The next network cable standard: The Cat 8

In previous articles we have written about the differences between the different network cable standards.  The most recent standard which is currently commercially available is Cat 7. However Cat 8 (category 8) is the newest copper network cabling standard in the pipeline.

 

In this article we will give a brief outline of what one should expect from the Cat 8 network cable standard.


In this article I try to give a very short and effective idea of what all these category standards are about and then explain what you should expect from the next upcoming standard – CAT 8.

What are cabling standards?

 

The ISO/IEC 11801 international standard defines the requirements and characteristics of telecommunication (and network) twisted pair cabling.

 

Copper cables used for network and telecommunications are always in twisted pairs.  There are various detailed reasons for this, but to keep it simple the reason for using twisted pairs, is that by twisting the wires the electromagnetic field created through electrical signals passing through the wires are contained.   

This affects directly the speed at which the data passes through the cable.  The speed at which data is transferred through a cable is limited by the frequency characteristics of the twisted cable.  This means that the higher the frequency characteristics of the cable, the higher the frequencies of electromagnetic fields the cable can contain.  Which results in higher speeds for the data transfer capabilities of the cable.

There are also other factors that impact on speed, and the distance over which the transfer speed can be maintained.  This includes the shielding on the individual wires.


Network Speed


New technology increases the demand for data transfer at higher speeds.  This in turn drives the industry to evolve network copper cables to support higher bandwidth speeds.

To give a brief glimpse at current standards:

Standard Frequency Limit Data Speed Date of Usage
CAT 2 1 MHz 4 Mbps 1980s
CAT 3 16 MHz 10 Mbps 1990s
CAT 5/5e 100 MHz 100 Mbps 2000-2010
CAT 6 250 MHz 1 Gbps 2005 – onwards
CAT 6A 500Mhz 10Gbps 2006-onwards
CAT 7 600 MHz 10 Gbps 2010 – onwards
CAT 7a 1000 MHZ 10 Gbps+ 2014 – onwards


Cat 8 Standard



As discussed previously Cat 8 is aimed at providing better frequency characteristics, thus offering higher speeds for data transfer.

 

Having been under development since 2013, Cat 8 is expected to support bandwidth of up to 2Ghz for up to 30m of distance between devices.  This translates into support of speeds of up to 25Gbps/ 40 Gbps.

The ANSI/TIA Category 8 solution utilizes an 8 position modular 8 connector (commonly known as RJ45) and was designed to be backward compatible with the existing 8 position modular connectors that are utilized in structured cabling from Category 5e through to Category 6A. This was a key requirement from the active equipment manufacturers to maintain compatibility with the billions of RJ45 connectors in use around the world.  The international standards body is following a similar approach, their Class I links are made up of Category 8.1 components, the connectors being backward compatible with the commonly used 8 position modular style (RJ45).

The higher speeds offered by Cat 8 are four times the speeds handled by previous standards.  This will highly impact transfer of data, and will be hugely beneficial for industries were speed is essential.  

 


Do I need a Cat 8 based network?

The expected lifetime of a cable is around 20 years.  For most uses previous standards are still effective. However, as happened with previous network cable standards, new devices will quickly start using the new speed offered by Cat 8.  

 

Thus, although not necessary at present, when installing a new network it might be ideal to consider Cat 8 standards.

 

It is essential to consider current and future use of your network before investing.  Intertek can assist you with making the right choice.