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. That denotes both their performance which is directly related to their shielding against crosstalk and exterior noise. Where cables like Cat 5, Cat 5e, Cat 6, and even Cat 8 are quite typical, Cat7 is a little different.

Where other categories of cable adhere to strict specifications for all parts of their design, Cat7 has some unique eccentricities. Because of that, 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.

Not on Cable Matters. All cables on 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.

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, it 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 was developed several years later.

Cat7 cables do have stricter standards for crosstalk than Cat6, roughly comparable with Cat6A. It typically achieves this with a combination of tighter twisting of the internal wires, though shielding for individual wires and the cable as a whole are also common options.

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 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. Despite its backward compatibility with RJ45, these connectors are 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 in 2008. 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.

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.

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.

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

Cat7 cables are not a common standard, nor one you need 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, 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.

 

Cable Matters Cat 8 S/FTP RJ45 Patch Cable

Cable Matters 5-Pack Cat6A Snagless Shielded (SSTP/SFTP) Ethernet Patch Cable

 

What is Cat7? It's effectively a dead standard and one that few should concern themselves with.

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.

Comments (4) -

  • 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

    Randy

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