4 Differences Between Cat6 and Cat6a Plenum Ethernet Cable

4 Differences Between Cat6 and Cat6a Plenum Ethernet Cable

January 25, 2024

Which are the most premium ethernet cables, you ask? Plenum ethernet cable. But which plenum ethernet cable, the Cat6 or the Cat6a plenum? Well, that depends. Both cables have different uses, specifications, pros and cons, and different costs.

If you are wondering about the difference between the Cat6 plenum and the Cat6a plenum, you are on the right page. This blog explores the differences between the two plenum ethernet cables from their speed and bandwidth to their EMI and external noise resistance. Read on to find out. 

Speed and Bandwidth

The speed and bandwidth difference between the two cables is quite significant. Cat6 cable has a data transfer speed of up to 1 GBit/s  over 100 meters whereas the 6a has up to 10 GBit/s over the same length. 

The bandwidths of both cables are also different. Cat6 ethernet cable has 550 MHz bandwidth whereas the 6a has a whopping 750 MHz. Although the difference in bandwidth capacities of both cables is stark, it does not reflect significantly on their performance. You can expect to have excellent frequency support on the Cat6 and the Cat6a cables.

Conductors

When it comes to the conductors, the Cat6 ethernet cable has more options to choose from. But do not consider the lack of too many conductor options on the 1000ft Cat6a cable. Because it is produced with only the top-notch conductors on the market. Namely, bare copper.

Cat6 plenum cable is produced with both bare copper and copper clad-aluminum whereas the 6a cable is only available in bare copper.

What’s great about the 100% copper conductor is that it is highly efficient and easy to install. It is an everlasting material that not only relays high-quality signals, but is also safe, lasts longer, and is easy to install and maintain.

Twisted-Pairs

The conductors of both plenum ethernet cables are twisted tightly into pairs. These conductor pairs in the 1000ft Cat6a cable are twisted more tightly than the conductors of the Cat6 cable.

To reiterate, the Cat6 cable features lesser twists per unit length as compared to the Cat6a plenum cable. Its more tightly twisted pairs mean better resistance against EMI and external noise.

Interesting Fact: These ethernet cables are also known as twisted-pair ethernet cables because the twisted-pair technique was introduced to reduce the effect of EMI.

EMI and Noise

The difference between the EMI and the noise of the two cables is perhaps the most important. This difference ultimately translates into the difference between high-performance and poor.

EMI is the electromagnetic radiation that is emitted from the cables that are running parallel to one another. And noise is the RFI (Radio frequency interference) which is a specific type of interference caused in a cable by the adjacent equipment.

In ethernet cables, EMI and Noise are quite significant hindrances to data transfer. Particularly, these issues are more effective in networks where too many cables or electrical equipment are employed.

It is because of this EMI and Noise that both of the cables have splines, also known as wire separators in them.

Final Thoughts

The 4 differences between Cat6 and Cat6a plenum ethernet cables are the speed/bandwidth, conductors, twisted-pairing, and EMI/Noise reduction. Was this article helpful? Share if you think so.

FAQs

What is the difference between Cat6 and Cat6a ethernet cables?

The main difference between the Cat6 and the Cat6a ethernet cables is that the latter version has more tightly twisted conductor pairs which result in better data transfer speeds and signal integrity.

What is the difference between the Cat6 riser and the plenum?

The only difference between the Cat6 riser and the plenum cable is the cable jackets. The riser version of the cable has a CMR jacket and it is designed for use in indoor vertical runs. Cat6 plenum cable has a CMP jacket and it is designed for indoor horizontal as well as outdoors.

Should I buy Cat6 or Cat6a Plenum Cable?

It depends on what you use the cable for.  We recommend the CAt6 plenum for residential applications and the Cat6a plenum for commercial buildings.

Is Cat6a thicker than Cat6?

Yes. Both Cat6 and Cat6a cables have the same 23 AWG conductors but the latter cable is relatively thicker. The reason is the greater number of twists per unit length on the Cat6a cable which increases its thickness.

How do I know if I have Cat6 or Cat6a?

That is a simple one. You can tell the type of cable you have by reading the inscriptions on the cable jacket. For example, the Cat6a cable jacket will read something like this: 23 AWG CAT6A 750 MHz UTP/STP. The Cat6a or Cat6 on the jacket defines its category. If you do not have access to bare cable, you can tell by its performance. 

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