Cat6 Vs Cat6a: Specifications and Differences

  • Last modified: September 11, 2023

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Cat6 vs Cat6a-differences

Ethernet cables are around for quite some time now. They are an integral part of any computer network. You can think of ethernet cables as electricity cables in your house. If you have poor-quality electrical cables, you’ll constantly have electrical power failures. Similarly, if you have poor quality or old ethernet cables they will not work efficiently.

Just like everything else, ethernet cables have also improved over the past few years. Currently, category 6 or Cat6 Cables are widely popular in businesses and home networks.

Cat6a is the latest reiteration of ethernet cabling. The “a” stands for augmented in cat6a. This is an improved version of its predecessor cat6. Cat6a cables are often shielded making them perfect for industrial uses.

Identifying Cat6 and Cat6a

You can identify cat6 and cat6a by their jackets. A quick way to differentiate these two cables is to note that cat6a is much thicker and bulkier than cat6. The important thing to notice is that both cables have RJ45 connectors, so always look for jackets and weights of the cables.

Wiring Structure

The latest category of cables has tightly twisted pairs of copper wires – from 4 to 10 pairs in each cable. These wires are used to transmit data, but cable length can be another factor in the way of data transmission. The more tightly twisted pairs of wires a cable has, the better data transmission would be. So, the fundamental difference between cat6 and cat6a would be their internal wiring.

Since we manufacture cat6a using more advanced technology, it offers data transmission speed up to 10 gigabits. This higher standard, known as 10GBASE-T, was also implemented to improve signal-to-noise ratio and cross-talks.

Performance Enhancements:

While both cat6 and cat6a have the same amount of data transfer speed but the major difference comes in frequency. Cat6 has a frequency of 550 MHZ, on the other hand, cat6a can transfer data to the lightning-fast speed of 650 to 750 MHZ.

This speed provides a clear edge to cat6a over cat6 in high-speed networks.

Cable Jackets: Plenum, Riser, and PVC

This is another major difference between cat6 and cat6a. Cat6 has three types of jacketing; plenum, riser, and PVC. On the other hand, cat6a has only two; plenum and riser. Both cables have different insolation as well. Cat6a has a thin inner jacket shielding its twisted pair which is called shielded twisted pairs or STP. Whereas, cat6 has unshielded twisted pair wiring or UTP.

Extra shielding helps increase the reliability of cat6a. It blocks out interference in the areas that may suffer from heavy electromagnetic interference. Small businesses and home networks mostly use unshielded cables. We use shielded cables on industrial levels.

Maximum Lengths:

For category 6 cables, maximum lengths depend on network speed and cross-talks. If you have a low-speed network, the maximum length of cable is 100 meters or 330 feet, with 90% of that length being used for data transmission and the rest is for connections.

In high-speed networks with ideal crosstalk conditions, the cat6 cable length is 55 meters. As compared to this, the Cat6a Cable length is 100 meters for high-speed networks.

Cat6 and Cat6a: In a nutshell

Both cat6 and cat6a are useful in their own ways. If you are looking to set up your network at an industrial level, cat6a is an ideal choice for you. Cat6 works perfectly for small businesses and home networks. You can buy premium quality ethernet cables from NewYork Cables at affordable prices.

Specification Cat5e Cat6 Cat6a
Cable Jacket Plenum, Riser & PVC Plenum, Riser & PVC Plenum & Riser
Wire Gauge 24-AWG 23-AWG 23-AWG Highly Twisted
Frequencies 350 MHZ 550 MHZ 750 MHZ
Installation Temp 0°C to 60°C 0°C to 60°C 0°C to 60°C
Pairs 4 Twisted Pairs 4 Twisted Pairs 4 Twisted Pairs
Package Easy Pull Box Easy Pull Box Wood Spool
Colors Black, Blue, White, Red, Green, Yellow Black, Blue, White, Red, Green, Yellow Black, Blue, White, Red, Green, Yellow
Written By:

Ryan, a seasoned networking professional with over a decade of experience. He is passionate about all-things tech and avidly reads IT journals.

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