Over the past months, the latest round of claims about FTP (Foiled Twisted Pair) cabling systems overtaking the use of UTP (Unshielded Twiated Pair) cabling systems have hit the market again. Having experienced several iterations of this argument over the past two decades, usually as the latest network application becomes the hot topic, it is interesting to see that the fundamentals have not changed.

With the latest application being 10Gbps Ethernet, it means dusting off the reasons for and against each media.


Ultimately I think end users will sift through the case for each presented and hopefully read all the small print only to find that simply put, network electronics are designed to run over both and therefore each is applicable media.

One of the things I wish our industry could go back in time and change is the acronym UTP. Unshielded denotes something to be missing, and certainly when this type of cabling was initially used for data networks it was up against the traditional use of STP and coax cabling. But it has come a long way since then.

We should be using the term BTP – Balanced Twisted Pair, as it the balance of the system which plays a vital role whether it is UTP or FTP. Certainly I think end users would appreciate anything to help quell the FUD (Fear Uncertainty Doubt) that these debates create. As the cabling standards and the network standards really are agnostic to this whole issue, why not!!

Read CommScope's latest white paper on this important topic.

About the Author

James Donovan

James Donovan is Vice President of the CommScope Infrastructure Academy. James joined CommScope in 1993 and has held positions in Sales, Technical, Marketing, Training and Business Development and served most recently as VP of Digital and Creative Services for CommScope. James oversees the CommScope Infrastructure Academy, which is CommScope’s partner and customer training platform. Prior to joining the company, he held positions at GEC, ITT and Alcatel. He holds a Masters Degree in Engineering and a BSc Honors degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering.

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13 comments for "UTP Versus FTP? The Debate Continues."
Ricardo Diaz

I'd like more post adressing this issue. For example, some of the FUD arguments and what are the BTP responses. The list is a long one: 1.- UTP does not work in hospitals, 2.- C6 FTP supports 10G, 3.- FTP is like UTP with the improvement of shield...

Ahmed Abdallah Ibrahim

Thank for you Jamesdonovan I know FTP Cable better than UTP Cable, but i have q. "Why commscope don't make STP Cable???? Ahmed Abdallah Network Engineer CCNA & JNCIA-EX New Super Wave and Networks Authorized BusinessPartner for Systimax Solutions in Egypt a.abdellah10@gmail.com

Thomas Williams

The thing that I like about this that is said so well is that both UTP and FTP have their palce and application where they should be used. As networking professionals we should be moving forward with this in mind. I specify what is the correct solution for the end user. We mast also take into account that there is more than just FTP. There is ScTP and STP also. The one thing I beleve most of us can agree on is Shielded cabling has higher performane than a unshielded system (it is just a matter of Physics)The many myths of shielded sre out there a nd still remain today. Higher cost, harder to install, Antena effect grounding problems. If you look for something wrong Im sure you will find it

James Donovan

Thanks Ricardo, Your comments show how FUD can be created with most technologies, and hopefully the FACTs win over in the end. To me, much of the problem is that the FACTs can become very technical very quickly. It is all too easy to make claims. What I hope all of us are after are happy network users.

James Donovan

Hi Ahmed, We make many different types of cables, and can make many more. I respectfully disagree with your assumption that FTP is better than UTP. This was the point I was making, each has their attributes and should evaluated upon the application. From a CommScope perspective we have always aimed to develop and offer complete infrastructure solutions, so offering or considering just the cable does not complete the picture. The connectors and other components of the system are probably even more important in the latest high speed solutions. The solutions we offer today aim to cost effectively support the applications of our customers for the applications they have.

James Donovan

Hi Thomas, you make a great point that the FUD can apply for all cabling types not just UTP. As you rightly say, there are many versions of TP (Twisted Pair). However, the assumption that one is higher performance than the other depends on what you are measuring as the performance, this can always be adjusted to suit, as your final comment rightly highlights. I must admit when I first came out of college and landed a job in the cabling industry, I made the assumption that shielded solutions by default must be better than unshielded. However having worked with, talked to and witnessed the work of many great scientists and engineers in the cabling industry over the past 25 years, I can be very confident to state that Twisted Pair cabling has come a long way from when the three letter acronyms (UTP, FTP, STP) were defined. The pursuit has not been whether to have UTP or FTP or STP, but to optimise the characteristics of what Twisted Pair is for - to create the ultimate balanced transmission line. As you will no doubt know the presence of a shield or not alters the physics and is why FTP is NOT just a UTP with a shield around it. It is catering for the full characteristics of the transmission line that enables networks to run smoothly, and therefore is why I believe BTP is a far better representation of what a customer is after.

Thomas Williams

I agrre FTP is not just a UTP with a shield around it. Both cables are BTP. I beleive that that is what the standards now address is Balanced twisted pair cable no matter what the construction. I two have over 25 years in the industry and have worked with both Shielded and UnShielded systems. I do know that a shield does improve the overall performance of the cable on many levels. And only possibly degrades the performance of a few (back to FUD again)I take the performance as a whole not just the cable and I know I can create a cat 7 Jack with a shielded jack. But, I have problems creating a 6A UTP jack and do not see one in the future (I may be surprised I cant forsee the future that well) So from a system approach I will stick with a shielded approach for Applications greater than 10G.

James Donovan

I understand your reasoning and position especially considering you mention you are struggling to create a Cat6A UTP system. As someone working for a company that has both Cat6A UTP and FTP solutions to offer, my perspectives are different which is the beauty of an open market. Thanks for your comments.

Thomas Williams

I would suggest you read my previous comment again, I am not struggling to creat a Cat 6A UTP jack. I said I have problems, they have been solved, it is just that it took a lot of extra effort to engineer a component verified jack vs a shielded jack. I will put this more bluntly Ihave not seen or do I beleive that there will ever be a Cat 7 Component verified UTP Jack. I do know there will be and there is a Cat 7 component verified shielded jack. I would suggest we take this ofline. I am not talking and have tried not to talk about my products in peticular but the products that are out there in general. Is there independant component testing of Cat6A jacks out ther from ETL, Delta, GHMT?? if so I would love to see it.

Ahmed Abdallah Ibrahim

Hi James, really, i am very happy for your explanation about my comment. you are right, i must select the type of cable Depending on the Each project. Ahmed Abdallah Network Engineer CCNA & JNCIA-EX New Super Wave and Networks Authorized BusinessPartner for Systimax Solutions in Egypt 0020114085063

James Donovan

I think we are getting off the topic of the original blog. The question whether there will ever be a Cat7 UTP jack (I prefer never to say 'never'), or whether independent test results are available for a particular component, does not affect the ability for a solution to support 10Gbps Ethernet or any other application. However they may well be good subjects for future blogs. What I think this exchange shows is that with any debate, what one person believes, another person can view as FUD and vice versa.


Dear James, We are having a huge medical complex. Can we use UTP Cat6A cables? If not then please support with some code reference. Regards,

james donovan

There is nothing to say you cannot use Category 6A UTP. Codes are gernally agnostic as mentione din the blog post. In fact we have many successful installations highlighted in the case study section of our website that you can refer to. http://www.commscope.com/systimax/eng/support_document/case_studies/default.asp Hope it helps

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