When it comes to planning a new cabling installation for an office, retail space or other work environment, networking professionals will have many decisions to make on the layout and makeup of the new infrastructure, but one of the most important factors to be considered is the cabling itself.
There are several Ethernet options available, including Cat5, Cat5e and Cat6, which offer differing levels of performance and cost, and determining the right balance is an essential part of a successful project.
However, one solution that should be getting much more attention is Cat6a. This offers businesses a fast, reliable solution for today, but more importantly, it should also stand them in good stead for many years to come.
In a recent piece for Networks Asia, networking consultant George Zimmerman explained that in the coming years, applications technology is expected to advance at an extremely fast pace, and it will not be feasible to upgrade cabling solutions to keep up. Therefore, the solutions businesses put down now much be able to cope with whatever the future may hold, and Cat6a is the obvious choice for this.
Some professionals may worry that equipping a network with this solution will involve higher upfront costs than using older technologies such as Cat5e, but the overall total cost of ownership over the lifespan of the network should more than make up for this initial outlay.
Meanwhile, the capabilities of the technology should also help businesses improve their efficiency and help them roll out the next generation of applications and devices. For example, Mr Zimmerman highlighted the forthcoming IEEE 802.3bt standard for Power over Ethernet cables, which should improve the amount of power that cables are capable of carrying.
"I want to deliver that power safely, and without concerns about overheating the cabling," he stated. "Applications using more power (such as powering displays and newer access points) are already a reality. Category 6a is again the obvious choice to safely support these – both for today and tomorrow."
Delivering power will be one of the two key performance metrics for the cabling industry in the coming years, with the other being communications speed. Again, Cat6a is the best choice, particularly due to how it eliminates alien crosstalk. While Cat5e and Cat6 are able to connect 2.5G and 5GBASE-T access points, only Cat6a is specified to control rosstalk levels.
"This assures me of reliable operation, and gives me a growth path for 10GBASE-T, which is likely to be the backhaul for my wireless access points in the lifetime of my installation," Mr Zimmerman said. "So, when it came to a new installation, Category 6a was the obvious choice."