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Currently existing categories

Category 3—this is the first and therefore oldest category in structured cabling. In the beginning, Category 3 components were used for both voice and data transmissions. The bandwidth was defined up to 16 MHz with data rates of 10 Mbps. Today, Category 3 is predominantly used for telephone distribution systems (e.g. connection from ISDN patch panels to telephone PBX board, telephone equipment cords etc).

Category 5E—at present, Category 5E (or Enhanced Category 5) is still one of the most frequently used categories in structured cabling. The first standard for Category 5E was published in 2000 and was referred to as ANSI/TIA/EIA 568B.1 for the American standards, CENELEC EN 50173-1:2000 for the European standards, and ISO/IEC 11801:2000 for the international standards. In CENELEC as well as ISO/IEC specifications, it is still referred to as Category 5 (i.e. not Category 5E). The term “Category 5E” is used only in the ANSI/TIA/EIA standard. It was originally introduced by manufactures in order to distinguish between the already existing Category 5 components and the “new” improved Category 5E. As mentioned previously, Category 5E cabling components are suitable for the Gigabit Ethernet protocol (i.e. 1000BaseT), which should fit requirements of most company networks with regular data traffic. However, the 1 Gbps transmission rate is the limit for all Category 5E products and no further improvements are possible.

Category 6—the final specification for Category 6 was published in 2002. The document update is known as ANSI/TIA/EIA 568B.2-1 for the American standards, CENELEC EN 50173-1:2002 for the European standards, and ISO/IEC 11801:2002 for the international standards. Category 6 is specified up to 250 MHz. The double available bandwidth in comparison with Category 5E requires higher component quality. On the other hand, if these quality requirements are met, Category 6 components offer improved performance and transmission reliability, especially in connection with the 1000BaseT and 1000BaseTX protocols.

Category 6A—this is a new category that was finalized in April 2008 in the American ANSI/TIA/EIA 568B.2-10 standard and at the end of 2009 in the international ISO/IEC 11801 Amendment 2 standard. This “new” category is referred to as “Augmented Category 6” or “Category 6A”. It was developed specifically for the new 10GBaseT Ethernet protocol in mind. Category 6A offers 500 MHz bandwidth and thus is suitable for the most data-intensive applications used on metallic computer networks. You can learn more about the 10GBaseT protocol as well as Category 6A further on in this catalogue.

Category 7—this category was first mentioned in 1997, however, its specification was not finished before 2002. Category 7 was specified in the CENELEC EN 50173:2002 and ISO/IEC 11801:2002 standards but for installation cables only. In the ANSI/TIA/EIA standards Category 7 is not mentioned. The bandwidth that is defined for Category 7 is 600 MHz.

Category 7A—a new category that has just come into reality specifying installation cables up to 1000 MHz. The primary purpose for introducing Category 7A was to keep sufficient bandwidth distance from Augmented Category 6.

In the ISO/IEC 11801 and CENELEC EN 50173 generic cabling documents, further copper cabling distinctions referred to as “Classes” were introduced. Classes are used for classifying the permanent link or channel performance rather than for rating individual cabling components. The brief description of all classes as specified in the ISO/IEC and CENELEC standards is the following:

Class A – specifies analogue voice telephony with the bandwidth of up to 10 KHz.

Class B – defines frequencies up to 1 MHz for voice and slow data links (i.e. IBM 3270 terminals etc.)

Class C – this class corresponds to permanent link and channel performances using Category 3 components. Similarly to Category 3, it covers the bandwidth of up to 16 MHz. Its primary application today is to classify telephone distribution systems.

Class D – the class was first ratified in 1995 and updated in 2000. Today Class D covers permanent link and channel topologies built with Category 5E cables and connecting hardware with the bandwidth of up to 100 MHz.

Class E – this class was specified in 2002 and corresponds to data links with Category 6 components with the bandwidth of up to 250 MHz.

Class EA – this is a new class that was defined at the end of 2009 in ISO/IEC 11801 Amendment 2. Class EA specifies permanent link and channel systems up to 500 MHz. Similarly to Category 6A, Class EA links are aimed to be used with the 10GBaseT protocol.

Class F – this class covers the standard bandwidth of up to 600 MHz and corresponds to Category 7 links.

Class FA – with reference to Class EA and its 500 MHz frequency, it was necessary to re-define the original Class F with a new class with 1,000 MHz bandwidth named Class FA. As with Category 7/Class F, the Category 7A/Class FA document specifies double shielded installation cables only.