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DataPro's Cat7 Guide and FAQ

DataPro Tech Info > DataPro's Cat7 Guide and FAQ

Cat7 Cable

What is Cat7?

Category 7, or "Cat7" is the designation for a type of Ethernet networking cable. Although first announced in 2002, it has only recently become widely available. What are its applications, and how does it differ from its predecessors? Read on!

Fun fact:

While its capabilities have been described and defined, specifications for the physical design of Category 7 cable have not yet been finalized. This has created an odd situation where cables can be manufactured to meet Cat7 requirements, even though they cannot be said to have been "made to Cat7 specs" (because those specs exist, but have yet to be ratified).

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  Cat5 / Cat5e Cat6 / Cat6a Cat7 / Cat7a Cat8
Max Speed 100-250MHz 250-500MHz 600MHz-1GHz 1-2GHz
Max Bandwidth 1Gbps 10Gbps 40Gbps 40Gbps
Max Length 100m 100m (50m at 10Gbps) 100m (50m at 40Gbps) 30m
Shielding Optional Optional Required Required
Year Introduced 1991 1999 2002 2013

What is the difference between Cat5, Cat6, Cat7, and Cat 8?

Essentially, each version is more robust, better shielded, and capable of faster data transmission than its predecessor. For detailed information about each spec, see the table to the right.

What does Cat7 mean?

Cat is short for "Category." The transmission rate of a networking is measured by frequency (in Hz) and divided into Classes of performance. These "Classes" are served by "Categories" of cable.

For example the venerable "Class A" indicates a link of up to 100kHz and is served by "Category 1" cabling -- also known as common telephone wire.

By comparison, the newer "Class F" can operate at to 600-1000MHz, and is served by "Category 7" cable -- or Cat7.
Cat7 Cutaway

How is Cat7 cable physically different?

Cat7's pairs are individually shielded in addition to a shielded jacket over the whole cable, allowing it to operate at much higher frequencies with less interference. While this level of shielding is available for Cat6 and earlier Ethernet revisions, it is part of the intended design of Cat7.

What are the advantages of Cat7?

Although most networking equipment can't take advantage of Cat7a's 40Gbps top speed, Cat7 is useful for making long runs at 10Gbps.

How fast is Cat7?

With compatible network hardware, Cat7 can operate at up to 40Gbps at distances up to 50m, and 10Gbps at lengths up to 100m.

Cat7 vs Cat6

Cat7 has stricter specs for crosstalk (interference between conductors) and to achieve this it is required to be fully shielded by default. Such shielding was optional in Cat6 cables. Cat7 also allows the use of TERA style termination hardware - a robust, shielded plug typically used in datacenters and enterprise networking.

Cat7 vs Cat7a

Cat7a was an update proposed in 2010 to the Cat7 spec that increased the maximum bandwidth to 40Gbps and the maximum transmission rate to 1GHz. Like Cat7, the capabilities have been defined but the full construction specifications have not.

Cat7 vs Cat8

Cat8 is not yet a ratified standard and its capabilities have yet to be officially defined, but it is expected to share the same 40Gbps maximum bandwidth as Cat7a with a maximum transmission rate of 2GHz. Cat8 is intended for use in datacenters and enterprise networking.
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