DATA Cables

Data Cables

What are Data Cables?
The term data cables often refers to the range of electrical cables found in a structured cabling network called Category cables. Found linking data cabinets to individual wall sockets in a network, these twisted pair copper data cables have developed over the years from Category 3 Cable to the high performance Category 7 Cable. With advances in technology, Category 3 data cables now have limited use, Category 4 data cables are retired by modern standards and Category 5 data cables were upgraded to Cat 5E data cables in 2002. Most new and existing systems still install Cat 5E data cables and Cat 6 data cables (Cat 6A and Cat 7 do exist but the cost is still prohibitive for many installations – although Cat 7 data cable is increasingly being used in Germany). 

By what other names are Data Cables known?
As well as the term Category cables, data cables are also described as LAN cables, network cables and computer cables. When people talk about structured cabling, they are often referring to the data cables within the structured cabling network rather than simply the network itself.

How is a typical Structured Cabling network constructed?

Strutured Cabling network Patch lead Patch lead Back BoxFace Plate Cat5E and Cat6 CablePatch Panel Management Bar

In an office environment, a structured cabling network enables information to travel from a switch in the data room to a PC, via a series of data cables and structured cabling accessories. The main components in a structured cabling network are:

Patch Panel

1U UTP and 2U UTP Patch Panels: Cat 5E/Cat 6 compliant metal panels that enable data cables to be connected to a standard 19” data cabinet.

Cable Management Bar

1U Metal Cable Management Bars: metal bars that fit into standard 19" data cabinets to keep the data cables from becoming tangled.

Cat 5E Cable
Cat 6 CableCat 6 Cable

Cat 5E and Cat 6 Cables: data cables that transmit information from the data cabinets to the wall sockets (known as horizontal cabling).

Wall Socket Components

Back Box, Face Plate, Low Profile Module and LJ6C Module.

Wall socket equipment: includes a box in the wall (Back Box), a socket covering (Face Plate) and a Low Profile Module or LJ6C Module – into which a Patch Lead can be inserted. The Face Plates can be Single Gang or Dual Gang Bevelled in shape and size and are used to hold the modules in place and cover the Back Box. The modules are then used to connect the horizontal data cables in the wall to an external Patch Lead (in both domestic and commercial properties).

Patch Leads

Cat 5E UTP Moulded and Booted Patch Leads (or cords): flexible Cat 5E data cables with a strain relief boot for transmitting data from the wall socket to the PC – and the switch to the data cabinet.

What are Category 5E Data Cables?
Category 5E Cables are used widely in telecommunications systems and the building and construction industry – found in everything from Local Area Networks in offices and entertainment systems to cash (ATM) machines. These data cables are multipair (usually four pair) cables with class 1 twisted pair copper conductors and high density polyethylene (HDPE) insulation that meet the requirements of both ISO/IEC11801 and TIA/EIA 568B standards. Cat 5E cables are designed for transmission speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second (Gigabit Ethernet) and to support frequencies up to 100MHz.

The standard Cat 5E Cable is Cat 5E UTP PVC Cable, which includes unshielded twisted pair conductors, and a PVC sheath. There are, however, a number of different Cat 5E data cables, designed to operate effectively in specific environments. A low smoke zero halogen (LS0H) UTP data cable, Cat 5E UTP LSZH Cable Cable, is available for use in public buildings – it emits low levels of Halogen gas when exposed to fire. Cat 5E FTP PVC Cable includes an Aluminium Foil (Al-Foil) screen around all of the pairs, which provides protection against external electromagnetic interference. Cat 5E PE FTP GSWB LSZH Cable is a Halogen-free data cable with an Aluminium Polyethylene Terephthalate (Al-Pet) screen and Galvanised Steel Wire Braid (GSWB) for locations requiring mechanical protection. And the UV resistant Cat 5E UTP PE External Cable, with its Polyethylene sheath (PE) to prevent water ingress, is designed for outdoor use.

The only Cat 5E data cables that differ even further in construction are the Cat 5E 25 Pair UTP LSZH Cable and the Cat 5E 25 Pair UTP RBS Duct Grade Cable. Both data cables have class 1 solid plain copper conductors, SPE (Solid Polyethylene) insulation, a PE dummy core and a Mylar tape separator. The LS0H version has an LS0H sheath and the Duct Grade Cable has a PE and PP (Polypropylene) inner sheath and a PP sheath – for outdoor use in a duct.

What is the difference between Cat 5E, Cat 6, Cat 6A and Cat 7 Data Cables?
Data cables from Cat 5E to Cat 7 are all high performance cables. The differences come in the level of performance (eg bandwidth) and the standard to which the data cable has been manufactured. Cat 6 LSZH Cable, for example, is very similar to Category 5E Cable, but it supports a frequency range of up to 250MHz and is manufactured to a higher standard. Cat 6A Cable has a bandwidth of 500mhz – and Cat 7 600mhz. Cat 6A and Cat 7 data cables are available in some markets but are not yet approved. Cat 7 Cable has been developed for high-end media systems and is mainly used in Germany at the moment.

Why are the pairs in Data Cable twisted?
By twisting the pairs in data cables, the amount of electromagnetic interference (EMI) from external sources is reduced. If wires are placed next to each other in parallel this also leads to cross talk – signal interference between the cables. Twisting also prevents this from happening.

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