Cabling Solutions

CAT5E, CAT6, Fiber. If this sounds like a different language to you, contact us. We speak your language and will help you sort through options to help you determine what will work best for your business. Contact a Sierra Account Manager today and put our experienced certified technicians to work for you!

Rack Management

Does the picture below on the left look familiar?  We can help your rack or closet look like the picture on the right!

CAT5E - Category 5 Enhanced cable

Category 5e (CAT5e) cable, also known as Enhanced Category 5, is designed to support full-duplex Fast Ethernet operation and Gigabit Ethernet. The main differences between CAT5 and CAT5e can be found in the specifications. The performance requirements have been raised slightly in the new standard (see comparison chart below). CAT5e has stricter specifications for Power Sum Equal-Level Far-End Crosstalk (PS-ELFEXT), Near-End Crosstalk (NEXT), Attenuation, and Return Loss (RL) than those for CAT5. Like CAT5, CAT5e is a 100-MHz standard, but it has the capacity to handle bandwidth superior to that of CAT5. CAT5 cable is typically used for Ethernet networks running at 100 Mbps or 1 Gbps.

CAT6 - Category 6 cable

Category 6 (CAT6) cable provides higher performance than CAT5e and features more stringent specifications for crosstalk and system noise. The quality of the data transmission depends upon the performance of the components of the channel. To transmit according to CAT6 specifications, jacks, patch cables, patch panels, cross-connects, and cabling must all meet CAT6 standards. The CAT6 components are tested individually, and they are also tested together for performance. In addition, the standard calls for generic system performance so that CAT6 components from any vendor can be used in the channel. All CAT6 components must be backward compatible with CAT5e, CAT5, and CAT3. If different category components are used with CAT6 components, then the channel will achieve the transmission performance of the lower category. For instance, if CAT6 cable is used with CAT5e jacks, the channel will perform at a CAT5e level. Fiber Specifications. The usual fiber specifications you will see are size, attenuation and bandwidth. While manufacturers have other specs that concern them, like numerical aperture (the acceptance angle of light into the fiber), ovality (how round the fiber is), concentricity of the core and cladding, etc., these specs do not affect you.

Fiber Optic

Fiber Optics, as we said, is sending signals down hair-thin strands of glass or plastic fiber. The light is "guided" down the center of the fiber called the "core". The core is surrounded by an optical material called the "cladding" that traps the light in the core using an optical technique called "total internal reflection." The core and cladding are usually made of ultra-pure glass, although some fibers are all plastic or a glass core and plastic cladding. The fiber is coated with a protective plastic covering called the "primary buffer coating" that protects it from moisture and other damage. More protection is provided by the "cable" which has the fibers and strength members inside an outer covering called a "jacket".

Multimode & Singlemode Fibers

Multimode & Singlemode fiber are the two types of fiber in common use. Both fibers are 125 microns in outside diameter - a micron is one one-millionth of a meter and 125 microns is 0.005 inches- a bit larger than the typical human hair. Multimode fiber has light traveling in the core in many rays, called modes. It has a bigger core (almost always 62.5 microns, but sometimes 50 microns) and is used with LED sources at wavelengths of 850 and 1300 nm (see below!) for slower local area networks (LANs) and lasers at 850 and 1310 nm for networks running at gigabits per second or more. Singlemode fiber has a much smaller core, only about 9 microns, so that the light travels in only one ray. It is used for telephony and CATV with laser sources at 1300 and 1550 nm. Plastic Optical Fiber (POF) is large core (about 1mm) fiber that can only be used for short, low speed networks.


Singlemode fiber shrinks the core down so small that the light can only travel in one ray. This increases the bandwidth to almost infinity - but it's practically limited to about 100,000 gigahertz - that's still a lot!