It’s been a while we have been talking about emerging cabling technology coded Cat8. Organizations have been working for years to develop standards for a reliable and a cost-effective cabling system that can take the network speeds to next level. Cat6A is now being widely used in the enterprise horizontal cabling structure while Cat8 is much talked about. The real question remains unanswered: Are we ready for communication networks with data rate of 40GBPS?

With the high bandwidth demand driven by Virtualization, mobile applications and audio/video streaming, data centres need a cost-effective & flexible migration path along with a consistent network which can serve the purpose for next generation’s bandwidth greedy applications. This demand will increase exponentially with the more people and businesses using cloud services. Arrival of new technologies and platforms, such as ultra-high-definition 4K video will accelerate this trend further.

Cat8 Specifications:

Before get into more details, let us find out the specifications for Cat8 standard. The current TIA draft specification for Cat8 cabling and components has defined to provide performance up to 2 GHz. This represents a frequency spectrum that is four times greater than the maximum specified frequency of 500 MHz for Category 6A rated cabling and eight times greater than Cat6 (250MHz).
There were two separate classes of Cat8 which were proposed. Class I specifications were designed with an idea of maintaining downward compatibility of existing RJ45 connectors while a new connector type design was evolved to improve the network speeds significantly which is referred as Class II.
The key difference between Class I and Class II cabling is the fact that Class II allows three different styles of connectors that are not compatible with one another, or with the RJ45 connector. These connectors are TERA, GG45 and ARJ45. This increases further confusions and incompatibility issues as which connector will be better. And, because of the non-backward compatibility with the RJ-45 connectors one would need additional adapters to make it work with existing network equipment. Class I, on the other hand, uses a fully backward-compatible RJ45-type interface with vastly improved performance relative to Category 6A connectors and is specified up to 2GHz. Class II is mainly an enhancement to Cat7a standards while Class I is an effort to enhance performance for Cat6a standards.
Another significant difference between two classes of Cat8 is the shielding. Class II cable will have individual shielding for each 4 pairs which gives it a little advantage over Class I cable.
Cat8 cabling standard is capable of transmitting data at 40GBPS rate up to 30 meters only while most traditional cabling standards (including Cat6a for that matter) allowed data transmission up to 100 meters. This limitation restricts the use of Cat8 cabling system in Data centres only.

Ideal for Data Centres:

Cat8 cabling system is an excellent, future-proof solution for current and upcoming generations of active equipment requiring up to 40GBPS data rates. This could be more reliable and economical choice for the Data Centre designers which can reduce the cost significantly. The distance limitation as discussed above for Cat8 is not an issue for the Data Centre applications. For years people have argued that only optical fiber would work for higher data rates, and they believed that twisted-pair copper cabling had hit its limits with 10GB/s. But Cat8 cabling solution can meet data centers’ higher bandwidth requirements.
As far enterprise horizontal cabling system is concerned, Cat6 or Cat6a will still be a better choice because of the flexibility, cost and backward compatibility with the existing equipment. Cat5e is still perfectly capable of Gigabit Ethernet and of PoE+. It doesn’t have the capability of 10Gb/s and so offers no future proofing but its cost and ease of installation still make it many installer’s choice for limited-life networks such as building sites, temporary offices and the like. And Cat6 is still very much specified for networks where the peace of mind of extra headroom is desired for longer-term deployments where the owner does not foresee the need for 10 GB/s in the network’s lifetime. Cat5e and Cat 6/6a besides their differences still make a better choice for the enterprise LAN for years to come and Cat 8 likely to be data centre only.
At ExcelLinx communications, we install all types of copper and fiber based cabling systems. Our expert crew members have tons of experience in designing, planning and building enterprise horizontal cabling systems.

---- Team ExcelLinx

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