Ultimate Guide to Plenum Cable Types and Specifications


Planning to upgrade your ethernet cable but got struck in complex terminology? Read this article to understand what actually a plenum cable is and what are specifications of Cat6 Plenum Cable, Cat6a Plenum Cable, Cat5e Plenum cable. 

Are you familiar with the plenum spaces in the buildings? If yes, then, this is where Plenum Cable gets its name from. Plenum spaces are the areas that facilitate the flow of air conditioning systems and heating. Making these plenum spaces more useful, nowadays, communication cables, including that of telephonic and computer networks, are placed in these areas. Speaking of ether plenum cables, they are further classified into Cat6 Plenum Cable, Cat6a Plenum Cable, and Cat5e Plenum Cable. Before proceeding any further, let us decode the term Plenum Cable.

What Is Plenum Cable?

In layman terms, it is a type of ethernet cable that is installed in buildings’ plenum spaces. Plenum cables come in extra protection as they are coated and jacketed with fire-retardant materials. Owing to higher resistance to fire and other flammable items, plenum cables remain the preferred choice for commercial and residential use. Specifically, these remain the first choice whenever cables are required in air ducts. Now that you have fathomed the concept of Plenum Cable, let’s move to its types.

Types of Plenum Cables

The most widely available Plenum Cables are:

  • Cat6 Plenum Cable,
  • Cat6a Plenum Cable,
  • And, Cat5e Plenum Cable.

Cat5e Plenum Cable Specifications

Cat5e Plenum Cable supports operating frequency up to 250 MHz while it can handle a speed of 1GB. Cat5e uses copper wire and it is a twisted pair ethernet cable. It provides a length of up to 100 meters per network segment. Beyond this length, you can’t achieve maximum achievable lengths. Reduced crosstalk means less interference, and less interference translates into significantly decreased chances of transmission errors.

A Cat5e cable supports most of the existing applications with strong performance. However, one drawback is that it decreases up-gradation for future devices. When compared with Cat6 and Cat6a plenum cables, the price of Cat5e is lower. A Cat5e cable is usually sold in the bulk of 1000ft.

Cat6 Plenum Cable Specifications

The fire protection standard of the Cat6 Plenum Cable is UL910 – most demanding in Underwriters Laboratories. This cable has been designed with safety features in mind. When exposed to fire, this cable limits flame propagation to 5 feet while restricting smoke emissions. Usually, the jacket of these cables is made of a fluorinated ethylene polymer or a low-smoke polyvinyl chloride. Thanks to these safety features, it remains one of the preferred choices for installation in plenum spaces of the buildings.

Cat6 supports frequency up to 250 MHZ. Likewise, it also supports bandwidth up to 10GB up to 55 meters; this internet speed is way more and it seems unlikely that you currently have a connection that can surpass this speed. Being a worthy up-gradation, it is a bit costlier than Cat5e cable but cheaper than Cat6a. A Cat6 cable is usually sold in the bulk of 1000ft.

Cat6a Plenum Cable Specifications

This cable is the preferred choice if you require thicker shielding and broader frequencies for your smart technologies. If you need to pair an ethernet cable with a fiber optic cable, then Cat6a is a perfect choice. These cables are often used by the administrators for reducing resultant power loss and DC resistance. Cat6a can easily support the next few technologies owing to its less crosstalk and potential for better speeds.

The cable is highly flexible in deployment owing to its potential compatibility with future low-powered devices. Just like its predecessor Cat6 Plenum Cable, Cat6a is fire retardant with the former possessing more high-quality cable jacket material and safety standards. When compared with Cat6, it supports 500 MHz operating frequency [literally doubling it] and allows transmission of data at speed of 10GB for up to 328 feet or 100 meters. When compared with the prices of Cat5e and Cat6, Cat6a comes at a higher price tag. Thicker copper jackets and conductors are used in Cat6A cables. These features increase safety standards but at the cost of extra price. A Cat6a cable is usually sold in the bulk of 1000ft.

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