Category 6A twisted-pair copper received much attention when it first hit the marketplace in 2005. But adoption has been slow, since the 10 gigabit per second (Gb/s) capacity of Category 6A exceeds the requirements of most LAN applications. However, times are now changing. Data rates in the enterprise continue to climb. More devices than ever are being connected. Emerging applications demand higher performance and faster speeds. And those trends haven’t escaped the notice of industry standards bodies.

Let’s look at these new applications and requirements — and see if Category 6A is the future for your network.

Emerging Applications Demand It

In the LAN today, we are starting to see bandwidth-intensive applications that require speeds beyond 100 and 1000 Mb/s. Large file transfers such as medical images, high definition streaming video, high-end graphics and surveillance video are starting to tax Category 5e and Category 6 networks. Consider that a set of medical images for a single patient totaling 9000 MB takes about a minute to download over a 1000 Mb/s network, but only seven seconds over a 10 Gb/s network. Now think of the difference this could make in an emergency.

Other emerging applications that will require or perform optimally over Category 6A include:

Next-Generation Wi-Fi: Next-generation Wave 2 Wi-Fi devices will require data rates close to 2 Gb/s in the immediate future, and 4 Gb/s in the next few years. Nearly all enterprise businesses plan to deploy next-generation Wi-Fi over that timeframe, and the best (and possibly only) viable solution to supporting it is Category 6A.

4-Pair PoE: The next-generation power over Ethernet standard (4PPoE) delivers power more efficiently using all four pairs in a cable. Spreading the load lowers the overall resistance, reducing the heat generated within the cable. Since higher temperatures adversely impact transmission performance, the workaround so far has been to de-rate the cable to shorter length, or seek out a cable with suitable insertion-loss performance.

HDBaseT: This emerging networking technology transmits uncompressed full high-definition video, audio, Ethernet, control and power up to 100m over balanced twisted-pair cabling. A newer specification also calls for up to 100 watts of power delivered over 4-pair cables for powering HDTVs and displays at distances up to 100m. Only Category 6A can handle both the power and distance requirements.

IP Convergence: Convergence continues to take hold in the enterprise, with everything from security and life-safety systems to lighting and building-automation systems connecting to the network. Category 6A has the performance to handle the increased data loads demanded by these systems.

cant ignore cat 6a bannerStandards Recommend It

In response to emerging and bandwidth-intensive applications, industry standards are beginning to recommend Category 6A cabling for all new installations. To date, these include:

  • ANSI/TIA-942-A for data centers
  • ANSI/TIA-1179 for healthcare facilities
  • ANSI/TIA-4966 for educational facilities

In addition, TIA is in the process of creating its fourth revision of ANSI/TIA-568 cabling standards for commercial buildings. The current draft recommends Category 6A for any installation, and it is highly likely that this recommendation will remain when the standard is published, expected in 2016.

Belden 10GX System Meets Market Needs

Belden offers a complete 10G solution with our 10GX System. The Belden 10GX System has been specifically designed to support the mission-critical needs of data centers, server farms, storage area networks, and campus backbones or network access nodes. Belden’s copper team has been working hard to ensure that our 10GX Solution is ready to meet emerging application demands. Make sure to check or follow @BeldenEC to learn the details of a major 10GX System product announcement on April 13th.