UTP Cable Standards and Their Usage in Networks

UTP cable standards and their usage
UTP stands for unshielded twisted pair (UTP) Cable. It has two wires twisted around each other. These two wires or conductors form a single circuit. They are twisted around each other so that they negate the electromagnetic interference from other sources. They are not covered with meshes or aluminum foils.
These wires are used in telephone lines and computer networking.

There are some specifications defined for UTP cables by the 568A Commercial Building Wiring Standard of the Electronic Industries Association and the Telecommunication Industries Association (EIA/TIA). We get you acquainted with these UTP cabling standards and their usage in networks in the following write-up.

UTP cabling standards

Category 1 cable

It is also known as Cat 1, Level 1, or voice-grade copper cable. It can carry voice signals, but is not capable of transmitting data. Hence, it is used in telephone lines. 1 MHz is the maximum frequency that can be transmitted over this kind of cable. This category is unrecognized by the official TIA/EIA standards.

Category 2 cable

This category contains 4 pairs of twisted cables. We can transmit both voice and data over it. The maximum frequency that can be transmitted over it is 4 MHz, and the maximum bandwidth that can be transmitted over it is 4Mbps. Anixter International, a leading distributor of network components, defines this category as Level 2 although TIA/EIA-568 does not recognize it.

Category 3 cable

This category consists of 4 pairs of twisted copper wire that have 3 twists per foot. It is defined by TIA/EIA-568B. It transmits data up to 10Mbps, and the maximum frequency signal that it transmits is 16 MHz. It is put to use in computer networking. But currently instead of this, Cat5e or Cat6 cables are used in practice.

Category 4 cable

This category of cables consists of 4 twisted pairs of copper wires. It can transmit data up to 16Mbits/s, and the maximum frequency that it can transmit is 20 MHz. It can be put to use to transmit voice and data over telephone lines. Earlier, it was also used in token ring, 10BASE-T, and 100BASE-T4 networks. But now Category 5 cables are used for it. Also, it is not recognized by the current version of the TIA/EIA-568B.

Category 5 cable

It again consists of 4 twisted pairs of copper wires and uses balanced line twisted pair design. It uses differential signaling to minimize noise. It is capable of transmitting data up to 100Mbps. It carries voice and video signals. It also carries digital data signals over computer networks. It is used in 10BASE-T, 100BASE-TX (Fast Ethernet), 1000BASE-TX (Gigabit Ethernet).

Category 5e (enhanced) is an improvised version of Category 5. It scores over category 5 by delivering better transmission performance during high data traffic. Although category 5 is not recognized, category 5e is defined in TIA/EIA-568B.

Category 6 cable

This category is recognized by TIA/EIA-568B specifications. It is capable of transferring data signals with a frequency as high as 250 MHz. It holds backward compatibility with category 5/5e and category 3 cable standards. It is technically advanced to avoid crosstalk and system noise. It transmits signals over 10BASE-T, 100BASE-TX (Fast Ethernet), 1000BASE-T/1000BASE-TX (Gigabit Ethernet), and 10GBASE-T (10-Gigabit Ethernet).

Augmented Category 6 or category 6a cable can perform for frequencies up to 500 MHz and has improved alien crosstalk characteristics.

Category 7 cable

ISO/IEC 11801 class F cabling is also known as Category 7 cable. It transmits signals at frequencies of 600 MHz. It is backward compatible with class D/category 5e and Class E/Category 6. It eliminates crosstalk and system noise better. However, it is not recognized by TIA/EIA-568.