What’s the deal with Category 6A?

By Michael Grossman

In today’s data communications markets there is a race of speed and outclassing. We saw this with the movement of Category 5 to Category 5e, Category 5e to Category 6, and now we are seeing this again with the change from Category 6 to Category 6 Augmented (Cat 6A). Many may wonder “is Category 6A worth it? Is it right for this job? Should Fiber Optic Cable be used instead?” and in short, it depends!

The purpose of standardizing Category 6A was to meet the speeds required to support a 10 gigabit per second rating. The creation of C6A standard allowed copper cable to compete with Optical Multimode 3 rated Fiber Optic Cable on the 10GBase-T stage. The Increased signal transmission from 250MHz to 500MHz required a new cable and active components to combat the increased noise and alien cross talk. Thus through use of specialized hardware which filters data with algorithms and change in cable construction Category 6A has achieved the same speeds as OM3.

Most home networks will not require the speeds that Cat 6A commands at this point in time, but one day it could be the standard. Cat 6A represents the next normal and can be seen as the future proofing option. A Category 6A based infrastructure is easier to install than a Fiber Optic system, and does not contain many of the complications that come along with installing fiber. Cat6A can be ran directly to work stations and is backwards compatible with presently installed Cat5e and Cat6 infrastructure. Cat 6A cable supports Power over Ethernet, and is more resistant to damage than its glass containing Fiber Optic counter parts. Fiber optic cable networks can be extended to much greater distances than Category 6A and does not suffer from electromagnetic interferences. So which is right for you?