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Which Category Cable?

The next decision in the design process was not as clear cut: should we spend the extra money and go with Category 6 cabling, or just stay with standard Category 5e? There were good arguments on both sides of this question, and the price difference between Category 6 and Category 5e cabling really wasn't all that significant. Category 6 would be able to handle Gigabit Ethernet over copper, while most Category 5e should be able to handle this, as well. Would Category 6 be able to handle 10 GBit Ethernet over copper or some other standard that would clearly be an advantage over the long term?

Opinions on this topic vary, and many claim that the installation of the Category 6 cable to spec has more to do with the performance potential of the cabling than with the differences between the Category 6 and 5e products. Tim and Doug recommended that we go with Category 6 cabling for the Ethernet so that we would be better prepared for the future, and since the cost was not that much more, this made the decision even easier. We took their recommendation and opted to use all Category 6 products to have a true Category 6 certified installation. (Later in the article we will tell you about how Doug tested our Category 6 installation to make sure that all was up to spec.)

For the phone cable we opted for regular Category 5 cabling. While we could have gone with Category 3 cabling, the cost difference was minor, so we chose to go with the higher quality cabling. (We have no evidence that it makes a difference for ordinary telephone service lines (POTS) one way or the other.)

For the coax cabling we opted for RG-6 that is compatible with either satellite or cable TV installations. We chose to color-code all cabling, with the Ethernet Category 6 being blue, the phone Category 5 cable being white, and the RG-6 coax cable being black. We carried this color-coding over to the wall plates as well, with the icons above each connector being these same colors. While it is not required to color- code all of the cables, it does make the cabling pulling process easier, as well as help to determine which cables are which when they are hanging out of the wall. Of course, before any cables were pulled we labeled them according to a numbering scheme.

With the planning mostly done, my "to do" list was shorter than before. Once the work was roughed in, the contractors would finish the construction of the lab in the basement. Doug would then return to add the final touches to the project.

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