Among all twisted-pair ethernet cables, Cat6 is the most popular choice. It is produced with a plenum and a riser jacket as well as in shielded and unshielded variants. The shielding and plenum jacketing of the Cat6 Ethernet cable are some of its best features whereas its bulkiness and tendency to be hard to install are some of its worst features.
In this blog, we will look into the best and worst features of the Cat6 ethernet network cable. We will also compare its Cat6 plenum and Cat6 riser variants to decide which one is the best. The cost of the plenum-rated cable is higher but it does not necessarily mean better performance. For better or best performance, there are multiple factors that are determinants. And we shall see what those features are and how they affect the performance of the Cat6 cable. Read on to find out.
Cat6 Ethernet Cable
Cat6 stands for category 6 which is standardized by IEEE to have up to a minimum of 350 MHz bandwidth and 1 GBit/s data transfer rate over 100 meters. The cable also has to have 23 AWG twisted-pairs conductors – 8 conductors in total and 4 pairs.
This Cat6 ethernet cable however performs beyond the industry standards and supports up to a 550 MHz bandwidth capacity. As compared to other ethernet cables such as the Cat5e and Cat6a, it is also fairly easy to install.
It supports all sorts of ethernet applications from fast ethernet to gigabit ethernet and even 10 Gigabit ethernet at 100 meters. Moreover, it is terminated in RJ45 male connectors and keystone female jacks that are compatible with the 23 AWG wires. The cable is terminated as per the EIA/TIA T568 A and T568B wiring schemes.
Cat6 Plenum vs Cat6 Riser
Cat6 plenum is just like any category 6 ethernet cable except for the fact that it comes with a communications multipurpose plenum jacket. A plenum jacket is made from LSZH (low smoke zero halogens) materials which are highly resistant to heat and are able to withstand extremely uncertain environmental conditions.
Cat6 Riser is identified by its communications multipurpose riser jacket. It is designed for indoor vertical installations. For example in between walls, between floors, and in elevator shafts, the riser-rated Cat6 cable can be run. Note that it can emit toxic smoke which is why it should never be installed in indoor open spaces. However, the cable can be installed in outdoor runs. The plenum Cat6 cable can also be installed outdoors because it can easily withstand outdoor extreme weather conditions.
Cat6 Ethernet Cable Best Features
The best features of the Cat6 ethernet cable are its shielding, cost, and easy installation. Let’s take a look at all of them in detail.
The Cat6 cable can deliver up to 1 GBit/s over 100 meters. And it supports all high-speed ethernet applications including PoE, PoE+/++, etc. You can use it in both residential and commercial networks.
Shielding in the Cat6 cable is an extra layer of metal foil or wire mesh that is integrated beneath the cable jacket. In some cases, Cat6 cables have both the foil and wire mesh shielding.
Shielding in the cables either reflects EMI or absorbs it keeping the signal transmission clean and crisp. Also, note that not all Cat6 cables have shielding around their conductor pairs.
Cat6 Cable Jacketing
As mentioned already, plenum and riser jacketing are the main types in which the cable is produced. Both types of jacketing materials are quite soft and make it easy to install the cable. Whether you are installing it indoors or outdoors, the Cat6 jacketing will make it easy and safe.
The cable is quite affordable, given the cost of its competitive cables. Not only is this cable affordable, but it also comes with warranties in most cases. Moreover, the everlasting performance of the cable makes it the best value for money product. Because it is likely to last for a minimum of 10 years, its cost will definitely be returned in the form of service.
Cat6 Ethernet Cable Worst Features
10 Gigabit Speed
The Cat6 cable does support 10-gigabit performance speed but only over up to 50 meters. If you run the cable at lengths longer than 50 meters, it will support a maximum of 1 GBit/s. If you are looking to use 10G ethernet over long distances on this cable, it is not a good idea and that is its worst feature.
If you buy the Cat6 cable with solid copper conductors, you might find it tricky to install the cables. Solid copper cables are a bit tricky to install because they are made from a single piece of metal and are therefore a bit stiffer.
Is Cat6 Cable Worth Buying?
With all its worst and best features, the Cat6 ethernet cable is one of the best options to buy. If you want to build a future-proof LAN network, no other ethernet cable can be better for the task than the Cat6. It comes in a variety of options to choose from, it is affordable, and lasts for a minimum of 10 years.
How and Where to Buy Cat6 Ethernet Cable?
Buying the Cat6 cable is easy and always buy it from a well-reputed seller.
In order to buy the cable, you will need to determine your networking requirements. Then you will choose a cable appropriate for the task. For instance, if you are going to use the cable in a home network, you probably don’t need the shielded variants. And if you are going to use it in an office with a crowded network, you should get the shielded Cat6 for best results.
And always buy the cable with pure copper conductors. They are safer, easier to work with and perform much better than the CCA cables.
In any case, buying and using the Cat6 cable has more pros than it has cons. It is affordable, supports decent speed, and is everlasting. What more does one need in an ethernet cable?