What sets a quality Category 6A cable apart from the rest? There are lots of Category 6A cables out there, but some offer better design, performance and installation than others. How can you select the one that will offer the characteristics you need? Here are some questions to ask before you invest in a Category 6A cabling system.

How easy is it to install?

Category 6A cabling often requires more twists in the copper pairs, larger splines to separate the pairs and thicker outer jackets. This leads to a cabling system that takes longer to install and terminate. Look for Category 6A cables that offer features to simplify installation. When comparing cable installation among Category 6A cables, ask yourself:

  • Is this Category 6A cable thinner and rounder than others?
  • Does it feature easy-to-remove splines and barrier tape?
  • How easy is it to separate pairs?

How big and bulky is the cable?

Because Category 6A cabling operates at frequencies twice that of Category 6 (up to 500 MHz), the cable is often bigger in diameter to better control noise and crosstalk. But increased cable size can make it difficult for the same amount of Category 6A cable to fit into a cable tray or conduit used for Category 6 cable. When comparing cable size and weight, ask yourself:

  • Are increased size and weight kept to a minimum?
  • Will there be problems fitting this Category 6A cabling into existing cable trays or conduit?

What is the bend radius?

Category 6A cables have larger ODs (overall diameters), which require a larger bend radius. This can make it difficult to route cabling to where it’s needed, as well as maintain appropriate airflow between racks. A smaller bend radius makes cable easier to route and install. When comparing the bend radius of different cabling systems, ask yourself:

  • Will the cable’s bend radius work inside wall cavities and other tight spaces?
  • Will we maintain maximum airflow between racks with this cabling system?

cant ignore cat 6a bannerCan the Category 6A cable support the full 100-meter distance?

Small-diameter Category 6A cables offer helpful installation and ease-of-use benefits, but they can also cause problems if they can’t support the full 100-meter distance per channel. If this is the case, the cable needs to be de-rated to less than the full 100-meter length. In these situations, Category 6A cable may not work with top-of-rack, end-of-row and middle-of-row configurations. When comparing Category 6A’s ability to support the full-meter distance, ask yourself:

  • Can this cable support the full 100-meter distance per channel?
  • Can we use the cabling system for top-of-rack, end-of-row or middle-of-row configurations?

Has the cabling system been recognized for innovation and excellence?

Awards aren’t everything, but industry recognition can pinpoint cabling solutions that offer performance and design improvements. When first introduced, Category 6A cabling was a bigger, heavier and delicate option. But Belden’s new 10GXS cable overcomes these challenges – as a result, it was honored with a Silver Level Innovators Award from Cabling Installation & Maintenance. Belden’s 10GXS makes 10G-capable Category 6A cabling a possibility for many data center managers who would typically deploy cable with less-than-Category-6A capability due to space constraints.