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From what I can understand, Cat 6e does not actually exist but a number of manufacturers are selling some cable labeled as Cat 6e. Some sources say that Cat 6e is just Cat 6a but the manufacturers just added a few extra things to "improve" on it (like shielding I think?). And some say that it's actually some knock off Cat 5e.

I asked for Cat 6a but I got Cat 6e instead. How can I tell if this cable is legit Cat 6 (10 Gbps)?

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To hell with it, use DAC/TwinAx cables or fiber. –  SpacemanSpiff Aug 21 '12 at 4:22
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Or more seriously... just like the argument of Cat5e vs Cat6 for 1Gb iSCSI, are you actually experiencing an issue or just building it to some kind of specification? –  SpacemanSpiff Aug 21 '12 at 4:22
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viva la fiber! :D –  SpacemanSpiff Aug 21 '12 at 4:44
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Because you're asking about your new house this is off topic. However, I would use current spec and disregard the future. If/when it becomes desirable to replace the cable with something newer or different just use your old cables to pull the new ones in. –  John Gardeniers Aug 21 '12 at 14:12
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While this is technically off-topic (in the topic of a house), it's very on-topic if we ignore the house thing. –  Tom O'Connor Aug 22 '12 at 8:55
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5 Answers

As you deduced, 6e is a marketing term that was used before the formal adoption of 6a. The "things" in question that have been modified generally have to do with the number of twists per inch and the existence/type of shielding on the cable.

The question isn't really whether 6 vs 6e vs 6a will -support- 10GBaseT, but rather at what distance. Cat6 is officially rated to go to 55M (including patches) while 6a is good for the full 110. This isn't to say, of course, that a 75M run of cat6 won't work - just that it's outside of spec.

Here's the thing, though - if the 6 / 6e / 6a wasn't correctly terminated on compliant patch panels/connectors/jacks then none of this actually matters all that much. 6e should exceed 6 and may be equal to 6a, but the lack of an official spec at the time basically means that you need to base your design on the results of certification with a cable tester capable of measuring to these kinds of speeds. If you can hit 500MHz at the right crosstalk and such (as per 6a) then you're good. If not, then your cable vendor owes you a re-run.

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Cat 6a cable is supposed to provide a bandwidth of 500MHz. Some cable analyzers will be able to report on that.

Cat 5e can support full duplex gigabit operations, so in the vast majority of applications even cat 6 is unnecessary at present, but I guess requirements are requirements...

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You could use a decent cable tester this should be able to tell you speed. Thus allowing you work out the type of cable that you have.

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Not necessarily the case. The rating of the cable is the -minimum- spec. The measured NEXT (for example) of a cat6 cable might exceed that of a cat6a because of particular environmental conditions or manufacturing differences but it doesn't mean that the cable itself is actually 6a. The ratings on the jacket are confirmed by a cable tester, not the other way around. –  rnxrx Aug 29 '12 at 5:19
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rnxrx explained the 6a and 6e, so I won't review that ground.

Regarding the new house Ethernet cabling question, I completely agree with your premise, it makes no sense to install 5e or 6 to have problems down the road, Ethernet cable ignorance is unnecessarily expensive. If I was rewiring a brand new house, I would either want one of two options:

  1. 6a Cabling, but only S/FTP or S/STP cables with shielded connectors. This must be installed properly, with appropriate grounding, and shielded panels and etc..

The Shielded S/FTP or S/STP 6a option would be completely appropriate, but if you for some reason wanted to really get above the curb.. you could look at 7.

Once the 7's get officially specified, I would immediately recommend them for fresh Ethernet wiring. This assumes you have IT oriented requirements, and really want to stay ahead of the curve, and everything is installed correctly. In the considerable meantime, 6a S/FTP or S/STP with fully shielded connectors would be my recommended option.

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I only see one option, but you said there were two?? –  Chris S Aug 8 '13 at 19:00
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I recently had a new home constructed, and went from the CAT6a of my previous home to whole-house fiber, and provided you have it done during construction it doesn't actually cost much more at all.
I would definitely recommend fiber for in-wall use, the bandwidth is outstanding, and then CAT6/7 for out-of-wall wiring/simply P2P connections where bandwidth isn't the biggest concern, or you're otherwise limited to where 16-32Gbit/sec doesn't benefit (i.e. transferring files from a PC to a simple 2-Drive NAS with RAID1, you will not see any benefit from fiber). However, if you have some serious hardware and need access to large data NOW, nothing beats it (i.e. my basement server room; a single 36-drive RAID60 array buffered by 2 IODrive Fusion-IO 2.4TB PCIe SSD's can push a LOT of bandwidth, and FC was a MUCH cheaper option than trying to go with copper 10GbitEthernet + switches/hubs running everywhere, in fact is was about 1/2 the price overall).

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1. 10GBASE-T IS NOT the copper 10G Ethernet of the past, neither of which is/was really practical for home use. 2. If you're comparing SPF +, 10GBASE-CR, or any other datacenter to multimode fiber... then you're right fiber is the better choice. However neither is the good ol` cheap modular 8P8C's that would be found in MOST homes. Obviously special needs like yours demand special considerations, but the new cat 6a's for 10GBASE-T is the future path from 1000BASE-T. –  TechZilla Oct 19 '13 at 0:38
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