Category 8 is the new copper twisted-pair structured cabling standard being developed within both the TIA and ISO groups to support the new 25 and 40GBASE-T standards being developed by the IEEE. Category 8 is going to have a few differences over prior Category 5e, 6, or 6A cabling, but will still retain the familiarity and features that make RJ45 copper the most widely deployed Ethernet technology on the market.
What is new with Category 8?
There are a few differences between Category 8 and prior categories that should be understood.
- Shielded offering only (no unshielded option)
- 30 meter reach (versus 100 meter reach for Category 5e, 6, and 6A)
- Only 2 connectors allowed per channel (versus 4 for Category 5e, 6, and 6A)
- 4 times the bandwidth of Category 6A, going all the way up to 2000 MHz
What is the same with Category 8?
While there are differences, a lot stays the same, as well.
- Category 8 uses the same RJ45 interface as Category 5e, 6, and 6A, which makes it backwards compatible with 100BASE-T, 1000BASE-T, and 10GBASE-T systems
- Category 8 will be field terminable and field testable once available product comes to market
What do these differences mean?
Because of the limited reach of 30 meters and 2 connectors, Category 8 is focused on data centers, particularly End of Row or Top of Rack deployments.
This means that as a data center manager, you should plan for:
- A maximum jack-to-jack reach of 24 meters
- Grounding the connectivity
- A maximum of 6 meters of patch total
Latest Industry Developments
Panduit is the latest company to announce that our Category 8 system has been tested by Intertek (3rd party) and confirmed to meet the latest Category 8 TIA draft standard.
The Panduit system we tested was a 30-meter channel, with a 24-meter link and 6 meters of patch cords (3 meters on each end).
It is expected that the standard will be ratified by mid-2016, which is the earliest point where product will be available.
What should I do today?
Panduit strongly recommends against installing any Category 7 or 7A systems. These systems do not have the bandwidth (Category 7 is 600MHz, 7A is 1000MHz) to handle 25 or 40GBASE-T (need bandwidth over 1600MHz). Additionally, Category 7 and 7A do not use RJ45 connectors, so a hybrid patch cord would be required to interface to the equipment.
If you are deploying a cabling system now, Panduit recommends that you install and deploy Category 6A systems. They have the same RJ45 interface as the equipment and can run all current applications up to 10GBASE-T. If you are planning a layout to eventually accommodate Category 8, stick to a permanent link length of 24 meters or below with up to 6 meters of patch total.