What is Cat7 - And Why You Don’t Need It

What is Cat7 - and why you don’t need it.

Ethernet cables come in all shapes, lengths, and sizes, but the biggest differentiating factor between them is their category. This term is used to denote the generation of Ethernet cable, which in turn tells you a lot about its performance potential and the level of shielding it has to prevent crosstalk and exterior noise. Where cables like Cat 5, Cat 5eCat 6, and even Cat 8 are quite typical, however, Cat7 is a little different.

Those other categories of cable were part of the standard development of Ethernet cables. They improved incrementally generation upon generation and were released in a fairly uniform manner over the years, but Cat 7 was an attempt to leapfrog ahead of that, delivering much greater performance potential years ahead of comparable Ethernet cable designs.

Alongside its unique launch timeframe, Cat7 has some unique eccentricities where other categories of cable adhere to strict specifications for all parts of their design. Partly because of that, but also because more standard Ethernet cables are now readily available and can compete directly with Cat7, it's not hugely popular, despite its impressive specifications (especially considering when it was released). But the magic of that higher number means that comparable cables of lower categories are occasionally mis-sold as Cat7 cables instead. In fact, if you come across a Cat7 cable from some other retailer, you’re almost certainly buying a Cat 6A cable.

Not on Cable Matters. All cables in that store are accurately labeled to help you make an informed choice. But knowing what is Cat7 can save you some headaches when it comes to upgrading your Ethernet cables.

So, what is Cat7? It's an Ethernet cable for sure, but you probably don’t need to worry about it. In fact, we’re almost certain you’d be better off with a Cat6A, or Cat 8 Ethernet cable instead.

By the numbers

A quick look at Cat7's capabilities might make you wonder what all the fuss is about, because on paper at least, it has everything you might want in an Ethernet cable. Originally ratified as a standard in 2002, Cat7 was the first Ethernet cable type to offer speeds up to 10 Gbps over up to 100 meters of copper cabling. In ideal circumstances, Cat7 Ethernet cables can operate up to frequencies as high as 600 MHz. That's noticeably higher than Cat6 cables, although falls very close to the capabilities of Cat6A, which debuted two years later.

Although designed with that 10 Gbps bandwidth in mind, Cat 7 actually proved even more capable in real-world use, with some high-quality Cat 7 Ethernet cables able to transmit up to 40 Gbps over 50 meters, and 100 Gbps over 15 meters. The cables aren’t rated for that kind of speed, but it shows what a capable solution it was when first launched, making it all the more impactful that Cat 7 was not adopted more widely.

Cat7 cables do have stricter standards for crosstalk than Cat6, roughly comparable with Cat6A. It typically achieves this with a tighter twisting of the internal wires, though you can also get Cat 7 cables which have shielding of the twisted pairs, and an overall braid or foil wrap for the cable as a whole, doubling the layers of shielding over older categories of Ethernet cabling.

What is Cat7? Similar but not the same

Where Cat7 cables sound great on paper -- especially considering when they were originally released – there are some reasons why the standard is not as useful or as viable as comparable cables like Cat6A.

One of the most important reasons is that the Cat7 specification is a proprietary standard developed by a group of companies. It is not an IEEE standard and is not approved by TIA/EIA. Cat7 cables don't use the traditional RJ-45 Ethernet header (technically known as an 8P8C connector). The GG45 connector that is used instead, is a proprietary connector. It is, however, backward compatible with RJ-45 and could be used interchangeably for the most part, but due to the limited adoption of Cat7 Ethernet cables, the GG45 Connector is hard to come by. Cat7 cables are also compatible with the TERA connector, although that has also seen very little use in the industry. (see below)

TERA connector

Image Credit: Wikipedia

This lack of conformity with prior cable standards has led to Cat7 being an exceedingly unpopular cable category and ultimately drove the development of Cat6A cables shortly after its initial release. While that standard proved more popular, it also added to the confusion. Marketing comparable Cat6A cables is difficult when Cat7 sounds better and newer, by virtue of having a higher number category. This has resulted in some sellers using Cat7 as a way to sell their Cat6A cables. So be sure to check the specifications of any Cat7 cables you are interested in buying, before typing in your card details.

Or indeed, just consider buying Cat6A cables, since you may end up with those anyway.

No nod for Cat7

While connector preference drove some people and companies away from Cat7 though, arguably the most important factor in its low popularity is that it lacks the official stamp of approval from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and Electronic Industries Alliance (EIA). That doesn't preclude anyone from using Cat7 cables, but it does mean many are less inclined to do so.

This lack of approval and the use of the alternative connector means that networking hardware developers have focused their support for 10Gb Ethernet for the RJ-45 connector, leaving the GG45 and TERA connection options underdeveloped. That merely compounds the problems Cat7 faces in increasing its adoption.

Instead, over the years Cat 6, then Cat 6A, and more recently, Cat8 Ethernet cables have become more common as networks are built and upgraded, and Cat 7 has largely been sidelined.

What about Cat7A?

Like Cat6 and Cat6A, Cat7A is a further development of the Cat7 standard. Designed to support future 40 Gigabit Ethernet connection standards with frequencies up to 1,000MHz, Cat7A is incredibly capable. It can support 40 Gigabit connections up to 50 meters and 100 Gigabit up to 15 meters in the right circumstances.

Unfortunately, this strays further from the plans of the IEEE, which ratified in 2016 (six years after Cat7A was ratified) that Ethernet cables officially supporting 40 Gbps speeds would require support for up to 2,000MHz, meaning Cat8 cables are the only ones to officially support such speeds.

This has resulted in little to no developmental work on Cat7A-compatible products, making it mostly useless, despite its impressive capabilities. 

Cat 7 vs. Cat 8

Like some of the Cat 7 Ethernet cable’s earlier battles with Cat 6 and Cat 6A, it ultimately doesn’t stand much of a chance against Cat 8 cables. Although Cat 7 and Cat 7A are impressive cables and connectors, the standardization of Cat 8 is too much for it to compete with. Cat 8 is a true evolution of Cat 6A and the perfect upgrade path for anyone looking to expand their network’s capabilities.

Beyond simply being more standardized, though, Cat 8 is simply a better cable. It is rated to support frequencies up to 2,000 MHz over up to 30 meters, giving it the official support for up to 40 Gbps over that shorter cable run. Though Cat 7 cables have been shown to be capable of delivering such bandwidths, they only support frequencies up to 600MHz, so lack that official support for such high bandwidths.

In terms of shielding both cables are roughly equal as standards. They both require shielded twisted pairs and an overall shielding over the cable itself, but Cat 8 comes in a wider range of shielded options. Some have splines, others add additional foil or braided shielding for the overall wire, and some have both. 

As for cost, Cat 8 Ethernet cables are typically a little more expensive, but considering you get the ratified and official standard and supported features, as well as more impressive rated performance, there really is no competition: Cat8 cables are better.

You probably don't need Cat7. Use Cat6A or Cat8 instead

Cat7 cables are not a common standard, nor one you need to concern yourself with. If you need the kind of performance Cat7 offers, Cat6A is perfectly up to the task. It's a widely supported cable standard and has all of the benefits of Cat7 without the drawbacks.

If you are running a data center or really interested in future-proofing your network and want more than Cat6A has to offer, then you’d be better off choosing a Cat8 cable. Cat8 has the blessing of the industry and is approved by the IEEE and EIA and even comes with the familiar RJ45 connectors. Though length limitations do apply, Cat8 is rated for 25 & 40G speeds and provides an excellent alternative to more expensive fiber connections.

Cable Matters carries a large selection of Cat6A and Cat8 cables in different lengths and colors. 

What is Cat7? It's effectively a dead standard and one that few should concern themselves with. It’s not going to make a comeback, and against the likes of Cat6A and Cat8 cables, it doesn’t stand a chance considering their widespread and ever-increasing adoption.

However, if you are one of the few who want or need a Cat7 Ethernet cable or three, then you need to be sure that what you're buying is Cat7. Don't be caught out by Cat6A masquerading as the older standard. Be sure you buy from a reputable cable trader like Cable Matters and if in doubt, get in touch with support to find out exactly what type of Ethernet cable you’re buying.

Do You Need Cat7 in 2023?

In 2022 many of the country’s largest internet service providers unveiled multi-gigabit internet plans across the nation, and that looks set to continue in 2023. AT&T, Verizon, Google Fiber, Xfinity, and other smaller regional ISPs as well, have all launched multi-gig services, making 1 Gbps+ download speeds a reality. If you've just upgraded, or are planning to upgrade your work or home network to a multi-gig network, you're probably wondering if you need to upgrade your cables.

If you’re already running Cat 6 or Cat 6A, it’s not necessary. What you have is more than fast enough and the standard shielding of both cable standards is perfect for home use. If you’re running older Cat 5 cables, however, you may want to upgrade to benefit from the improved performance and shielding of newer Ethernet cables.

That said, whether you’re building a new network or upgrading an older one, leave Cat7 well enough alone. It’s a dead standard that isn’t going to see any further adoption and its benefits are easily matched and outweighed by competitor cables, like Cat 6A, or the latest and greatest, Cat8. 

In the vast majority of cases, if your network is less than 10Gbps then Cat6A cable is going to be all you need. Let's say you live in Chattanooga, Tennessee though and you've just upgraded to the fastest residential internet service in the country at 25Gbps. 

Should you upgrade to Cat7? No! Upgrade to Cat8 instead. It’s incredibly fast, has the most robust shielding of any category of Ethernet cable, and it will continue to be supported long into the future. Cat 7 will not.

Shop Cat6A

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Comments (20) -

  • Sorry I am still confused as the text does seem to contradict itself here and there.
    The thing that is not clear to me is the connectors used in cat 7 Ethernet cables.

    All I need is a 10m Ethernet cable that will connect a Sony TV type KDL - 32WD752 to a Plusnet router which I think is the latest type. I think a moderately good cable will do as my highest recorded download speed is 40Mb per second. It’s the connector plugs themselves that bother me, not the quality of the cable itself. Sony TV manual page12GB says cable for LAN connection use a Category 7 cable (not supplied).
    What do you advise.
    Regards Robert Turner
    • Hey R Turner... From what I see, I believe you are referring to the non-standard connection mentioned in the article vs the normal RJ-45 used universally. There is no way Sony is using any sort of alternate connector. I advise that you forget cat7 exists and use basically any other cable for this application. I truly doubt there are even any for sale that would bottleneck your TV. If in doubt, do a field test by taking any ethernet cable you happen to own and plugging it in the TV/router. Hope I was helpful.
  • Hello

    I need to run 300 feet of ethernet cable OUTSIDE.

    What should I buy?

    CAT5, CAT5e, CAT6, CAT6A, CAT7, CAT8

    It will be laying this 300 foot Ethernet cable on the ground and through some weeds etc and it WILL be exposed to rain and about 100 feet of it will have constant direct exposure to the sun the temperatures range from 35°-75°-110° in East County San Diego (no snow).

    I want to make sure that I buy something sturdy that is weatherproof and rainproof and I want it to be insulated to reduce cross talk or other interference as much as possible. (I am not an expert at this)

    I live in my motorhome and there is absolutely no Wi-Fi or broadband available to me here however my bosses one story office is about 300 feet away and has given me his guest Wi-Fi network password… But this Wi-Fi signal only has a range of about 50 feet

    I’m going to run a 300 foot Ethernet cable from my motorhome to the roof of my bosses office and plug it into a special Wi-Fi range extender in repeater mode.

    The guest Wi-Fi network speeds are 77 Mbps download and 21 Mbps upload… That’s with me standing right next to the router inside the office with my iPhone… The roof directly above it is about 15 feet… Speeds should be really good on the roof as well it’s a wooden roof

    My boss will NOT give me the password for his main Wi-Fi network, Only for his guest Wi-Fi network; The wi-fi connection made to his router inside his office to the wi-Fi range extender on the roof has to be done wirelessly

    he will not allow me to plug anything into his router.… The distance between his router inside the office upward to the roof is about 15 feet

    I’m going to buy a weatherproof AC powered high-quality Wi-Fi range extender that has repeater mode and the ability to plug an Ethernet cable into it

    because I’m NOT willing to take the risk of broadcasting my bosses guest Wi-Fi network 300 feet Wirelessly to my motorhome (snooping/hacking)… Running this cable will provide more stability and privacy than doing it wirelessly.

    What should I buy?

    CAT5, CAT5e, CAT6, CAT6A, CAT7, CAT8

    You never know what this cable will be exposed to with regards to perhaps people maybe walking on it and of course rain and sun

    so I want to spend a little extra money to get something that will give me the very best signal possible on the other end of this 300 foot cable in my motorhome and sturdy

    I know that we’re only working with a guest Wi-Fi network so my understanding is that there are some limitations with a guest Wi-Fi network, but that’s all I have to work with.

    Please help me

    respectfully yours

    • Hi did you find a suitable solution? What did u use in the end? I have a similar decision to make, some of my cable may have to go overhead though as well as being exposed to the elements so I need something that will not stretch, also our network is 500mbps so I need something that will support that and not end up slowing it down, we’ve waited a long time for ftth so want to make sure we maintain speeds throughout. Any help will be appreciated x
    • I assume you have installed your cable, so would be interested in knowing what you actually installed.
      Given the WiFi speeds are the limiting factor, any cable that supports 100mbps over 300ft/100 meters will be suitable.
      Given the prices and general availability of cable, unless you have been given a reel of suitable Cat5e, I would buy a 300ft/100m reel of Cat6a cable designated as being suitable for outdoor and ground burial usage.
      Remember whilst Cat6a uses the RJ-45 interface, you will need to use Cat6a rated RJ-45 terminators/connectors on the cable and not some spare Cat5 rated connectors.
      Given your motorhome is mobile, I would run the cable from your bosses office to an outdoor termination box on a post adjacent to the parking bay. Then use 15~30ft of the 300ft cable to create a 'drop cable' that you use to connect your motorhome to the termination box.
    • I would suggest running some Cat6A external grade cable.

      If poss (funds permitting) - also run it through some Copex trunking for added protection.
    • Tom
      Shielded cat 6a would be the best for this application I think. The vast majority of applications cat6a will be perfectly fine for.
    • You will need to buy CAT6 cable rated CMX for sunlight and outdoors.  At 300', you're approaching the maximum spec for Ethernet (100m OR 328'); THE 100m is an end-to-end spec, including all patch cables.
    • Randy,

      Cat 5 will work fine, there will already be so much degradation over the wireless aspect that you will not be able to make use of the higher capacity cable. The most important aspect will be to get outdoor grade cable, otherwise indoor will last you a couple months, maybe up to even a year or two -but it will fail eventually and you'll need to run it all over again. It would probably be better to just buy a GSMcradle if you the area is serviced.

      Seeing that its been a year, what did you end up doing?
    • Kat
      Dumb question time. Why aren't you planning on using an outdoor ethernet and bury it? That is standard practice for a home extension line. You would not want to use an indoor ethernet as it will get destroyed quickly by the elements. Also, it's usually a good practice to put the outdoor ethernet cable in a cable wrap of some type, preferably a small piping of some type.
    • Stop stealing internet from your evil pointy-haired boss
  • You should go with CAT6. It's slightly sturdier than CAT5e (which is good if it's going to be walked on). CAT7 is proprietary, and CAT8 is just overkill for the speeds you're going to use. But you want to make sure of a few things. (1) Get "direct burial" cable, which is fully waterproofed. (2) Since it will be exposed to sunlight, the cable jacket must be UV-resistant. Temperature is not an issue, but sunlight is. (3) If at all possible, dig a shallow trench and bury the cable, even if it's only a few inches deep. You don't want people tripping over it and you especially don't want to run a lawnmower over it. (4) You don't need shielded cable, and unshielded is cheaper.
  • This article can not be correct. I’ve bought multiple Cat7 with RJ45 connectors from Amazon with 26,918 ratings at 5 Stars. Who wrote this?
  • How would someone use a "much cheaper than fiber" Cat8 cable for 25+Gbit connections, when there is literally **no** hardware that supports 25GBASE-T?  Or IF it get developed (not a given with the theoretical power and cost constraints, 10GBASE-T is already power-thirsty and runs at a much lower frequency that the proposed 25GBASE-T standard), how will it be able to compete with longstanding fiber equipment that has been available at 100Gbit+ speeds for years and years and are available seconds hand often for less than $1000 even in today's chip-starved world?
  • Thank you so much for this detailed explanation. I was having a problem with my internet and I couldnt figure it out. Must have been that weird CAT7 connector, replaced it with a CAT8 and no more problem

    Thanks so much
  • I am building a new house and want to run Ethernet cable from a router (not sure which Internet provider we will use, yet) to a TV (via an android streaming device). The cable will be inside a wall with a run of less that 20 feet. What cable would you recommend?
  • hmm.... I wouldnt even run copper.
    I would probably just run fiber.
    I've done that a few times and if your network switch has a sfpm type connector you're in good shape.
    It seemed to work out very well.
    since you can get up to 250bg or there abouts i would thing thats fairly feature/future proof.
  • JRC
    What a rambling bit of nothing. I've got cat7 through the house which came with RJ45 connectors, which was necessary at the time because of less than ideal router location requirments and distance. The cat7 provides a very nice connection with no noticible drop or interferance despite its run length of nearly 100'. There are probably some instances where someone might want a little heavier shielding, but cable shielding has ALWAYS been over-played. If you're selling cables, OF COURSE you're going to pitch that. Keep it away from power wires and other cables, and it'll likely never be an issue.

    Point is that the people that put this piece together ramble all over the place, then admit reverse compatibility, then say it won't be supported; but it's a cable with no moving parts. So maybe don't instal it, but don't worry about ripping it out, either. It's just fine, and it'll be working long after the bloggers have left the building.

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