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Category cables commonly refer to 100 Ohm twisted pair Ethernet cables. These cables are also known as: LAN (Local Area Network), data, and networking cables. The term "category" defines the type, application, and electrical performance of the cable. CATx is an abbreviation for the category number that defines the performance of building telecommunications cabling as outlined by the Electronic Industries Association (EIA) standards.
The most common cable Category cables on the market today are indicated in the chart below:
There are basically two types of Category cable mechanical construction: Unshielded Twisted Pair (UTP) and Shielded Twisted Pair (STP).
Unshielded Twisted Pair (UTP) cables are the most common type of Category cable. A typical Cat5e, Cat6, Cat6a, and Cat7 cable is comprised of 8 conductors that are twisted into 4 sets of pairs. Each bare copper conductor is insulated and color coded. Each bundle of Category cable twisted pairs is bundled under an overall jacket such as PVC. Each twisted pair of cable has a different twist rate in order to minimize crosstalk within the cable.
UTP cable construction is the most common construction on the market because it is less expenseive than shielded cables and is easier to install. SCP offers UTP for Cat5e, Cat6, and Cat6A.
Twisted pair cables are often shielded to prevent electromagnetic interference (EMI) or radio-frequency interference (RFI) from affecting the performance of the cable. The shielding protects EMI and RFI from entering or exiting the cable. There are commonly two types of shielding used on Category Cables: Foil Shield and Braided Shield.
A foil shield consists of an Aluminum foil that is wrapped around all of the twisted pairs as an "overall foil shield" or it may be used around each individual pair of wires as "each pair shielded".
A braid shield commonly refers to a "tinned copper braid" as an overall shield for all of the twisted pairs in the cable.
All shielded Category cables have a special grounding wire added called a drain wire. The shielding must be grounded for the shielding to work. Typically the drain wire is placed alongside the foil shield.
The acronyms used to describe the cable shielding have changed over the last several years in order to avoid confusion of the different types of shielding found on Category cables today. The mechanical construction of the Category cables shielding is identified by specific abbreviations. These abbreviations or acronyms were established by the ISO/IEC 11801 standard and adopted by TIA/EIA.
The standard abbreviations are as follows: