Why the future of enterprise cabling has Cat 6A written all over it

Enterprise network infrastructures are under increasing pressure as requirements build. The sheer number and diversity of connected devices and systems are exploding. Network convergence—IT/OT, power/data—is ramping up. At the same time, more resources are being pushed to the edge, extending the network further and further.

Now, more than ever, having an infrastructure platform that can efficiently address these challenges, as well as future ones, is critical. The scope and complexity of the connected enterprise will only continue to expand. There’s a lot riding on your platform selection.

At CommScope, we know a thing or two about network change, and the importance of getting it right. Our 40+ years of enterprise experience and understanding of where the technology is heading all point to the same conclusion: Category 6A cabling and connectivity. Full stop.

On this resource page, we lay out the trends, facts and rationales behind our firm belief that Cat 6A will be the predominant enabler of tomorrow’s more connected and capable enterprise network. Read through our summaries, download our resources, learn with our tools, and watch videos to explore the next sections. We invite you to examine the evidence, then draw your own conclusions.

Read on.

Rear side of a rack equipped with Cat 6A cabling

Rear side of a rack equipped with Cat 6A cabling

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The evolution of Category cabling and the future of tomorrow’s network

 

First introduced by CommScope, as SYSTIMAX® GigaSPEED® X10D, in 2004 and standardized in 2009, Category 6A remains the recommended infrastructure for modern new builds. So how did we get here?

In 2004, the industry recognized the bandwidth limitations of Category 5 and Category 6 cabling categories would severely constrain network growth and development. A major challenge was supporting higher data rates over longer distances, compared to Category 6.

Led by the IEEE 802.3an 10GBASE-T Task Force, the search for a 10 GE-capable solution was on. They began by tackling fundamental issues like return loss, crosstalk and noise from adjacent cabling channels (alien crosstalk). Their work resulted in minimum cabling channel specifications for 10GBASE-T and a new class of cabling, Class EA, otherwise known as “Augmented” Category 6. In October 2004 Cat 6A was officially born.

As new applications require better cable performance, adoption rates of Cat 6A have steadily increased. Drivers such as IoT, Wi-Fi 6/6E/7, four-pair PoE, smart lighting, building control/automation, in-building cellular, and more, will extend the uptake of Category 6A for the foreseeable future. Based on the graph, looks like the smart money is on Category 6A.

Marketshare % by category

Global copper cabling market in US $ Millions

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CAT 6A: Hard facts

Network speed vs span

Network speed vs span: How fast depends on how far

Much of the network’s design depends on where the data is generated and where it must be processed and stored. More network resources are moving to the edge while data speeds and capacity demands keep increasing beyond the capabilities of existing Category 5 and Category 6 networks.

Specifically, Category 5/6 are susceptible to channel impairments created inside the operating environment. Crosstalk, impedance mismatch, external noise, return loss and other issues cause bit errors that can reduce overall throughput. Category 6A cabling is specifically engineered to overcome these challenges, enabling networks to support 10 GE channels up to 100 meters—nearly three times longer than Category 6.

Not just any Cat 6A. CommScope’s family of Category 6A solutions provides enhanced cable and connector performance, so you can support the latest 10 GbE requirements.

Supported distance (m) per application and cabling category
Supported distance (m) per application and cabling category
Category Bandwidth Distance for 1G Distance for 10G
Cat 5e 100 MHz 100m _
Cat 6 250 MHz 100m 37m
Cat 6A 500 MHz 100m 100m
Cat 7 600 MHz 100m 100m
Cat 7A 1000 MHz 100m 100m
Cat 8 2000 MHz 100m 100m

 

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Our top ten reasons for choosing Category 6A

Based on what you’ve read thus far, we suspect you’ll agree the use case for Cat 6A is pretty strong (and even more so for CommScope Cat 6A).

In this infographic, we count down our Top 10 reasons for choosing the technology. Got a favorite that didn’t make our list? We’d love to hear it. Send us your suggestions at GlobalEnterpriseMarketing@commscope.com.

Download Infographic

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Ready for a Cat 6A deep technical dive?

Ready for a Cat 6A deep technical dive? Until now, we’ve been skimming the surface of a very deep and expansive topic. If you’re game, we invite you into the deep end to explore the various applications, developments and performance benefits of Cat 6A in greater detail.   

Watch our short video on the science of Cat 6A and what makes it physically and electrically different from Cat 5 and Cat 6.

Want to go even deeper in market trends, the growth of Cat 6A applications, the evolution of Cat 6A standards, the global uptake of the technology, and its other fascinating aspects? We lay it all out for you here in CommScope’s Cat 6A structured cabling fact file.

 

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Explore our Category Choosing Tool

Cat 6A is a robust, future-ready cabling platform—not a panacea. But is it the best choice in every situation? That depends. Based on the circumstances, some use cases may be better suited to Cat 6 or Cat 5e. So, how do you know?

CommScope has developed a handy Category Choosing Tool to help guide you in selecting the right technology based on your specific application, environment and requirements.

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CAT 6A frequently asked questions

 
Although deployment of Category 6A has been steadily increasing since 2004, there are still questions and misconceptions regarding what it can and can’t do. The following are some of the most frequently asked questions and answers—directly from the source.

Got additional questions? We’re happy to help. Shoot us an email.

Category 6A vs other Category cabling FAQs
Cat 6A and power over Ethernet (PoE) FAQs
Support of wireless applications FAQs
Cat 6A products and distance FAQs
Other questions
Questions about what Cat 6A can do?

Download Cat 6A FAQ  

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Why CommScope CAT 6A?

Let’s talk CommScope Cat 6A

Let’s talk CommScope Cat 6A

Until now, we’ve mentioned CommScope’s 6A several times but haven’t given you much detail. Let’s remedy that. After all, there are some significant differences between our Cat 6A portfolios (SYSTIMAX®, Uniprise® and NETCONNECT®) and any other Cat 6A family.  

We’ve already hit the top 10 reasons to choose Cat 6A cabling. Now here are some great reasons to make sure it’s CommScope.

Brand advantages
Solution advantages
Performance edge
  • From the first, and largest Cat 6A provider
  • Consistent quality across 150+ countries
  • Worldwide manufacturing
  • Global tech support
  • Single-source simplicity
  • End-to-end solution: cables, patch cords, connectors, outlets, panels
  • Shielded/unshielded, various fire ratings and connectors, plenum/non-plenum, low smoke zero halogen and more
  • Easy design and deployment
  • Time-tested, proven reliability
  • Multiple panel footprints
  • Preterminated options
  • AIM-enabled intelligent management
  • Enhanced cable/connector design supports latest 10 GbE requirements
  • Best-in-class insertion loss, crosstalk
  • Exceeds current ISO/IEC Class EA specification
  • Performance beyond standards
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Webinar: Why you should consider Category 6A first

Across the enterprise network, end user expectations for connectivity and performance—and the types of devices that enable them—are quickly increasing. How do you ensure your cabling infrastructure can go the distance? CommScope’s Jason Bautista, enterprise strategy solutions architect, and Matt Vincent, senior editor of Cabling Installation & Maintenance, explain why Cat 6A is a critical link between where you are and where you’re going. Watch the webinar.

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Podcast: Drilling down on Category 6A

In this podcast, CommScope Enterprise Strategy Solutions Architect Jason Bautista takes you on a deeper dive into the benefits and staying power of Category 6A cabling. Speaking with the editors of Cabling Installation & Maintenance, Jason discusses Cat 6A’s device compatibility, current and future use cases, and more.  Listen now.

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Summary

To steal an anatomical analogy, your cabling infrastructure is both the nervous and circulatory system of your enterprise building and campus network. Its function is to transport the data and power that nourish an increasingly hyperconnected ecosystem.

Just as your body’s blood vessels must adapt to handle increases in stress and natural aging, so, too, your enterprise cabling must evolve to meet the rising demands of more performance-intensive applications. We believe the demonstrations show Cat 6A cabling gives you the best chance of success. By providing a long-term platform that can support multiple technology migrations, Cat 6A helps you realize more value from your entire enterprise network investment.

With CommScope as your infrastructure partner, you can optimize the power of Cat 6A. Our SYSTIMAX, Uniprise and NETCONNECT Cat 6A portfolios ensure the product performance, technical support and global availability you need—wherever you need it.

To learn more about our Cat 6A offerings, or to get started, contact your CommScope representative.

 

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“I didn’t know Cat 6A did all that!”

Looking for a few conversation starters to use at your next office party? Try some of these few fun facts about Cat 6A and amaze your friends.

Download Infographic

Additional Resources and Case Studies