Cat 6 cables are becoming more and more popular with an increasing number of users looking for higher and higher network speeds and bandwidth. Cat 6a cables are now used every day and are definitely the cable to choose for those wishing to access 10 Gigabit Ethernet for CCTV, VoIP and other data network users. Check out RS Components for a selection of cables.

However, this swell of popularity has led to fierce debate as to whether the cable 6 cable is best used shielded or unshielded. But what are the actual differences between shielded and unshielded, and what are each type’s advantages and disadvantages? 

The difference between shielded and unshielded

What is the difference between shielded and unshielded cables? The Cat 6 cable shielded twisted pair cable is shielded in order to prevent the cable’s performance being affected by either radio frequency interference or electromagnetic interference, as well as preventing the signals from the cable from interfering with nearby equipment and other cables. 

These shielded cables are perfect for use with high-speed 10G networks and when correctly installed will curb crosstalk and EMI automatically, ensuring high-speed performance as well as data integrity. 

The unshielded twisted pair cables, which are twisted into four sets of pairs, come with every bare copper conductor being colour-coded and insulated. The cables are bundled in a jacket like PVC, with every pair having a different twist rate so as to cut down on the cable’s crosstalk. 

This is the most common form of cable construction as it is both less expensive and simpler to install than is the case with shielded cables. The unshielded cable is also easier to terminate because of the lack of shielding, considerably reducing the time and cost of termination. 

On the downside however, these cables are not as effective in handling EMI and are also quite a lot bigger, meaning that a greater amount of pathway space will be required in order to accommodate them.

Making the choice

When making the decision between whether to choose a shielded or unshielded Cat 6 cable, the right choice should be primarily dependent on where you are planning to have the cable or cables installed. Airports, factories and medical centres often use shielded cables because of the presence of many machines that produce a lot of interference, while unshielded is ideal for use in standard offices and in the home.

Of course, the final decision will likely also be influenced by another important factor – budget. Shielded cables are more expensive than the unshielded ones, but the gap is a lot narrower than most people tend to realise, which means that the intended application should still really be the determining factor. 

If you are still uncertain as to the type of cable that would be most appropriate for use with your business, get in touch with an expert to receive professional advice. 

The important thing is to install Cat 6 cables to ensure the highest quality performance and a longer life expectancy for the installation.