Know your Infrastructure

Is your client at the stage where they are thinking about wiring their house for data, Wi-Fi or other broadband services?

Today we live in a world where a life without internet is unthinkable – we rely on it to communicate, socialise, and conduct business.  Having a temperamental internet connection as a result of poor infrastructure, can be just as bad as having no internet at all.

A reliable and fast connection is essential, thus speed is a key feature which needs to be considered when recommending the appropriate internet infrastructure to your client.  As technology improves we realise the drawbacks of a previous version.  An example of this was when the speedy 4G network connection was launched.  Now, we become frustrated and impatient when our mobile phone offers a 3G internet connection; something which we used to be happily content with.

When your client is enquiring about the best cabling infrastructure to install into their property, whether it be their business or family home, it is important to match the demanding needs of today.  Consequently, we have put together some useful information about how to get Ethernet over CAT (Copper) and fibre optic cables.

Firstly let’s begin by highlighting some differences between Ethernet cables and Fibre Optic cables.

Before we go into further detail on CAT and Fibre Optic Cables, we thought a guide to easily interpret Ethernet speed might come in useful:

Defining CAT Cables

CAT5

What frequency does it support? 100 MHz. At what speed/distance? 100 Mbps at 100m

CAT5 became the leading Ethernet cable for LAN (local area network) networking in 2000. CAT5 is now considered outdated.

CAT5e

What frequency does it support? 100 MHz. At what speed/distance? 1 Gbps at 100m

CAT5e is also considered a thing of the past.

CAT6

What frequency does it support? 250 MHz. At what speed/distance? 10 Gbps at 55m

CAT6 is the most common type of cabling found in modern homes and offices for Ethernet purposes. Compared to CAT5e, it has better cable insulation, consequently incurring less interruption and at more reliable and higher speeds.

CAT6 can also be used for video transmission in products such as WyreStorm, Leaf and Crestron Digital Media.  If your client’s home is new-built, it would be worth considering CAT6 with the future in mind.

As CAT6 is more durable than CAT 5e, and easier to install than CAT7, it is Inspired Dwellings data cable of choice due to its flexibility and ease of installation.

CAT7

What frequency does it support? 600 MHz. At what speed/distance? 10 Gbps at 100m

CAT7 differs from CAT6 in the distance it can reach.

Despite impressive speeds that are theoretically achievable, a CAT7 cable is ‘fully shielded’, causing it to be heavier and more bulky.  These attributes result in a more rigid bend radius (100 mm or 4 inch), making it more difficult to install into an end user property without increasing the wall depth to accommodate larger back boxes.

Where does Fibre Optic Fit in?

Fibre optic is different to the previous cabling discussed because it carries communication signals via light impulses along a glass or plastic wire or fibre.

There are two basic types of fibre optic cable – single-mode and multi-mode.  Single-mode uses laser light to send signals whereas multi-mode uses LEDs to send signals.  Data transfer rates usually occur between 10 Mbps to 10 Gbps.

Compared to a CAT7 cable, which supports 600 MHz over 100m, a multi-mode optical fibre cable can support 1000 MHz over the same distance.  For this reason, we would use fibre cables for distance and bandwidth, but normally only in between switches and for 4K video distribution. Additionally, fibre cables can be used for the transmission of video signals over greater distances (compared to CAT7) in products such as Crestron DM.

Fibre cables are not so costly to manufacture, however the termination cost can make it expensive.  Despite this, they are increasingly being used due to its vastly improved capacity over traditional CAT cabling.

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