Category 6 Cable

Category 6 cable, commonly referred to as Cat6, is a cable standard for Gigabit Ethernet and other network Physical Layers that are backward compatible with the Category 5/5e and Category 3 cable standards. Compared with Cat5 and Cat5e, Cat6 features more stringent specifications for crosstalk and system noise. The cable standard provides performance of up to 250 MHz and is suitable for 10BASE-T, 100BASE-TX (Fast Ethernet), 1000BASE-T/1000BASE-TX (GigabitEthernet) and 10GBASE-T (10-Gigabit Ethernet).

Whereas Category 6 cable has a reduced maximum length when used for 10GBASE-T; Category 6a cable, or Augmented Category 6, is characterized to 500 MHz and has improved alien crosstalk characteristics, allowing 10GBASE-T to be run for the same distance as previous protocols.

Like earlier cables, Category 6 cable contains four twisted wirepairs. Although it is sometimes made with 23 AWG wire, the increase inperformance with Cat6 comes mainly from better insulation. Attenuation,NEXT (near end crosstalk), and PSNEXT (power sum NEXT) in Cat6 cable andconnectors are all significantly lower than Cat5 or Cat5e, which alsouses 24 AWG wire.

Connectors use either T568A or T568B pin assignments; the choice is arbitrary provided both ends of a cable are the same.

If Cat6 rated patch cables, jacks, and connectors are not used with Cat6 wiring, overall performance is degraded to that of the cable or connector.

Because the conductor sizes are generally the same, Cat6 jacks may also be used with Cat5e cable.

Category 6 and 6a cable must be properly installed and terminated to meet specifications. Incorrect installation practices include kinking or bending the cable too tightly. The cable bend radius should be no less than 4 times the outer diameter of the cable. Incorrect termination practices include untwisting the wire pairs or stripping the outer jacket back more than 1/2 inch.

All shielded cables must be grounded for safety and effectiveness. Acontinuous shield connection maintained from end to end. Ground loopsdevelop when there is more than one ground connection and the difference in common mode voltage potential at these ground connections introduces noise into the cabling.

Category 6 cables can be identified by the printing on the side of the cable sheath.