Category 5e (‘Cat 5e’) and Category 6 (‘Cat 6’) are the two most popular industry standards used in most office networks in the UK. The bandwidth / speeds achievable with these networks are sufficient for most applications, as the network speeds are generally well in advance of the hardware requirements used over them. We also install Cat 6a, although it will be several years until the routers, switches and servers commonly used will need the network capacity that Cat 6a provides. There is even a Cat 7 available, but in our opinion this is Emperor’s New Clothes stuff.
Both Cat 5e and Cat 6 use low voltage copper cabling to provide outlets at desks or equipment. The cabling is generally housed in plastic trunking to protect the cabling and for aesthetics. The cables all route back to a central patch panel, where the appropriate outlet is connected to the relevant IT, telecoms or security equipment. Printers, video conferencing equipment, faxes, access control systems and other monitoring equipment can all use the structured cabling network.
Structured cabling is like the highway for information to pass around your office. The better the condition, the higher the speed achievable on the highway. In most offices both phones and computers use a structured cabling network. The beauty of a well-planned and maintained network is that you are able to run multiple services over the one network. For instance, CCTV, access control and even television distribution can all share the same cabling. Obviously installing one type of cable and outlet for every device makes the system a lot more efficient and affordable.