Data Cabling Technology
Advances in engineering have turned simple voice and data cabling into somewhat of a technological marvel over the past decade. Requirements for bandwidth have been steadily increasing and handling all of this extra traffic has required precision design and implementation when it comes to copper technology.
Cost versus productivity must now be weighed by IT specialists to ensure that any data cabling chosen for a specific project is up to the task. Planning for the future is a consideration that will save many headaches and a lot of capital when it comes to any aspect of an IT network. This is no different when it comes to your data cabling, as there are many different types with many different specifications.
Since the deprecation of both Category 3 and Category 5 data cabling, Cat 5e has now become the minimum standard in IT networking infrastructure. Networks usually rely on 4-pair UTP (unshielded twisted pair) data cabling, though many industrial applications will have to implement the use of STP (shielded twisted pair) in order to deflect any EMI (electro-magnetic interference).
Running at 100 MHz, Cat 5e data cabling is specified with a top rating of 1000Base-T meaning that with all four cable pairs it can transmit up to a gigabit of data per second. In environments running either 10Base-T (10Mb/s) or 100Base-T (100Mb/s) the same cable is used, but generally only two of the pairs are utilized.
Though it’s now usually only used in horizontal pieces of the network, Cat 5e data cabling is an excellent choice for voice applications or networks with low current and future bandwidth needs. It’s cheap and reliable, ultimately meaning that it will still be around for years to come.
The standard for Gigabit Ethernet is Cat 6 UTP, which provides performance of up to 250 MHz and the ability to support 10GBase-T (10Gb/s). Cat 6 is generally more than adequate for both horizontal and backbone applications, depending on the number of runs that must be supported vertically. Applications with larger than normal volumes of data congestion will need to support their IT backend with multimode and/or single mode fiber allowing for a smoother distribution of information.
The main advantage that Cat 6 data cabling has over Cat 5e is the reduced allowance for near end crosstalk (NEXT), which is the unintentional transfer of EMI from one pair of wires to a neighbouring pair in the same cable. Since this interference can lead to the corruption of data, an overall reduction in NEXT provides information with a cleaner path to travel and therefore Cat 6 data cabling is able to support larger volumes of transfer in shorter periods of time.
When pushing Cat 6 to its boundaries with 10GBase-T, maximum length recommendations are reduced to 55m from the normal 100m recommended for 1000Base-T. Even with this reduction in length, electronic testing is recommended to ensure that alien crosstalk (AXT) is kept to a minimum. AXT is similar to NEXT except that the EMI originates from neighbouring cables as opposed to internal wire pairs. In hostile AXT environments the recommended length for Cat 6 data cabling is further reduced to 37m when being utilized for 10GBase-T.
The solution for overcoming AXT and pushing 10GBase-T to a maximum length of 100m has been achieved through the advancement of Augmented Cat 6 data cabling. Cat 6a is able to push its performance up to 500MHz, which is twice that of Cat 6 and is able to do so with minimal AXT.
The main issue when trying to push Cat 6 into 10GBase-T performance is that at higher frequencies there are large amounts of alien noise exhibited, resulting in a reduced maximum length and the need for electronic testing to ensure reliability. Cat 6a data cabling has improved specifications which eliminate these issues allowing it to run the full 100m without the need for any sort of testing.
Cat 6a is extremely high performance data cabling suitable for IT networks that need superior data quality transferred in large quantities. Many applications including data centers, software developers, and production studios can greatly increase both the productivity and reliability of their infrastructure by implementing this superbly engineered data cabling.
The Future of Data Cabling
The technology and requirements concerning IT network infrastructure will be ever changing and improving. Since the release of Cat 6a engineers have developed both Cat 7 and Cat 7a data cabling, but the TIA (Telecommunications Industry Association) has refused to set specifications outlining performance guidelines. Instead, the TIA has opted to work directly on specs for the next generation of high performance data cabling which is Category 8.
Set to operate with frequencies of up to 2GHz, Cat 8 will be able to run at speeds of 40GBase-T for up to 50m which will help establish peak performance conditions for larger applications in addition to lowering backend infrastructure costs for medium sized networks.
Cat 8 data cabling will still use standard RJ45 components, as opposed to Cat 7 which needs a specialized connector in order to help with performance issues. Unfortunately, at this time, design specifications state that Cat 8 data cabling will only be available with partial or full shielding, as 40GBase-T performance just won’t be possible in an unshielded environment due to AXT complications.
Data Cabling Summary
Moore’s Law has paved the way for IT technology and engineers have been tirelessly working to ensure that there is adequate infrastructure available to move all the information involved. Data cabling has come a long way over the years and with all of these advancements comes the need for specialists who understand all of the variables involved. There is a delicate balancing act when it comes to weighing the options for future proofing your network while still having a concern for ROI versus productivity.
The data cabling you provide your business will play a major part in your teams ability to access the information highway. After all, time is money and with speed comes efficiency. At Datamax, we will help to assess your unique requirements and determine the best fit for both you and your budget.