Installing Category 6A: The Future is Now
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Paul Kish, Belden’s Director of Systems & Standards
Category 6A twisted-pair copper received much attention when it first hit the marketplace in 2005. But adoption has been slow, since the 10 gigabit per second (Gb/s) capacity of Category 6A exceeds the requirements of most LAN applications. However, times are now changing. Data rates in the enterprise continue to climb. More devices than ever are being connected. Emerging applications demand higher performance and faster speeds. And those trends haven’t escaped the notice of industry standards bodies.
Emerging Applications Demand It
In the LAN today, we are starting to see bandwidth-intensive applications, requiring speeds beyond 100 and 1000 Mb/s. Large file transfers such as medical images, high definition streaming video, high-end graphics and surveillance video are starting to tax Category 5e and Category 6 networks. Consider that a set of medical images for a single patient, totaling 9000 MB, takes about a minute to download over a 1000 Mb/s network, but only seven seconds over a 10 Gb/s network. Now, think of the difference this could make in an emergency.
Other emerging applications that will require or perform optimally over Category 6A include:
- Next-generation Wave 2 Wi-Fi devices will require data rates close to 2 Gb/s in the immediate future and 4 Gb/s in the next few years. Nearly all enterprise businesses plan to deploy next-generation Wi-Fi over that timeframe; the best (and possibly only) viable solution to supporting it is Category 6A.
- The next-generation power over Ethernet standard (4PPoE) delivers power more efficiently using all four pairs in a cable. Spreading the load lowers the overall resistance, reducing the heat generated within the cable. Since higher temperatures adversely impact transmission performance the workaround, so far, has been to de-rate the cable to shorter length or seek out a cable with suitable insertion-loss performance.
- This emerging networking technology transmits uncompressed full high-definition video, audio, Ethernet, control and power up to 100m over balanced twisted-pair cabling. A newer specification also calls for up to 100 watts of power delivered over 4-pair cables powering HDTVs and displays at distances up to 100m. Only Category 6A can handle both the power, distance and noise immunity requirements.
- Convergence continues to take hold in the enterprise with everything from security and life-safety systems to lighting and building-automation systems connecting to the network. Category 6A has the performance to handle the increased data loads demanded by these systems.
Standards Recommend It
In response to emerging and bandwidth-intensive applications, industry standards are beginning to recommend Category 6A cabling for all new installations. To date, these include:
- ANSI/TIA-942-A for data centers
- ANSI/TIA-1179 for healthcare facilities
- ANSI/TIA-4496 for educational facilities
In addition, TIA is in the process of creating its fourth revision of ANSI/TIA-568 cabling standards for commercial buildings. The current draft recommends Category 6A for new installations. It is highly likely that this recommendation will remain when the standard is published, at some point, in 2016.
What you need to recommend for your networks
It is critical to choose a Category 6A solution with the following features:
- Offers high-performance for the full 100m channel; avoid products that require length de-rating!
- Offers both high performance and the ability to carry up to 100W of power
- Has the ability to dissipate heat well, so that it can maintain performance at high frequencies
- Easy to install with simple designs (no overly tight twists and extra separators), a small OD and smaller bend radius, so more can fit into conduits
- EMI shielding through use of a Faraday cage instead of shielded cable with the potential drawbacks of grounding
Belden offers a complete Category 6A solution with our 10GX System. The Belden 10GX System has been specifically designed to support the mission-critical needs of data centers, server farms, storage area networks, and campus backbones or network access nodes. The 10GX Solution is ready to meet the demands of emerging applications.
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