How to choose a CAT 6 Cable?
There are so many brands of CAT 6 cables. But no two of them are equal. How do we cut the clutter and decide which one is the best for us? For this read on. There are two aspects to look for. One is the physical aspect. Other is the technical aspect. If you have not read FAQ on LAN cables, the link is here.
Best CAT 6 Cables Physical Features:-
- Look for UL and ETL Markings :
What is UL?
UL stands for Underwriters Laboratories. They are a non-for profit Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) recognized Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory. They are working for safe living and working environments since 1894 headquartered in US.
There are three categories of UL:-
UL Listed : These products meets the UL set of safety requirements for electrical and fire risks and common hazards. Products certified as UL are complete end products for consumers under dry, damp and wet environments. These applies to the main component.
UL Classified : Samples meet certain specific add on environment in addition to UL Listed. These also applies to the main component.
UL Recognized : These are certification for the parts of the main component. Example – Power Supply, Electrical boards, etc.
Letter “C” is for Canada, “US” is for USA.
What is ETL?
ETL certification comes from Intertek’s Electrical Testing Labs. ETL is also OSHA Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory. They also work for safe living and working environments headquartered in Intertek (Britain). They have more than 1,000 labs in more than 100 countries.
RoHS is an EU based directive to control hazardous substance such as lead, cadmium, mercury in the use of electrical components.
An UL Listed, ETL Certified and RoHS compliant product are best suited for CAT 6 cables.
2. Plenum Rated or Fire Retardant : Use of fire retardant material such as PVC/LSZH/LS0H/LSFH/OHLS/ZHFR, provides special low-flame, low-smoke insulation to the copper wires. It reduces hazards by preventing air from contacting and igniting the internals of a given cable. If burned it will emit low smoke and prevent fire.
3. Pure Copper or Copper clad Aluminium : The conductors in the wire can be either Pure copper of electrical grade (>99.95%) or Copper Clad Aluminium. Copper Clad Aluminium is only 60-68% as efficient in signal transfer than pure copper. Also, it causes overheating and breakdown very frequently.
4. ANSI TIA/IEC standard markings : Telecommunication Industry Association (TIA) have set up standard for structured cabling. This enables standards for color coding, connector pin pair set up and other component standards. These markings are on the cables. Currently, C.2 is running as the latest standard.
5. AWG marking : Each category of cable comes with AWG (American Wire Gauge) standard. This specifies the diamenter of the wire. More on AWG here. For CAT 6 it can be either 24 AWG or 23 AWG.
Best CAT 6 Cables Technical Features:-
What are the types of losses in signalling :-
- Dielectric Losses : Also known as mutual capacitance. Conductor coating or insulation of 4 pairs causes signal loss. It depends on the material used for coating the conductors. The coating have certain dielectric constants. Higher the dielectric constant, higher will be loss of signal.
Dielectric constant is a ratio (no units) and it compares the charge that can stored within material as compared with Vacuum.
2. Reflected loss : Signal are lost at joints or ends at attached components such as RJ45, Jack, Jointers, etc.
3. Copper Losses : These are losses caused by copper conductors and refers to the magnetic field loss and crosstalks.
Below table and diagram explains the Loss Parameters in technical terms. Generally all brands provides these numbers in their product datasheet.
Impedance (ohms) = Resistance + Mutual Capacitance + Inductance. In LAN Cables it is 100 +/- 15% (ohms). It means all components in the network could have resistance from 85 to 115 ohms only.
Comparison of CAT 6 Brands of Cables
We have compared the available CAT 6 brands in the market. The comparison is based on both Physical and Technical Aspect of the wire.
Physical Comparison of the CAT 6
Technical Comparison of the CAT 6
D-Link provides a complete networking solution. Their product profile focuses on networking. Brands such as Anchor, Sterlite, Finolex, Honeywell, Molex are specialist in electrical wires and equipment only. The after sales service of D-Link should be better than others. Digisol also focus on networking but except CAT 6, other cables like CAT 5E and CAT 6A are below average. Hence, D-Link offers a better value.
Tenda and CP Plus technical parameters are below par. They have high Attenuation, low RL, NEXT, PS NEXT and other values. Moreover, Tenda is not listed under UL, ETL, ROHS. CP Plus is not listed for ETL and RoHS. Clearly they are cutting costs. HikVision, another Chinese brand, is not listed for UL and ETL as it does not have Fire retardant material (PVC). This makes its dielectric constant is low. So it gives better values in technical charts. But, Tenda, CP Plus and HikVision may not be long lasting.