NEW YORK — Continual improvements in the technology of data transmission over copper wire virtually guarantees that copper will remain the preferred medium for office networks in the foreseeable future, according to the Copper Development Association.
Installations using Category 6a copper, in particular, demonstrate the capacity to satisfy high-demand data speed requirements in the majority of horizontal office-environment applications, as well as in many network “backbone” applications. Category 6a (or Augmented Category 6) operates at frequencies up to 500 MHz, which is twice that of Cat 6. It was defined in February 2008 in ANSI/TIA/EIA-568-B.2-10.
“Most communication channels are local,” says David Brender, National Program Manager at the Copper Development Association. “For network connections shorter than 100 meters, copper provides outstanding value and performance. Virtually any need for speed in the local network can be met using presently available copper cable systems.”
Category 6a can support 10 Gbit/s data rates (over 10GBaseT Ethernet) up to a maximum distance of 100 meters. By way of comparison, the standard defining 1 Gigabit Ethernet, or 1000BaseT, over copper pairs was ratified in June 1999. “The technology has been out there gradually evolving,” says Brender, “but it took years for the industry to agree on the augmented standard that is now known as Category 6a.” The Category 6a specification was finalized and officially added as an appendix to the TIA 568A standard in February 2008.
Category 6a cable is specifically designed to avoid crosstalk interference between cables, a technical hurdle that had to be overcome in achieving 10G data rates, Brender explains. Category 6a uses larger-diameter conductors, lower packing density and tighter twists. In some cable designs, foil shields are utilized to achieve the necessary performance. The result is less loss of signal strength at high frequencies, significantly better crosstalk isolation between cables and improved heat dissipation.
Information technology managers acknowledge that 10 Gigabit per second Ethernet (or 10GE) over copper exceeds requirements for the majority of office environments. Copper wired networks are generally preferred over wireless networks because copper provides greater security, and because wireless has limitations in a multi-user networks.
In local networks, copper is also preferred over fiber optic cable because total network costs are less expensive when copper is used. Another advantage of copper is its ability to carry low levels of power; enough to power security cameras, card readers or other low power devices.
“Fiber optics has its uses in the core or backbone of large networks but copper is generally still preferred as the media of choice for cabling to the desktop. The advent of Category 6A is expected to extend the dominance of copper cable for datacom applications for many years,” says Brender.
Wireless data transmission is equally problematic, Brender adds. “A wireless channel with 50 megabits per second might suit a single user in a home office but it is inadequate in a busy office environment where this capacity is shared. On the other hand, a 10GE copper cabling network could support 10 gigabit data rates for each user simultaneously. That's exactly the solution that IT managers are seeking.”
According to Brender, Cat 6a was developed to support network demands of the next generation. It provides superior network performance and bundled cable implementations for channels up to 100 meters. Category 6a is ideal for large file transfers and installing multiple applications through the network simultaneously. It is also capable of supporting high-end security applications and distributing digital audio and video.
For more information about copper communications wiring, please contact:
National Program Manager, Electrical
Phone: (212) 251-7206
Fax: (212) 251-7234