What Type of Cable is Right for My Project?

There is no shortage of options when it comes to deciding what kind of cabling to use in your wireless solutions. It can be overwhelming to make those decisions when there are so many factors to consider. We’ve organized some information for you to help you navigate this tricky territory.

CAT 3, CAT 4, & CAT 5

Category 3, ,4 and 5, or CAT 3, Cat 4, and Cat 5 were introduced in 1991 and earlier. Because of this cable’s limitations to support modern information systems, it is rarely installed today. Though less expensive than a CAT 5e or CAT 6 cable, its outdated capabilities don’t allow for growth. This cable does not support current or emerging technology that requires high speed and high data capacity for solutions such as video.

CAT 5e

Category 5e or CAT 5e cable is used for 1000BASE-T  (1 Gigabit Ethernet using all 4 pair) networks and has a 100 MHz frequency. This cable will not support 10 Gigabit Ethernet reliably.  In addition, it has lost its pricing advantage and is now equal to or greater in cost than a minimum compliant Cat 6 cable. This cable can still support many modern networks and technologies. Yet, it doesn’t offer as much room for future growth as some of the below options.

CAT 6

Category 6 or CAT 6 cabling is currently the most commonly used. It supports 1000BASE-TX ( 1 Gigabit Ethernet using 2 pair) networks and has a 250MHz frequency. Its ability to support all current technologies and the potential to support some future needs makes it a common choice for enterprises of all kinds. It is also backward compatible and can support older technology.

CAT 6a

Category 6a or CAT 6a cable is some of the fastest on the market today. It fully supports a 10GBASE-T (10 Gigabit Ethernet) network and has a frequency of 500 MHz. Though more expensive for both material and the labor required to install, this cable reasonably future-proofs your system for several years to come, allowing maximum room for growth. Like CAT6, this cabling is also backward compatible.

PVC vs Plenum

The requirement for Plenum rated cable over non-Plenum, also known as PVC,  is determined by the air handling unit and system of a building. If your physical structure has return air ducts, PVC cable, which is less expensive than Plenum cable, can be used. Plenum environments are zone-controlled and have open return vents with no ducts. Due to the potential hazard of burning PVC should your building have a fire, Plenum rated cable is used as a safer alternative. Though both materials do burn, Plenum rated cable burns slower and produces less hazardous gases.

Fiber Optic

The above cables all require a run length of fewer than 90 meters. Fiber-optic cabling is used for runs over 90 meters and cabinet to cabinet or building to building connections. Often used by large businesses whose campus spans greater distances, fiber optic cabling is necessary to connect a larger infrastructure.

Your cabling infrastructure is an investment in the future of your business. Your technology, like computers, phones, or other hardware, is replaced on average every 3-5 years. Your cabling should last for 20. Make sure you are picking the best option in your price range. Hiring quality installers will ensure the best performance and longest lifespan of your cabling. CC&N is a great option with excellent vendor relationships to get you the best service and material available.