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C2G 83408 2M BLACK CAT6 Ethernet Gigabit Lan Network Cable (RJ45) Patch cable, UTP, compatible with CAT.5, CAT.5e and CAT.7.

£3.445£6.89Clearance
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About this deal

As Cat 9 and 10 will surely come along, it's worth wondering what the next generation of wired connectivity will look like. Many homes already get blazing internet speeds via Fiber to the Home (FTTH), but the current technology limits them to copper Ethernet cables to then connect to the router, access points and other networking accessories. The next step could be to extend fiber's reach to inside the home with the ability to carry thousands of times more data than copper wires can today. Fast-forward to the early 1990s and Category 3 cable, which is often called the first modern networking cable, boosted the cable's frequency to 16MHz and Ethernet performance to 10Mbps. By contrast, Category 4 cable pushed this to 20Mhz and roughly 16Mbps but it was used for Token Ring – rather than Ethernet – networks.

Those looking to really future proof their network might want to look at the newer Cat 8 standard, which supports speeds of up to 40Gbits/sec at distances of up to 30m using the same RJ45 connectors as Cat 6a. Predictably, though, it’s expensive and mostly used in data centres to hook up the most demanding high-performance network kit. Which category do you need?One last thing to keep an eye out for: most Ethernet cabling is of the “patch cable” type, which is used for standard connections such as plugging a NAS drive into a router or a games console into a powerline adapter. However, you may also come across “crossover cables”, which can be used to connect computers directly together. Don’t buy one of these by mistake! Right now, very few of us have home equipment that supports 10GbE, let alone anything faster. In theory, Cat 5e should cover all your immediate needs, but given that there’s so little price difference between that and Cat 6 or even Cat 6a or Cat 7, it’s worth going for the faster cables now. That goes double if you’re cabling up your home, as it’ll save the bother of replacing cables in the next five years should 10GbE-compatible devices take off. What else do you need to think about? Although it's not recognized by the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA), Category 7 cable debuted in 2010 and is aimed at data centers and server rooms where top speed counts. Each cable is double-shielded: around each pair of wires and an overall shield around the entire bundle of wires. This extra isolation is needed because the 600MHz frequency used can push a maximum of 10Gbps over 330 feet. More recently, the introduction of Cat 7A cable increases the speed to 1GHz and throughput to 40Gbps, but tops out at 165 feet. Cat 8 Cable: The new 2GHz speed limit

Category 6 cable appeared at the start of the 21st century and remains popular with home networkers. Category 6 runs at up to 250MHz and sometimes used shielding around the bundle of data-carrying wires to reduce interference. Capable of moving up to 1Gbps over 330 feet, or 10Gbps for about half that, Cat 6A upgraded the spec to 500MHz for 330 feet of 1Gbps throughput. (See our primer on Gigabit-speed internet to learn why that 1Gbps threshold is so important.) One less obvious thing to consider is what sort of cable construction you want. Most Ethernet cable consists of stranded, shielded wires inside a flexible plastic casing, which is easy to wind up and move around. However, solid-core cable is less susceptible to interference and offers slightly better performance. It’s less flexible, but if you’re running cable inside a wall it’s a good choice. StarTech doesn’t make the cheapest cables, but they are rigorously tested and have a reputation for reliability. This Cat6 cable comes in blue, white or grey in lengths that cover everything from short patch cables to longer 15m runs. It uses 100% stranded copper conductors with 50-micron gold-plated connectors, and the cables are tested with the industry-standard Fluke tests to ensure they deliver reliable, professional-grade performance.

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