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Cheaper, faster wired Ethernet is coming to a port near you

Ethernet port

We've been stuck with Gigabit Ethernet – i.e. wired connections with a speed of up to 1Gbps – for a long time now, but a new standard has just been approved which will up speeds by a large amount.

While there are faster alternatives out there already, such as 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10GbE), stumbling blocks including power requirements and the cost of replacing existing cabling – as it requires Cat 6a cables – have proved major barriers to adoption for many organizations.

But the good news is that the new IEEE P802.3bz standard which the NBASE-T Alliance has just announced it has got ratified can work over existing Cat 5e and Cat 6 cables, boosting speeds to up to 2.5Gbps and 5Gbps respectively, with no hugely expensive cable overhauls needed.

In other words, you'll just have to buy the hardware which supports 2.5GBASE-T and 5GBASE-T, and plug these devices into your existing infrastructure to get a major speed boost. And products supporting 2.5 and 5 Gigabit Ethernet already started shipping earlier this year.

Rapid proliferation

According to a forecast from the Dell'Oro Group, when it comes to networking devices shipped, there's set to be a doubling of the amount of ports supporting 2.5/5GbE every year, over the next three years.

Alan Weckel, vice president of Ethernet switch market research at Dell'Oro Group, further noted: "Last quarter, NBASE-T switch and access point ports surged significantly as enterprises began to upgrade their campus networks to speeds beyond 1G. There will be a sizable upgrade cycle around NBASE-T technology with robust growth expected over the next several years. As a result, we expect 2017 NBASE-T port shipments to exceed three million ports."

While at this point, the technology is mostly aimed at businesses, it probably won't be too long before we see high-end home routers bristling with these faster ports, with enthusiast users driving adoption.

Meanwhile, companies will certainly make good use of 2.5/5GbE given that there are apparently 70 billion metres of Cat5e and Cat6 cabling out there, all of which can be given a new lease of life.

Peter Jones, chairman, NBASE-T Alliance, said of IEEE P802.3bz being ratified: "From proposal to approval, the standards process took less than two years – a remarkably fast progression. Seeing the standard approved so quickly has been an enormously satisfying experience, and shows what can be achieved when we work together to develop a compelling solution that offers clear value to the industry."

Via: Ars Technica