Black Box recently introduced Slim-Net, the company’s 28-AWG CAT6 and CAT6A UTP cables to answer a need for better patching in crowded cabinets and racks. Over the past few years, 28-AWG cable has been gaining fans and is becoming a popular choice, especially for high-density data centres and telecom rooms.
In this article, we’ll examine the advantages of using Slim-Net 28-AWG cable as well as some usage considerations.
What is 28-AWG cable?
It’s a patch cable made with thinner, 28-AWG stranded copper conductors as opposed to traditional patch cables made with thicker 23-, 24- or 26-AWG conductors. Black Box Slim-Net 28-AWG cable is constructed with top-quality, stranded copper conductors. The plug is custom designed to ensure a snug fit on the RJ-45 gold-blade contacts and to guarantee top performance.
Here are some of the advantages of using Slim-Net 28-AWG cable.
Advantage 1: Space savings
With a diameter of only 4.1 mm, Slim-Net 28-AWG cable is almost half the size of a typical 24-AWG cable at 5.9 mm. This gives you a lot of extra space in cable managers and in pathways. The difference can be dramatic, as shown in this photo of a bundle of 28-AWG cable compared to a bundle of 24-AWG cable. When you calculate the physical cable area in bundles and in patching connections, you’ll actually save more than 50% space when compared to traditional cables. This can make a significant difference in congested telecom rooms and data centres.
Advantage 2: Improved airflow
Cooling is a hot issue in today’s data centres, especially in crowded racks and cabinets. Slim-Net 28-AWG cables actually help cooling because they are so much thinner than traditional 24-AWG cables. The result is that they take up less space in front of patch panels and hot network equipment, such as switches. The extra space between cables results in improved airflow and cooling for the equipment.
Advantage 3: Easier handling
There’s more space between patched Slim-Net 28-AWG cables, so the cable is much easier to handle. Compared to 24-AWG cables, which often are a dense mass in front of equipment, you’ll find there’s more space for your fingers to get a hold on plugs when doing installs and moves, additions, and changes. Also, you’ll find it’s much easier to identify port assignments on equipment because of the extra space.
Advantage 4: Fewer cable managers
Slim-Net 28-AWG cables are much less bulky and offer better flexibility than 24-AWG cables. With a bend radius that’s 70% tighter than 24-AWG cable, you can easily route cables to other equipment or to the side without cable managers or with fewer horizontal cable managers. Because of that, you can reduce the number of horizontal cable managers you need, or possibly eliminate them entirely. When routing Slim-Net 28-AWG cables in vertical managers, you’ll also gain up to 50% more space.
Advantage 5: Conserve rack space
By eliminating horizontal cable managers, you’ll actually conserve valuable rack space. Consider how many rack units you can free up in a typical rack enabling you to add more equipment or to reserve space for future expansion. Depending on your application, you may even free up enough space to consolidate equipment from two racks into one rack.
Advantage 6: Big performance
Black Box Slim-Net 28-AWG cables meet or exceed all TIA 568-C.2 performance requirements and pass all tests. The standard currently specifies 22- to 26-AWG cable, so 28-AWG cable is not included. When the standard is revised, it will most likely include 28-AWG cable.
Another benefit of using Slim-Net 28-AWG cable is that the thinner conductors actually increase NEXT and PS-NEXT because there is less copper in the jacket. Higher NEXT is a good thing in terms of cable performance. Here’s the formula for cable performance: Bandwidth = NEXT – Insertion Loss
Advantage 7: PoE
One of the most common questions about Slim-Net 28-AWG cable is if it can support Power over Ethernet (PoE).
The answer is a resounding “Yes.” Black Box cable can support all PoE levels: IEEE 802.3 af PoE, 802.3 at PoE+, and the upcoming 802.3 bt (PoE++). This makes Slim-Net cable a more economical choice for powering remote security cameras, manufacturing sensors, wireless access points, and more. The only consideration you should keep in mind is that because the cable is smaller, it should be grouped in smaller bundles to counteract any extra heat build-up and to comply with the 15°C temperature rise outlined in TSB 184.
Advantage 8: Price
Slim-Net 28-AWG cable has less copper in its conductors, so it costs less than traditional 24-/26-AWG cable. This can add up to significant savings when setting up and patching high-density telecom rooms and data centres with hundreds of cables.
Mix and match in the channel
When using Slim-Net 28-AWG cable, you’ll need to reduce the size of your channel, but not by much. For example, if you have 90 metres of 23-AWG horizontal cabling, you can run three-metre Slim-Net patch cords on each end instead of the traditional five metres. That gives you a total channel of 96 metres.
There’s no problem using Black Box’s Slim-Net cable on one end of your channel and our premium 24-AWG GigaTrue® CAT6 or GigaBase® CAT5e cable on the other end. In fact, this will give you a few extra metres in your channel.
Black Box Slim-Net 28-AWG cables are a great alternative to traditional 24-AWG cable, especially in high-density telecom rooms and data centres where rack space is at a premium. The thinner, 4.1 mm diameter is almost half the size of a 24-AWG cable so it’s ideal for saving space, reducing clutter, and improving airflow. It’s easier to handle, so the need for cable managers can be reduced or eliminated. It also costs less than traditional cable.
With almost 50% more space between cables, you’ll like working with Slim-Net cable. It’s much easier to get your fingers in between the cables for patching; easier to identify port designations; and easier to route cables.
Guaranteed for life
Black Box offers CAT6 and CAT6A Slim-Net cable in seven lengths and seven colours. The company unconditionally guarantees the cables for life and will replace them if they fail. The entire line can be seen here.