Ask Holly: LAN cable market – what can we expect during 2021?
This month, we’re bringing back our popular Ask Holly feature, where our cable expert Holly Pulham discusses a timely industry topic. Today, we’re discussing the LAN cable market, and the impact Covid-19 and Brexit has had on this part of the sector…
What is a LAN cable and what are the types of LAN cables?
LAN (Local Area Network) cables are, as the name would suggest, network cables which can be used for connecting network devices. Sometimes known as an ethernet cable or a networking cable, LAN cables come in different varieties dependent on usage, such as coaxial cable, optical fiber and twisted pair copper cable. Deciding which cables to use all depends on the network's anatomy, protocol and size. However, a twisted pair copper cable is the most commonly used cable to connect your computers, routers, switches, printers, gaming systems, PoE devices, IP cameras and much more. They come in many different categories such as: Cat 5e, Cat 6, Cat 6A, Cat 7A and Cat 8 for example, all with different transmission speeds.
A POE (power over ethernet) cable can be used for the transmission of LAN data, and Cat 6 cables for ethernet and network connection. Cat 5e has been known to carry more system noise and crosstalk than its Cat 6 counterpart, which often makes Cat 6 the preferable choice for industrial or large-scale projects. However, there are screened types available in both Cat 5e and Cat 6 which will help with this. Our enhanced range (Cat 6a-Cat 8) are screened types as standard.
LAN cable market update
As with any product, the success of the LAN cable market depends on the prosperity of the sectors where the cable is in the highest demand. Network cables are particularly popular in the IT sector, which is an industry that saw growth and success during the last year in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. Remote working was, and still is, on the rise and therefore the reliance of many more households needing reliable and fast broadband, has meant that we’ve seen consistently higher demand for great quality, optimum performance LAN cables.
In addition, an increase in preference for ethernet cables over wireless or Bluetooth connectivity for high-speed transfer is anticipated to drive growth in the global ethernet cable market. Furthermore, improved reliability of these cables to transmit data seamlessly, and the rise in need to deploy them more widely is boosting this market’s growth. Latest research confirms this and the global LAN cable market is seeing some of the fastest growth in the industrial arena.
What is the best LAN cable to buy in today’s market?
This is a good question. I’ve touched on it above but deciding on the best LAN cable for your application all depends on its usage. Many people favour Cat 6 cables over Cat 5e because it offers better performance for a reasonable price. Cat 7A cables are now considered the most up to date on the market and offer speeds of up to 10 gigabits per second. The Category 7A cable has conductor pairs that are individually wrapped in foil and surrounded by an overall braid, and has been tested to 1000Mhz. These reasons plus improved crosstalk thanks to its design, means that Cat 7A cables are extremely high performing and are often favoured by housebuilders thanks to their versatility and ease of installation. Cat 8 cable supersedes this and is now also available from stock but tends to be used in larger applications such as data centres or computer server houses.
Since standard bandwidth is such a driving force in cable design, it’s fitting to discuss how frequency really works. Essentially, the frequency of a cable determines how many 1s and 0s can be sent across the wires in a second. For basic Cat 5e cables, it’s 100 million signals a second (or 100 Mhz). Cat 8 uses an unprecedented 2 billion (2 GHz) signals per second. This means the cable density and quality of shielding necessary to make it work are on a whole different scale. That becomes clear when you consider that Cat 8 is rated for data transfers 250 to 400 times faster than Cat 5e.
That said, there is still a much deserving place for Cat 6 and Cat 5e cable types today. These cables are a more affordable option for those on a budget or for anyone who requires supply on a mass scale. Cat 5e will certainly provide capable performance for most of today’s applications, but Cat 5e also leaves less opportunity for upgrading in the future. The Cat 5e vs. Cat 6 debate is one that's easily won by Cat 6 if you focus entirely on features. The upgrades from there all depend on how future-proofed you want the job to be, and the speeds your install requires.
Ireland, shipping crisis and cable supply – what does this mean for our deliveries?
As we always like to bring current, relevant news to our discussions it’s only fitting to talk about shipments and supply to Ireland. Many LAN cable manufacturers are based outside of the UK, often outside of the EU too. Currently, the UK borders are experiencing a shipping crisis and rates increase. This has also presented challenges for cable supply to Ireland. We are however continuing to ship LAN and all our other cables to Ireland, and are proactively adapting to the latest guidance on the smooth transition for doing so. We are well stocked on all your SFX favourites, and our UK deliveries are still being dispatched the same day for next working day delivery (however this cannot be guaranteed by couriers at present so we recommend allowing 1-2 days, although the vast majority are arriving as expected). Please contact your Account Manager for more information or call us on 0845 094 0244.