All office and home local area networks rely on ethernet cables, such as: CAT5, CAT6, and moving forward we’re going to see CAT7 and even CAT8. Selecting the appropriate cabling for your network setup is crucial to ensure you have the correct bandwidth, transmission speed/data range and shielding to suit your business, environmental and network needs.
Why does this matter?
Bandwidth: The biggest difference between CAT Cables lies within the bandwidth that the cable can support for data transfer. While a CAT5 cable supports only 100MHz, a CAT8 cable can support up to 2000MHz. Essentially more capacity and more data.
Speed: Due to the ever-evolving capabilities of computing and interface speeds, it is important to have an appropriate network to handle these requirements, and at the core of the network is the cable that can handle the performance of your network needs. At the time of writing this, it is widely recommended to utilize a CAT6 or CAT6a Cable which will support speeds up to 1Gbps or even 10Gbps over short distances. Moving forward CAT7 and CAT8 Cable will offer speeds of 10Gbps and even 40Gbps across your network environment.
Crosstalk: All CATx cables are twisted-pair cables. They use copper wires, with typically 4 twisted pairs (8 wires) per cable. CAT6 features more stringent specifications than CAT5e for crosstalk and system noise. Not only does CAT6 provide significantly lower interference or Near-End Crosstalk (NEXT) in the transmission compared to CAT5e, but it also improves Equal-Level Far-End Crosstalk (ELFEXT), Return Loss (RL), and Insertion Loss (IL). The result is less system noise, fewer errors, and higher data transmission rates. CAT6A takes this one step farther: it eliminates Alien Crosstalk (A-NEXT) completely. Why is keeping crosstalk to a minimum so important? Using good-quality cable prevents connected interfaces from dropping or connecting randomly or experiencing sudden loss of connectivity. Superior cable also ensures consistent, good-quality traffic. If wire twists in a cable are inconsistent or inaccurately spaced, crosstalk and poor performance result. CAT7 and CAT8 allow even less crosstalk than CAT6A for superior performance.
Maximum Length: CAT5e and CAT6 offer lengths of up to 100m per network segment. The maximum achievable speeds should not be attempted beyond this length as you are more likely to experience packet loss. This can result in a slow or failing/completely failed connection. If it is required to cover distances longer than 100m, the signal can be amplified with repeaters or switches, however for particularly long distances it is recommended that Fibre Optic cables are used. To run 100Mb CAT5 and CAT6 is suitable, 1Gb should be transmitted over CAT6 or CAT6a, and CAT7 Cable would be required for 10Gb over 100m, whereas for 25-40Gbps speeds, at distances up to 30m or 10Gbps speeds, at distances up to 100m, a CAT8 Cable is required.
CAT6 consists of four pairs of copper wire which supports up to 10 Gbps of Ethernet connection. Normally, it supports a maximum transmission speed up to 1 Gbps within 100m. While CAT6 cable supports 37-55 meters (depending on crosstalk) when transmitting at a speed of 10 Gbps. It can transmit signals up to 250 MHz in frequency, which indicates how often the signal can pass through the cable. What’s more, it uses the RJ-45 standard connector and is backward compatible with its previous versions such as CAT5 and CAT5e.
CAT7 supports high-speed Ethernet communication up to 10 Gbps. The CAT7 cable is backward compatible with CAT6, CAT5 and CAT5e cable categories. It offers a 100-meter 4-connector channel using shielded cabling and has been designed to transmit signals at a frequency of 600 MHz
CAT7 cables require twisted wires to be fully shielded known as screen shielded twisted pair (SSTP) or screened foiled twisted pair (SFTP) wiring, which eliminates alien crosstalk while significantly improving noise resistance. Thus, it allows the user to get higher possible speeds even with longer cables
CAT8 is an Ethernet cable which differs greatly from the previous cables in that it supports a frequency of up to 2 GHz (2000 MHz) and is limited to a 30-meter 2-connector channel. While CAT8 cable requires shielded cabling as well. Most importantly, CAT8 Ethernet patch cables can support a speed of 25 Gbps or even 40 Gbps. The physical appearance of CAT8 cable is similar to lower category cables and it can be terminated in RJ45 connections or non-RJ45 connections. CAT8 cable is also backward compatible with its previous versions. Therefore, there is no problem to use it with standard CAT7 connector.