When choosing a product for your network, navigating through the purchasing process can be stressful. Understanding all of the costs involved, as well as key factors for each product, will help you to make better informed decisions for your layer one infrastructure and will help you avoid costly network mistakes.
Recently, Category 6 28 American wire gauge (AWG) copper patch cables have quickly emerged as a viable choice for consumers to reduce cabling congestion in patch areas. Although 28 AWG CAT6 cabling is currently not in the standards (TIA/IEEE) for data communications, there are several advantages that make it a desirable cable infrastructure solution. Since the product is so popular among users, it is likely only a matter of time before it is adopted into the standards.
What is 28 Gauge Copper?
The cables are made with eight (8) 28 AWG copper conductors versus the standard CAT6 at 23 or 24 AWG. 28 AWG has a smaller diameter than 23 or 24 AWG. This smaller diameter brings great benefits in cable manageability and aesthetics. While there are many benefits, they are also some implications to this reduction that you should understand.
Because of its smaller diameter the 28 AWG cables offer 50% less cordage than standard CAT6 cables – allowing better air flow and less clutter in front of switches and patch panels.
The reduced diameter of the 28 AWG cables also makes them more flexible and much easier to route through cable management in comparison to your standard cable.
Factors to Consider
Heat transmitted through the cables lowers the transmission distance of the cable. Because of the reduced diameter of the copper used in 28 AWG cables they are more susceptible to intrinsic loss due to heat.
After rigorous testing, we placed a 30-foot limit on our own 28 AWG cables, which we call mini CAT6 cables. Our goal was to maintain all CAT6 characteristics in our mini CAT6 cabling. Since most mini CAT6 cables are used to reduce congestion within a rack, we’ve found that the 30-foot distance isn’t a huge limitation. Many cables average seven feet for rack applications.
Because of the smaller gauge wire, heat is an important factor in 28 AWG copper. A smaller wire has more resistance than a larger one. When electricity goes through resistance, the energy is dissipated in the form of increased heat. Heat has an adverse effect on data transmission. If you have too much heat in the cable, the connection will not work.
The smaller gauge requires a connector designed specifically for that gauge of wire. It is also beneficial for the boot/strain relief to be designed for the smaller overall diameter of the cable. This ensures a proper crimp and strain relief so the assembly won’t fail while in use.
To take advantage of new technology advancements, it is important to alleviate the risks that are involved before standardization and monitoring is done by the standards bodies. Make sure your partner individually tests each cable; batch testing will not provide the sufficient results you need and has lower requirements for an assembly to pass.