Cat 6a Shielded Cable vs. Cat 6a Unshielded Cable

As the need for high bandwidth and fast data transmission rate is on the rise, the deployment of 10G Ethernet network becomes much more common and popular than ever before. Cat 6a cabling, the most proper cabling infrastructure for deploying 10G Ethernet network, is designed under this trend and promptly acquiring popularity for offering the throughput that many users now demand. Do you also plan to deploy 10G Ethernet network with Cat 6a cabling? Since there are Cat 6a shielded cable and Cat 6a unshielded cable available on the market, which one would you like to choose for your 10G network cabling? Let’s study the knowledge of Cat 6a patch cable and compare these two kinds of Cat 6a patch cables, finding the most suitable one to ensure the performance of the 10G Ethernet network.

Cat 6a Patch Cable Overview

Cat 6a patch cable is an enhanced edition of Cat 6 patch cable as the letter “a”—“augmented” in its name implies. Unlike Cat 6 patch cable that only supports the 10G Ethernet network at lengths up to 55 meters, Cat 6a patch cable is more commonly used for 10 Gigabit application that has the ability to perform up to 500 MHz, allowing 10GBASE-T to be run for 100 meter distance. At present, Cat 6 patch cable can be simply divided into two types, Cat 6a shielded cable and Cat 6a unshielded cable, according to whether it is shielded, both of which have their own features and are suitable for different applications. To better know the different structures of these two kinds of patch cables, you can learn it from the following figure.

Cat 6a Shielded Cable vs. Cat 6a Unshielded Cable

What should be noted is that the Cat 6a patch cable is the first cable category which standard includes alien crosstalk performance parameters for the higher frequencies utilized by 10GBASE-T. As we know, when the signal is unexpectedly transmitted from a patch cable to an adjacent one, the alien crosstalk may occur. As the Cat 6a patch cable is frequently used for 10GBASE-T network nowadays, the alien crosstalk performance parameters are incorporated into the TIA/EIA standard for Cat 6a patch cable.

Shielded or Unshielded?

The Cat 6a shielded cable is designed with a metallic tape barrier to mitigate alien crosstalk, while the Cat 6a unshielded cable just uses the space between the cores of adjacent cables and non-metallic fillers to overcome the same issue. There should be no denying that the Cat 6a shielded cable performs much better than the Cat 6a unshielded cable in dealing with the alien crosstalk. Except that, is there any difference between these two kinds of Cat 6a patch cables?

As for the Cat 6a unshielded cable, its diameter is generally bigger than the shielded one, because it should have additional space and fillers to block the alien crosstalk. Since the outside diameter of category patch cable can’t be larger than 0.354 inches as ANSI/TIA-568-C.2 standard stipulates, the Cat 6a unshielded cable is mostly designed to fall close to the maximum diameter permitted. The disadvantage is that the thicker patch cable should be supported by larger conduit and hanging devices which results in higher cost and bigger space for managing the cables. But if compared with the shielded one, the Cat 6a unshielded cable and its connective hardware (jacks and patch panels) is less expensive than the shielded counterparts. Besides, the Cat 6a unshielded cable is easier and faster to be terminated without shielding and prerequisite drain wire.

As for the Cat 6a shielded cable, its diameter is always smaller than 0.3 inches that supports smaller conduit and pathways with lower cost. But in fact, if you choose the Cat 6a shielded cable to deploy 10G Ethernet network, it will take you much more money for the high cost of Cat 6a shielded cable and its connective hardware. Meanwhile, it should be more difficult to be terminated as mentioned above. Then what are its advantages? On one hand, the Cat 6a shielded cable performs better in overcoming the alien crosstalk for its shielding feature. On the other hand, it also provides the added benefit of increased immunity from outside damage, noise and electronic interference to ensure the maximum performance of the data transmission on the cables.


Although the Cat 6a shielded cable and its connective hardware cost higher than the unshield one, it is the best choice for deploying 10G Ethernet network because the shielding provides exceptional protection from alien crosstalk, noise, damage. Except the performance factor, there are other factors like ease of installation and cost you should take into consideration when making the decision for Cat 6a cabling. Hope this paper would be helpful for you to deploy a smooth and stable 10G Ethernet network.

Author: Katherine Wang

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.