Cat6 vs Cat6A | Do Copper Conductors Matter When It Comes to Performance?

Getting connected to the Internet does not have to be painful.  At VSS Monitoring, we are dedicated to providing the best information on the latest news, updates, and product reviews of the best hardware, software, and everything in between to help manage your digital life.

If you are a high-traffic user of the Internet, speed transmission of data transfer and download/upload rates matter tremendously.  Finding the right cables to help get the job done is critical. So, without further ado, check out the best Ethernet cables out there right now. You can also narrow down the search by looking for the best gaming cables in this review, or even more specifically, best PS4 cables here.

In today's article, we will dive deeper into the main differences between Cat6 vs cat6a Gigabit Ethernet cables when choosing the right one to achieve higher Internet speeds. In addition, you can check out the similarities and differences between Cat6 and Cat6e cables, or more basic versions of those cables, to boot.

cables in router

Should I Use Cat6 Or Cat6a?

When comparing and choosing between the standard Cat6 vs Cat6A Ethernet cables, it is important to understand the similarities and differences of both of the Cat6 and Cat6A cables as well as the targeted performance and purpose.

Let's take a look at the comparison between standard Cat6 and Cat6A cables.

Similarities

  • Both can be unshielded or unshielded.
  • Both are made of flexible material.
  • Both are made with eight copper conductors twisted into four pairs total.
  • Both are terminated at the end to TIA 568A or B color code specifications
  • Both support  10/100/1000Mbps (megabytes per second) speed with a length of up to 328 feet (100 meters)
  • Both have an outer sheath protecting the interior wires called a jacket made up of different installation needs (for example, riser rated cable or common plenum cable) .
  • Both have an internal cross skeleton called a spline that is made of plastic and is used to keep the four pairs of copper conductors separated
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Differences

  • Cat6A cables have copper conductors that are twisted tighter because they hare made and terminated to tighter tolerances than Cat6 cables.  This means that Cat6A cables require higher specification patch panels, wall jacks, and RJ45 connectors.
  • Cat6A cables usually have a thicker copper conduct and jacket than regular Cat6 cables.  This leads to a more difficult installation process and a higher price point.
  • Cat6A cables have a maximum high speed of 500MHz, whereas Cat6 cables usually top off at up to 250 MHZ. maximum 
  • The varying data transmission speed between  Cat6 cabling and Cat6A cabling also leads to a difference in range.  The Cat6A cable allows for 10 Gbps (Gigabits per second) up to 328 feet (100 meters).  The Cat6 cable supports 10 Gbps up to 165 feet (55 meters) in network speeds.

Are Cat6 And Cat6a Connectors The Same?

Cat6 cabling and Cat6a cabling, short for "Category 6", are standardized twisted pair cables for Ethernet and other network physical layers.

At first glance, the plug connectors of both the Cat6 cable and the Cat6a cable look almost identical.  Visually and design wise, there is no difference between Cat6 or Cat6a cables and their plug connectors.

The main distinguishing features really lie inside the cable itself and not the connectors.  You can technically use a Cat5e RJ45 plug on a Cat6 cable as well as on a Cat6a cable.  Both use the RJ45 connector type at the terminating end as the plug connector.  Both have a twisting pair of wires inside to help maintain connection speeds and limit signal interference through conductivity of the electrical current.

Both Cat6 and Cat6A connectors achieve maximum Internet speeds of 10 Gbps.  For a higher speed than 10 Gbps, you may need to use a different connector plug for even faster data transmission, bandwidth, and transfer.

You may want to consider installing the Cat7 cable.  One advantage of the Cat7 cable is its shielded twisted pair, which can significantly improve noise resistance and less signal interference.

set of cables

What Does The A Stand For In Cat6a?

The letter "A" in "cat6a"  stands for the word "augmented" in the "category 6a" type of Ethernet cable..  This is because this type of new cable is the latest version of the Gigabit Ethernet cabling. 

The preceding cable was the Cat6 cable, which is short for "Category 6".  This comes from a long history of Ethernet cables with a new iteration.

The Cat6A cable is "augmented" or improved from the past specifications of the regular Cat6 cable.  In general. the Cat6 cable is a standardized twisted pair cable for Ethernet and other physical layers.  Fortunately, these Cat6 cables are backward compatible with Category 5/5 and Category 3 cable standards.

The Cat6a  doubles data transmission bandwidth from 250 to 500 MHz frequency and also decreases the chance of cross-talk interference.  This provides superior reliability and data transmission speeds through greater lengths of cable compared to the regular Cat6 cable.

The Cat6 and Cat6a cables both extend to a performance distance of up to 100 meters (328 feet).

What Is Shielded Vs Unshielded Cables?

When choosing between using a cat6 or cat6a cable, understanding the internal cable components is also an important deciding factor that is both cost effective and optimized for performance and network speeds.

Users of the Category 6a type of cable can also choose between shielded vs unshielded.  Shielded Cat6a cables generally have an outer foil shield around each individual pair or around all 4  pairs.

Shielded cables are also known as F/UTP, where the cable consists of 4 unshielded twisted pairs with an outer foil shield.  Unshielded cables are also known as U/UTP, where the cable consists of 4 unshielded twisted pairs and no outer shielding.

cables difference

What Is The Difference Between Cat 6 And Cat 7?

The main contrasting feature between the Cat6 and Cat7 cables come down to the  transmission speed, shielding, supported distance, and cost.  There are many flexible types of standard cables to choose from, but to install the right cabling for your network  to achieve faster Internet and improved connection speed, you must consider which wires are best for you to use and meet your needs.

Cat6 cables top off at a maximum speed of 250 MHz with a  distance of 55 meters and maximum speed of 10,000 Mbps.  Cat7 is the next iteration and thus have some higher upgrades and thresholds than the Cat6 generation.

Cat7 cables top off at a maximum speed of 1000 MHz frequency with a  distance of 15 meters and a maximum speed of 100,000 Mbps.  Notice that the bandwidth speed while using a Cat7 cable begins to decline once it reaches the 15 meter mark.

What Is A Cat5e Cable?

The Cat5e, short for "Category 5 enhanced", cable is a twisted pair cable used for computer networks. This cable standard provides performance of up to 100 MHz and can be used for many varieties of Ethernet over twisted pair up to 1000Base-T (Gigabit Ethernet).

Cat5 cables were designed to also carry other signals such as telephony and video.  The Cat5e cable is most commonly connected using punch-down blocks and modular connectors.  These Cat5e cables are not shielded and rely on the balanced line twisted pair design wiring and differential signaling for noise rejection and limiting interference.

The Cat5e, just like the Cat6, cables support the same RJ45 end-connectors for home or business networking.  With regards to crosstalk and external noise mitigation, Cat6 cables must adhere to stricter standards than Cat5e. Both support up to 10 Gigabit Ethernet internet up to 100 meters.

Cat5e is  an excellent choice when comparing cost, data speed, and overall network performance compared to the Cat6 and Cat6 cables.

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Conclusion

Choosing the right cabling or wiring for your home or office network does not have to be difficult.  Our easy-to-follow guides help to provide an enhanced view of different product choices that consider factors like cost, performance, data transmission, bandwidth, cable lengths, connectivity interference, and hardware requirements to help you optimize your Internet speeds.

Follow us on our social media page and VSS Monitoring homepage to get the latest up-to-date news, information, offers, and reviews of your favorite software and hardware products to help manage your digital life.

FAQs

1. Is it worth upgrading from Cat6 to Cat6a?

Cat6a is overkill unless the runs are extremely long. Cat6 is the recommended option for almost all homes and small businesses. Cat 6 supports data transfer rates of up to 5 Gbps over a distance of 100 meters and 10 Gbps over a distance of 55 meters. Cat 6a supports data transfer rates of up to 10 Gbps over a distance of 100m.

2. Will Cat6 improve Internet speed?

Cat6 is a good choice if you want faster internet speeds. It minimizes what is known as "crosstalk" — signal transfers that interfere with your communication channels. However, if you are content with your current internet speeds, Cat5 may suffice. Additionally, Cat5 cables are typically less expensive than Cat6 cables.

3. Which Ethernet cable is fastest?

While Cat 8, the next generation of Ethernet cables, is on the horizon, Cat 7a (Cat 7 "augmented") is the highest-performing Ethernet cable available for the time being. As with Cat 6a and Cat 7, the Cat 7a cable supports data transfer rates of up to 10,000 Mbps, but the maximum bandwidth is significantly higher at 1,000 MHz.

4. Is Cat6 good for gaming?

Yes, its good for gaming. While both Cat5e and Cat6 cables are suitable for gaming over Ethernet, Cat6 cables are frequently preferred. This is not necessarily due to speed, as 1000Mbps is sufficient for the majority of gamers. Cat6 cables are more interference-resistant than Cat5e cables.

5. Is Cat 7 future proof?

Cat7A, like Cat6 and Cat6A, is an evolution of the Cat7 standard. Cat7A is an incredibly capable standard, designed to support future 40 Gigabit Ethernet connection standards with frequencies up to 1,000MHz. It is capable of supporting 40 Gigabit connections up to 50 meters and 100 Gigabit connections up to 15 meters under certain conditions.

About Dusan Stanar

I'm the founder of VSS Monitoring. I have been both writing and working in technology in a number of roles for dozens of years and wanted to bring my experience online to make it publicly available. Visit https://www.vssmonitoring.com/about-us/ to read more about me.

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