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the cat7 cable debate

Does Cat7 Cable Actually Exist?

It’s a valid question and the answer is almost as widely debated as the existence of the Loch Ness Monster. But when it comes to Category 7 cable, it’s not so much a question of existence as a matter of legitimacy and viability.

Yes

There is a type of telecommunication cabling known as Cat7 cable but Cat7 is formally known as Class F cable, as outlined by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). Developed in 2002, international standard ISO/IEC 11801 defines Class F cable at frequencies up to 600 MHz.

In addition to Cat7, customers are also known to call out Cat7a cables. Cat7a is the unofficial name used to refer to cables under the ISO Class F standard, with frequencies up to 1000 MHz. Class F cable appears, along with Class E cable, in the first amendment to ISO/IEC 11801:2002, approved in 2007.

And No

On the other hand, Cat6a is the most recent standard developed by the TIA for enhanced performance standards for twisted pair cable systems. The TIA does not recognize Class F Cable. They never developed specifications for Cat7 cables and they don’t plan to. They’re skipping ahead to Cat8 cable. Before we get to that, let’s establish the characteristics of this alleged Cat7.

Category 7 Cable Characteristics

  • 1000BASE-T (Gigabit Ethernet) and 10G BASE-T (10-Gigabit Ethernet) signal supported
  • Up to 600 MHz (1000 MHz for the Cat-7a) frequencies supported
  • Up to 10,000 Mbit/s (40 Gbit/s for the Cat-7a) speeds supported
  • Can be used up to a maximum of 100 meters
  • Constructed with fully shielded twisted pairs –Screen Shielded Twisted Pair (SSTP) or Screened Foiled Twisted Pair (SFTP)
  • Can be terminated with an 8P8C compatible GG45 connector or with TERA connectors

Use Cat7 Or Wait For Cat8?

Whether you are designing the telecommunications infrastructure for a new building or looking to upgrade your existing system, you will naturally want to assess both your current and future needs. What cabling are you presently using? Is its performance still satisfactory? If so, do you think it will be satisfactory well into the future? How long are you going to be in this building? These are the types of questions it would be good to mull over before making any cabling decisions.

Pros to Cat 7/Cat7a (Class F Cable)

  • It supports much higher transmission rates and frequencies than its predecessors, allowing them to carry more information faster.
  • Fully shielded twisted pairs under an overall shielding cut down on crosstalk and electromagnetic interference (EMI) significantly.
  • Cat7 cable has an estimated 15-year lifecycle. Earlier generations have 10-year life cycles.
  • Though Cat7 utilizes different connectors from prior generations, it is still compatible with 8P8C RJ45 connectors when terminated with a GG45 connector rather than the TERA. Class F Cable can be backward compatible with Class D (using Cat5e elements) and Class E cable (using Cat6 elements).

Cons to Cat7/Cat7a

  • Category 7/Class F cable is not recognized by the TIA.
  • Cat7 didn’t catch on very well with most manufacturers; most hardware produced supports 8P8C rather than the GG45 or TERA for 10 Gigabit Ethernet products in order to function on Cat6a.
  • According to early reports on Category 8 standards, backward compatibility with Cat7 is not guaranteed. Cat8 will likely, however, be backward compatible with all previous generations standardized by the TIA.

What We Know So Far About Cat8 Cable

  • It will be outlined under the TIA-568-C.2 Balanced Twisted-Pair Telecommunications and Components standard
  • The standard is currently being developed by the TIA’s TR-42.7 Subcommittee on copper cabling systems
  • Potential publish date of late 2014- 2015
  • Expected to be specified to 2GHz
  • Will likely use 8P8C RJ45 connectors
  • Will likely have shielded pairs
  • Expected to be usable up to 30 meters
  • Similar conductor size and overall diameter to previous generations (based on Cat6A and Cat7 cable development, the general consensus is that the largest practical gauge for copper twisted pair cables is 22AWG)

The Final Decision

Some companies have found that their data demands require an upgrade to Cat7. Many, however, have found that Cat7 provides far more bandwidth than they require and have opted for Cat5e, Cat6, or Cat6a. If you are looking to buy Category 7 cable to “future-proof” your facilities, you might want to wait and see what Category 8 looks like. Not only will it meet TIA established standards, but it is also more likely to be both backward compatible and more easily upgraded.

If you’d like help weighing whether Cat7 or another category cable is a good fit for your application, or could use a hand choosing a cabling solution in general, contact one of the knowledgeable representatives at Allied Wire and Cable at customerservice@awcwire.com or 800-472-4655.