Due to the evolution of technology and the greater demand for higher networking speeds, cable and components have been developed that can transmit faster speeds over longer distances. Copper classes and categories were introduced in order that network parameters could be clearly defined and that the appropriate connecting hardware was installed. For example, Category 3 was introduced in the later part of the 1980s and could support voice services as well as 10BASE-T Ethernet. However, this would eventually become unsuitable by the mid 1990s as Category 5 had become widely available and was able to support faster network speeds up to 100Mbps. The next wave of cable and connector development came in the form of CAT5E, which could more effectively support Gigabit network applications. CAT5E is an enhanced version of Category 5, however, CAT5E standards had introduced new and more stringent crosstalk specifications, which allowed Gigabit network applications and high data transfer scenarios to function more reliably.
Over the last 5 to 8 years, Category 6 (CAT6) cable and connectors have become a basic requirement for new buildings in order to support Gigabit network applications and support bandwidths of up to 250MHz. CAT6 is also beginning to replace CAT5E in residential environments. Category 6A (CAT6A) which supports data rates of 10G up to 100 metres and a bandwidth of up to 500MHz has begun to grow in popularity. Many Data Centres, hospitals and universities have adopted CAT6A as anew minimum requirement. Other developments in CAT7, CAT7A and also CAT8 are continuing which will support even higher data transfer rates and bandwidths.