Every network design is as unique as a snowflake, and so are the components that make it up. When setting up a network, you have a laundry list of decisions to make: hubs, switches, routers, and so forth. It’s important to set up your network so that it can scale as you add more to it, and will not become obsolete before you are ready to upgrade. On your long list of network design decisions you have to make are the ethernet cables that connect it all together.
Your network will most likely be set up with CAT5 cables, CAT5e cables, or CAT6 cables; the distinction between these cables might seem trivial, but you won’t think that if you make the wrong choice. If you get us going on the exciting subject of network ethernet cables, we might never stop talking. In order to avoid that awkward exchange where you try to quietly inch yourself away from us to get out of the cable conversation, we’re going focus on one aspect of fiber optic cables today: CAT6 cables. Stand by for all the things you never realized you didn’t know about CAT6 cables.
CAT6 Cables and All the Things You Need to Know About Them
- CAT6 Cables, What is it Good For? Absolutely Everything!
The real appeal to building your network with CAT6 cables is that the are backward compatible with legacy equipment as well as future proof, so that they’re compatible with technology that have communication speeds we haven’t even seen yet. In other words, if you still have a dot matrix printer (but…why?) that was created in the era of CAT3 cables, don’t worry, your CAT6 cables will be able to send data between your computer and your archaic technology. Meanwhile, if you are creating a fancy new Gigabit ethernet network and want to — one day — plug in technology that goes up to 1000 megabits per second, well CAT6 cables are your man, man.
- Faster Than a Speeding Bullet
CAT6 cables can transfer frequencies up to 250 megahertz. To put this in perspective, this is about 25 times great than CAT3 cables, which are designed to support frequencies up to 10 megahertz. Even though CAT5e cables are more commonly used to configure networks, they are only capable of frequencies of 100 megahertz, and are quickly heading towards retirement.
The point here is, if you are designing your network to support equipment that is available on the market today, using CAT5e cables might be the most cost-effective option. However, if you want your network to stand the test of time as new equipment hit the market, CAT6 cables are your best bet.
- It is not speed of the cables that determines the speed of your equipment.
We’re adding this caveat because we know we’ve hyped up CAT6 cables, and we want to make sure we don’t set you up for disappointment. While CAT6 cables are capable of keeping up with speeds up to 1000 megabits per second, just because your network is connected with CAT6 cables does not mean your equipment is going to go 1000 megabits per second. Your technology will still communicate as fast as it is designed to.
Think of it this way: Although you can drive up to 75 mph on the highway, if you’re driving a car that is only capable of reaching speeds of 50 mph, being on the highway won’t magically make it faster. On the other hand, if you’re driving a car that can exceed 75 mph, your CAT6 cables are basically the high speed highway that allows it to run at its peak efficiency.
- To sum it up…
Here’s our quick cheat sheet of CAT6 cable specifications:
- Process frequencies up to 250 megahertz at speeds up to 1000 megabits per second.
- Supports the new and fancy Gigabit ethernet network, but also compatible with older technology.
- Can be either crossover or straight through cables.
We hope this article has enriched your life on the subject of CAT6 cables. Do you have any questions on this subject that we didn’t cover here? If so, we’d love to continue this conversation in the comment section below.