Cat 5e vs Cat 6 vs Cat 6a Phone/Computer cabling

 In Cabling, How To

1. Cat 5e vs Cat 6 vs Cat 6a Phone/Computer cabling

There are several types of Cat 5e, Cat 6 and Cat 6a phone and computer cabling.  How do you decide what type of cabling you need?  Making the wrong decision can be expensive to fix later or limit what type of technology you can support.

Cat 5e – Cat 5e is commonly used for equipment thatrequires 10/100 Meg Ethernet connections.Many companies still use Cat 5e cabling and it works fine for their needs as long as they never need 1 GB data connections.  One reason that many customers still choose Cat 5e cabling is that few people have Internet speeds that exceed 100 MB, or computer/server applications that require 1GB connections.  However, the cost difference between Cat 5e and Cat 6 cabling has become so small that many customers are simply upgrading to Cat 6 cabling anyway.

Cat 6 –  Cat 6 supports higher data speeds including data devices that have 10/100/1000 (1 GB) Ethernet ports.  Most computers and data switches today come equipped with 1GB NIC ports which work optimally with Cat 6 cabling.  As Internet connections continue increasing and the need for downloading more content also grows, most companies want to future-proof their business by installing Cat 6.

Cat 6a -Cat 6asupports even higher data rates of 10 GB.  Some customers want the ultimate future proofing of Cat 6a cable to ensure they have what they need for the future, but due to the cost of this cabling, data switches and devices, most people simply cannot justify the cost at this time.  However, there are some areas where companies should consider the possibility for Cat 6a:

Access Points – some newer access points will require the increased bandwidth of 10 GB to work optimally, so customers may want Cat 6a cabling for these devices.

Servers – connections between servers and data switches can take advantage of the lower cost of Cat 6a over fiber for connectivity.

IP Lighting – an emerging trend is to replace traditional high-voltage lights with low-voltage IP lighting, which can operate over Cat 6a cabling.

2. PlenumvsPVC

In addition to deciding whether you need Cat 5e, Cat 6 or Cat 6a cabling, you may have questions about usingPlenum vs PVC (non-Plenum) cabling.

Plenum, or low-smoke cabling is required by many cities for use in all or some buildings.  It is important to check local codes to see what is required in your area. If your project involves a General Contractor (GC), they can normally tell you what type of cabling is required.  PVC cabling is much less expensive and easier to work with, but can usually only be used in ceilings with ducted-air return.

3. Single vs Dual Cabling

Many customers struggle with the decision on whether to run separate cabling for phones and computers (dual cabling) vs installing a single cable to be shared by both technologies.  Many of the old technical concerns with sharing a single cable run for phones/computers have been solved by installing high-quality cable correctly, using enterprise-grade PoE data switches, and deploying higher-quality VoIP phones.  However, many companies still want the security of a separate cable for future expansion, flexibility and management.

4.Wired vs Wireless

Many organizations are asking whether physical cable runs are necessary anymore with advances in wireless networks.  While wireless network speeds and security have improved dramatically, most still cannot equal the throughput speed of physical Cat 5e, Cat 6 or Cat 6a cable runs, so often, customers install physical cabling and wireless networks.Additionally most phones do not work over wireless WiFi, but some newer models have built-in WiFi ability.

Call your ComRes representative today to help you decide on what type of cabling and other technology standards for your business!

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