Category 6 and Category 6A Cabling and Connectors
Definition: This innovation includes copper twisted-pair cabling (later standardized as Category-6 and Category-6A), the associated connectors, as well as multi-stage compensation technology and split-pair leadframe wire crossover designs that reduce crosstalk issues.
Year of the Innovation: 1996-97
What is the innovation that CommScope or one of its acquired companies was first in creating?
In 1997, AT&T’s SYSTIMAX Structured Cabling Systems (“SYSTIMAX SCS”) organization introduced improved twisted-pair connectors which incorporated breakthrough technology called multi-stage compensation. This new compensation technique enabled connectors with drastically reduced crosstalk levels which, when coupled with improved cables and cords, doubled the usable bandwidth of the cabling system, all while maintaining backward compatibility with existing LAN solutions. The structured cabling industry later standardized these improved levels of performance as Category-6 (Cat-6), Class E systems in US, European, and international standards.
Key to the breakthrough is placing multiple stages of compensating crosstalk in precisely controlled locations to substantially overcome the negative impact of offending crosstalk. Over time, the compensation techniques were refined further and more complex mechanical structures were added, such as implementing a crossover of the split pair of the modular jack’s contact lead frame. These further enhancements led to even higher performance levels introduced to the market in 2004 and later standardized by the industry as Category-6A (Cat-6A), Class EA. CommScope and its acquired companies obtained patents on the noted compensation methods and lead frame designs.
What was happening in the market that this innovation was needed?
In the 1990s, local area networks (LANs) were booming, but future application demands were driving the need for more bandwidth than Category-5e copper twisted pair systems could provide. Crosstalk in the ubiquitous RJ45 modular connector was a key electrical impairment that held back increases in usable bandwidth. The development of Cat-6 connectors, matched with complementary Cat-6 cables and cords, solved this problem.
How did this innovation benefit customers and the industry?
Category-6 systems consisting of concatenated cables, cords, and connectors enabled modern LANs with robust support for network speeds of 1 Gigabit/sec. Category-6A systems enabled 10X that speed – up to 10 Gigabits/second. Category-6 and Category-6A are the most commonly used cabling solutions in the market today.
Did this innovation act as the springboard for other innovations, and if so, how do they all tie together?
Multi-stage compensation facilitated the realization of Cat-6 cabling, and a whole family of related patents on compensation methods, jack design and lead frames arose from this initial innovation. CommScope continued to improve performance further to Cat-6A levels, while simultaneously achieving Cat-6 performance levels more efficiently and cost-effectively. The combination of these advancements in the connector area, coupled with complementary developments in cables, has enabled CommScope to build its leadership position in the structured cabling market.
What is the significance of the innovation for CommScope?
Multi-stage compensation technology enabled CommScope to be first to market with a Category-6 solution portfolio (cable, cords and connectors), thereby providing enhanced future-proofing to our customers.
To enable industry growth, CommScope licensed its patented technology to others in the industry. According to BSRIA, the market for Category-6 and Category-6A solutions was $3.6 billion in 2015. Our analysis of competitive products has revealed that every Category-6 or Category-6A modular connector we tested utilizes some form of our multi-stage technology.