Bulk Cat5e 100 MHz vs. 350 MHz
There is a lot of talk on the internet about the differences between cable that has been tested up to 100 MHz and cable that has been tested up to 350 MHz. Some sites say that 350 MHz rated Cat5e cable is worth the extra money, but those sites are usually influenced by profits. We make roughly the same amount of money whether we're selling the 100 MHz or the 350 MHz, so we'll tell you what the real word on the streets is regarding these cables.If you're in the cable installation industry you've no doubt heard that cable can either be made from 100% copper (aka Bare Copper) or copper clad alloy or copper clad aluminum (aka CCA). This is typically the difference between our 350 MHz cable (bare copper) and 100 MHz cable (copper clad aluminum).
What's the Difference?
CCA definitely has its pros over Bare Copper, and vice versa, but first the CCA pros. Since aluminum is cheaper than copper, CCA is typically cheaper in general. Since aluminum is also lighter than copper, its much cheaper to ship if you are buying it from out of town (which almost everyone does if they want to get a good deal). Although we can't talk for other brands of CCA, we guarantee that our CCA is up to Category 5e standard TIA/EIA-568-B.2-2001 specs and is still capable of gigabit speeds like any other approved Cat5e cable.
Bare Copper's pros often outweigh the higher costs to commercial and government installers. Even though it is typically a lot more expensive, bare copper is more resiliant to jerks and harsh pulls when fishing the cable through tight corners and yanking it around sharp edges. This is the number one reason we've heard from our customers as to why they want to pay more for the cable and shipping. Many believe that since copper is a slightly better conductor of electricity than aluminum that it should also transfer data better. This is theoretically true, but if your CCA is 24 AWG and has sufficient amounts of copper, it will pass Cat5e standards.
Not all CCA was created equal. A lot of it is less than 24 AWG (we've seen 26 or even 28) which, when dealing with CCA, is unacceptable for long cable runs. There are two quick tests you can do to tell how much copper is being used in your CCA:
Scrape Test: simply take a box knife and strip off the jackets until you just see the solid metal core. Hold your knife at exactly a 90 degree angle and begin scraping the copper off the cable. Since everyone will scrape with a different amount of pressure, there isn't a set number of strokes to determine good CCA cable. You'll have to play around with different cables to begin to get a feel for how much copper a good CCA cable has. You should have to scrape off at least 6-7 little layers of copper before you see silver (aluminum)
Twist Test: CCA will break if you twist it several times on itself, where Bare copper will typically hold on after you've twisted it 20-30 times. This is a good test for seeing how much copper is in your CCA. If it twists at least half a dozen times, it's probably decent. Our CCA should twist almost a dozen times on itself.