance.
The Cat 6 standard cable was released in the year 2002 according to the Telecommunications Industry Association’s specifications.
The Category 6 Augmented cable standard, or Cat 6A, was created to further improve the performance of Cat 6 Ethernet cables. Using Cat 6A enables 10 Gigabit Ethernet data rates over a single cable run up to 328 feet; Cat 6 supports 10 Gigabit Ethernet only up to 164 feet of cable length. With the higher performance, Cat 6A cables generally cost more than Cat 6, and they are slightly thicker. Cat 6A still uses the standard RJ-45 connectors.
As with all other types of twisted pair EIA/TIA cabling, individual Cat 6 cable runs are limited to a maximum recommended length of 328 feet for their nominal connection speeds. Cat 6 cabling supports 10 Gigabit Ethernet connections, but not at this full distance.
Both Cat 6 and Cat 6A cables are backwards compatible, meaning Cat 6 cables can be used in conjunction with Cat 5, Cat 5E, and even older Cat3 cables and equipment.
One of the applications that will benefit from Cat 6A cable is the next generation Wi-Fi, along with the IEEE 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6) wireless standard, scheduled for release in 2020. This is set to alleviate the frustration associated with network overuse. The goal of this new standard is to improve average throughput per user by a factor of at least four as compared to IEEE 802.11ac, the current standard. Cabling standards address this future need by recommending two runs of cat 6A cabling during the installation of wireless access points.
Additional applications that will benefit from Cat 6A:
- Current 4G networks to be ready for higher data rates
- Increased data and file-sharing capabilities
- Applications with large bandwidth requirements