Cat6 vs. Cat6A Ethernet Cable: What's the Difference?

Our computer systems are not only the big parts we see. There’s so much else going on with them. We have loads of different wires for loads of different connections. We have cables that connect the main monitor to the wall socket; we used to have cables that connected speakers to the CPU, cables that connected the keyboard and mouse to the monitor, and perhaps, most importantly, network ethernet cables that let us into the world of the interconnected web.

Some of these cables may have become old news, but network ethernet cables have stuck around. They give you a faster and stronger connection. You may think them clunky and tiresome to figure out, but they get the work done. There are a lot of different categories of these ethernet cables out there, starting from Cat1 all the way to Cat8. They serve different purposes, offer different speeds, and are progressively used as times and technologies roll by.

From these, let’s talk about the two most famous ones - famous because there is an invisible competition to see which one is better: Cat6 ethernet cable and Cat6A ethernet cable. Cat6A is an upgraded version of the Cat6 cable. But that doesn’t mean that Cat6 cables are not used. Both are used in equal measure and are valued at their respective places.

People deep in the tech world often hear whispered questions like “Is Cat6 not as good as Cat6A?” If they are basing these questions only on the performance of these cables, then yes - Cat6A is the better cable. In an ideal world, there are no disparities between these two cables. Reality is a whole other ballgame. We must analyze numerous factors to differentiate between Cat6A and Cat6. Given below are some of the key differences between the Cat cables.

  • Ease of installation and cost
  • Equipment necessities
  • Prospective upgrade considerations

Let me tell you about how similar they are in the technical sense.

Similarities of Cat 6 & 6A Cable:

  • Both cables are made with eight copper conductors that are twisted into four pairs. Both cables have jackets that are made for various installation needs.
  • Both cables are available in shielded and unshielded versions; you can learn the difference between Cat6A Shielded vs non-shielded.
  • Both cables support 10/100/1000 Mbps/s speed up to 328 feet.
  • Both cables have a spline, an internal plastic cross skeleton that keeps the pairs separated.
  • Both cables terminate to TIA 568A or B color code specifications.
  • Now, we get into the differences between the two cables.

    Differences Between Cat 6 & 6A Cable

  • Let’s talk about maximum speed: the max speed of Cat6A is 500 MHz, which gives you 10 Gbp/s (gigabits per second) up to 328 feet, whereas that of Cat6 is half that, 250 MHz. As a result, it only provides support for 10 Gbp/s up to 165 feet under optimal conditions. Less so in heavy cross-talk environments.
  • Cat6A cables are made and closed to tighter resilience than Cat6. This is another way of saying that the copper conductors in Cat6A cables are twisted tighter than in Cat6 cables. This means Cat6A cables require higher specification wall jacks, patch panels, and RJ45 connectors.
  • The installation of Cat6A cables is difficult and expensive as they use thicker copper conductors and jackets.
  • Now, let’s dive deeper into the key differences between Cat6 and Cat6A cables.

    • Ease of Installation and Cost

    The installation of a Cat6A cable differs from that of a Cat6 cable. When you want to get more than 10 Gbp/s while installing a Cat6A cable, the extra cost is not just for the cabling. That increased cost is because of the need for higher-performance switches and added networking hardware. You cannot achieve faster speeds by changing just one piece of network infrastructure like a cable cannot be upgraded to the Cat6A specification. We can only get this if we upgrade the entire network infrastructure. If we look at it from a labor viewpoint, then the cost of installation is higher with a Cat6A cable than with a Cat6 cable. One reason for this could be that the Cat6A cables are heavier than the Cat6 and less flexible. You have to pay extra attention to detail so that it terminates properly. If you don’t have an in-house expert for installation, it is recommended that you contact a network cabling contractor.

    • Equipment Necessities

    What cable is required is dictated by the equipment already installed or will be installed. Barring some, all network equipment supports Ethernet data cable speeds up to 10 Mbp/s - 1 Gbp/s. Look around at your equipment. Does any of it support or even require 10 Gbp/s? Do you plan on upgrading the equipment to support higher speeds? If you think you require higher speeds, then consider getting Cat6A cables. However, most of the time, people don’t really require higher speeds. In these situations, Cat6A speed cables will not only cost more but also end up not benefiting you.

    • Prospective Upgrade Considerations

    There are two essential instances when installing a Cat6A cable over a Cat6 is preferable: You plan on moving to 10 Gbp/s speed, particularly if you have long runs, so up to a max distance supported by a Cat6A cable, 328 feet. You plan on installing the cable where it is cost-restrictive to re-run higher specifications even in the near future.

    Points to Keep in Mind

    Here, note that Cat6 speed cables support 10 Gbp/s. The only limitation is that Cat6 cables will only support it up to 165 feet, maximum. This is cut down to 110 feet if there is heavy cross-talk potential. Whatever the case, short high-speed runs are possible as long as the switches and servers support it. Oftentimes, this is enough to relieve any network congestion and keep the cost down. For any more information regarding networking cables, please contact us. SF Cable stocks all cables for your networking needs.