Smart Building

Finding a Category 6A System to Support Emerging Wireless Technology

Matt Baum

Every day, wireless technologies call for higher speeds and more power with Wi-Fi speeds from mobile devices expected to triple by 2023 (from 2018 speeds).


Many of the past decade’s technological advances have been made possible thanks to enhancements in wireless connectivity, reliability and bandwidth. All types of devices are being connected to networks – in healthcare, education, hospitality, manufacturing and many other industries – to gain better control, automate processes and improve communication.


From cameras and wireless access points to nurse call systems and lighting fixtures, the number of devices that rely on the network grows every day. In fact, wireless access points in enterprise environments that require Category 6A solutions are projected to grow by more than 30% through 2022.


As more devices are installed in areas above the ceiling or on the wall, modular plug terminated link (MPTL) topology allows a horizontal cable to be terminated on one end to an RJ45 plug that connects directly to a device. This supports efficient power delivery with low channel insertion loss while eliminating the need for a jack and cord to connect devices.


Small cells – a way to transmit data to and from wireless devices – are also quickly gaining traction as they improve wireless coverage and add targeted capacity indoors or outdoors. 4G LTE AdvancedPro and 5G licensed protocols require increasing numbers of small cells to provide wireless coverage that connect using Power over Ethernet (PoE).


Beneath any wireless system, however, is a wired infrastructure that must be able to support emerging wireless technology and the wireless access points, small cells and devices that connect to it. An enterprise wireless network is only as good as its cabling infrastructure (layer 0). As installation of access points and small cells increase to improve wireless coverage, the amount of pathway cabling required to support increased network capacity will increase, too.


To eliminate concerns about downtime, spotty connections or unreliable wireless service, how can you decide what type of cabling system foundation you need to support emerging wireless technology?


Ask yourself these questions:

  • Will this system support emerging wireless technology and wireless access points (specifically 802.11ac Wave 2 and Wi-Fi 6 devices)? Next-generation wireless access points have Ethernet demands that exceed 1000BASE-T, requiring a Category 6A system.

  • Are you deploying in-building small cells (mobile RAN)? These applications require systems that can support high-bandwidth wireless coverage and PoE.

  • Will there be several MPTL endpoint connections? End-to-end system reliability and simplicity are key to connecting devices to the network.

  • What will happen if your wireless goes down due to a cable or connectivity issue? Or if a network-connected security system fails? Most wireless applications can afford very little – if any – downtime and need cable and connectivity that ensure 24/7 reliability.

  • Is Power over Ethernet (PoE) involved in this application? (Will the system support power-hungry endpoint devices like security cameras, access control and building sensors?) PoE relies on Category 6A 4-pair, balanced, twisted-pair cabling for best performance due to its ability to reduce resistance and power waste.

  • Do you need channel lengths that extend beyond 100 m? (Will devices be more than 100 m away from a switch?) If you have application-specific needs that call for extended reach beyond the 100 m standard, then Category 6A cabling and connectivity that perform beyond standards are the best choice.

If you answered “yes” to a few (or more) of these questions, then you need a Category 6A system designed to support emerging wireless technology and in-building wireless while protecting against failure, extending across long distances and efficiently supporting PoE.


Now you know you need a Category 6A solution designed for in-building wireless. Excellent! What type of cable performs well in this type of environment?


Here are some features to watch for to ensure excellent in-building wireless performance.


Small Diameter

Look for a cable with a small diameter. This size reduction will make the cable lighter, resulting in a faster, easier installation (especially in tight spaces, plenum spaces and workstations that require a smaller bend radius). A small-diameter cable also takes up less room in conduit and cable trays.


Outstanding Cable Balance

Cable “balance” ensures appropriate electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) performance and reduction of interference; it’s directly related to alien crosstalk.


To be well balanced, voltage and current on each conductor of the pair must be equal in magnitude and phase. The two insulated conductors must be physically identical in terms of diameter, concentricity and dielectric material; they must also be uniformly twisted, which requires precise design and manufacturing.


A cable with outstanding balance protects networks from damaging effects of outside noise, which is essential for wireless networks so data signals can reach endpoint devices without slow speeds or downtime.


Simplified Connectivity

With more MPTL deployments connecting devices directly to enterprise networks, it pays to look for an end-to-end solution that simplifies connections and wireless infrastructure – even in above-ceiling applications. The more you can streamline the entire installation process from start to finish, the more time and money you’ll save.


Superior Crosstalk Performance

Look for a Category 6A system that offers superior crosstalk performance compared to other options. (Simple crosstalk is caused by the electromagnetic fields of one signal affecting a signal in an adjacent circuit.) Enhanced crosstalk performance means maximum uptime and ensures less data packet loss due to internal noise. You can identify systems with better crosstalk performance by looking at the system’s guaranteed performance for electrical parameters, such as NEXT and ACRF.


NEXT (near-end crosstalk) measures (in dB) the signal from one pair to another within a single link or channel. This measurement is taken at the end where the signal is sourced. The higher the NEXT, the less crosstalk received by the link or channel.


An acronym for attenuation crosstalk ratio far-end, ACRF is a calculation that subtracts insertion loss of the disturbing pair from the far-end crosstalk (FEXT) it induces in an adjacent pair. Look for a system and cable with a higher ACRF; the higher the calculation, the better the system performance.


Excellent Alien Crosstalk Performance

Alien crosstalk occurs when one cable is surrounded by many others (in a cable bundle, for example). As bandwidth increases, so does the importance of controlling this type of interference to ensure proper data transmission. Noise sensitivity increases at higher frequencies, such as 500 MHz (the highest frequency of Category 6A cabling). In other words, alien crosstalk performance is extremely important in Category 6A systems.


Alien crosstalk is measured between each pair within the “disturber” cable to each pair within the “disturbed” cable (the one being impacted). Choose a system that offers high power sum alien near-end crosstalk (PSANEXT) and power sum alien attenuation crosstalk ratio far-end (PSAACRF) performance to reduce crosstalk and channel noise.


Superior Signal-to-Noise Ratio

Your Category 6A system should offer an increased signal-to-noise ratio that can be identified by the previously mentioned parameters. Select a system that maintains signal power (excellent insertion loss performance) and minimizes noise (superior crosstalk performance), which combines to increase information capacity. During transmission, this ensures that the signal remains intact without being impacted by noise: The receiving end receives the same signal sent from the transmitting end.


Introducing the REVConnect 10GXW System

Combining the Category 6A performance you need with the Belden quality and reliability you expect, the REVConnect 10GXW System offers best-in-class noise immunity with 4 dB of PSANEXT and 10 dB of PSAACRF headroom. Belden’s superior product design and manufacturing capabilities ensure system performance that eliminates slow network speeds and maximizes uptime in wireless environments.


Combining the smallest and lightest horizontal Category 6A cable available with REVConnect Connectivity – which utilizes a single termination process for all components – REVConnect 10GXW System installation is reliable, easy and versatile. Its small diameter also maximizes the number of cables you can install within a conduit.


The system supports high-density, high-bandwidth applications and can exceed 100 m channel requirements in certain applications (maximum channel length of up to 140 m).


Common applications that call for Category 6A cabling and connectivity like the REVConnect 10GXW System include:

  • In-building Wi-Fi
  •  Indoor small cell deployment
  • Network-connected devices for smart building applications
  • Multi-gigabit applications of the future (up to 10 Gb/s)