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Category 5 Cabling and Beyond
The news on bandwidth.
The good news is that the next generation of cabling is on the way. However, you must exercise care to ensure the cabling you install today meets your needs tomorrow.
Because unshielded twisted-pair (UTP) cable is by far the most common networking cable, that's where most of the research money is going these days. Let's take a brief look at where UTP technology is now and where it's headed.
The limits of Category 5.
The Category 5 standard has been around since 1991, so it's had time to become well established in the industry. You'll find existing Category 5 installations everywhere you go. So the questions are: What can Category 5 cable do, and what can't it do?
It handles 100-Mbps Fast Ethernet very well. If you still have a lot of 10-Mbps equipment, chances are Category 5 cabling will serve you well for quite a while.
But if you're already running up against the performance limits of a 100-Mbps network, you'll probably be thinking about upgrading at least parts of it fairly soon. You're probably looking at full-duplex right now, and Gigabit Ethernet is on your horizon. That may mean upgrading your cable.
Category 5e: the new,
improved Category 5.
The main difference between Category 5 and Category 5e is that some of the specifications have been made a little stricter in the new version. With that improvement, you should be able to expect problem-free, full-duplex, four-pair Ethernet transmissions over your UTP.
In the near future, it's likely most installations will require Category 5e cabling and components. Many manufacturers sold Category 5e cable before the final standard was ratified, but the cable might not meet all the requirements.
Category 6 and beyond: a look
at the future.
You can see some of the details of the proposed Category 6 standard in the guide below. One of the biggest improvements will be in bandwidth: Category 6 is expected to support a frequency of 250 MHz, two and a half times the specifications for either Category 5 or Category 5e.
Farther into the future, the TIA/EIA is looking at a Category 7 standard with a bandwidth of up to 600 MHz. We also know that Category 7 will use a new, yet to be determined, connector interface.
You will often see cable listed as meeting proposed standards. For example, the proposed standard for Category 6 is 250 MHz, and the proposed standard for Category 7 is 600 MHz.
The important thing to remember is this: The proposed standards are improvements over Category 5 and Category 5e cable, and they should serve you well in terms of speed and headroom for future applications.
So do you have to rip out all
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