Gigabit Performance at Peak Efficiency: It Takes Two to Tango

Ethernet CableIn 2009, Category 6 (Cat 6) cable and connectivity was able to overthrow Category 5e (Cat 5e) cable in total market share. Streaming media applications and the need to transfer large volumes of data put a strain on Cat 5e and its ability to maintain Gigabit Ethernet compared to the performance of Cat 6. Cat 6 was designed with more bandwidth using 23AWG copper at 250MHz compared to 100MHz for Cat 5e. There are many benefits of Cat 6 over Cat 5e including:

Electrical Performance:

  • There is a much improved signal-to-noise ratio (SNR)
  • Frequency of 250 MHz for Cat 6 versus 100MHz for Cat 5e that the range signal can be delivered over

Robust Design of Cat 6:

  • The Bit Error Rates (BER’s) are significantly reduced in elevated temperatures
  • Cat 6 is resistant to voltage spikes resulting from electrical equipment suddenly drawing power, and can handle twice the load of 5e products before errors are present. The general rule of thumb for EFT’s is 500V for office environments and 2000V is common in a light industrial environment. Security cameras are run markedly better over Cat 6 in a series of manufacture, distribution, and 3rd  party tests. Power over Ethernet (PoE) cabling is larger in diameter.

Future Proof with Cat 6:

  • Fully backwards compatible

So how do you achieve Gigabit performance and operate at peak efficiency? Sounds simple right? Just go out and buy a box of Cat 5e or Cat 6 cable and connectivity to install it. The answer is not that easy. You may have the greatest box of Cat 6 cable that ever existed in front of you, however, for that box of cable to achieve minimally compliant performance, or the performance it guarantees, it must be installed correctly. 

“It takes two to tango. ” For Cat 6 to operate at higher frequencies, more science and education was put into the cable. It was not enough to use a wider diameter of copper in Cat 6, but it was the science behind the design of Cat 6, such as the tight twists to reduce noise which made higher speeds, and the ability to run at peak performance possible. For the cable to keep this design intact during install, it requires highly certified low voltage technicians and a Registered Communications Distribution Designer (RCDD) on site. To achieve Gigabit Ethernet (1000 BASE-T or 1000 BASE-TX) and operate at peak efficiency you need the following:

Quality Manufacturer (Cat 6) + Quality Integrator = Gigabit Performance at Peak Efficiency

Now let’s break this equation down by looking at the aspects of each:

Quality Manufacturer:

  • Meets and exceeds standards (National ANSI/TIA-568-c.2 Category 6; UL 444 and International ISO/IEC 11801)
  • Flame Rating: Make sure the cable has a flame rating of Plenum (NFPA 262, CMP, UL Listed)
  • Warranty: Offering a warranty of 15 to 25 years if the product is free from defects in materials and workmanship. Will meet or exceed applicable ratified TIA/EIA transmission performance standards in force at the time of installation. There is also an applications warranty.
  • Integrator Certification Requirement. This guarantees that the integrator is aware of the standards and is up to date on their knowledge.

Quality Integrator:

  • Having a manufacturer certified quality integrator will ensure proper installation. Keep pairs tightly twisted up to the termination point and strip the outer jacket back no more than a ½ inch, when terminating, is very crucial to the integrity of the cable and its performance. Maintaining proper bend radius and pulling weight is also a very important factor.  Following proper procedures will ensure you receive a 15-25 year manufacturer’s warranty.
  • BICSI Member
  • Registered Communications Distribution Designers (RCDD) on staff

The choice between installing cabling yourself and hiring a certified installer is relatively important due to the high frequencies in today’s cabling.  Sending one billion bits per second over a thin copper wire is not an easy task. Cabling and connectivity, Layer 1 of the OSI Model, is the foundation and the backbone of your entire network. Ignoring this piece in your network will result in frustrating network errors and costly downtime. You are able to protect yourself with a dependable network that is certified from end to end.