Want 2.5G/5G BASE-T Connections? They’re coming.

The 1 GE BASE-T standard connecting at 1000 Mbps is widely used today. But if you want more bandwidth from a single port, your options are: Combine two or more 1 GE connections via Link Aggregation, or upgrade to a 10 GE connection. Both these options are not as efficient or as inexpensive as having a direct 2.5 GE or 5 GE connection from a single port through a single cable. If we can push 10 GE through a single copper port, why not these?

The IEEE P802.3bz is the new upcoming standard that seeks to address this gap and the working committee has released a draft. The new standard is expected to be released by end of 2016.

Highlights of IEEE P802.3bz:

  • 2.5G BASE-T & 5G BASE-T on Class D (Cat 5E) Cables and Class E (Cat 6) Cables over a distance of 100m.
  • Intends to support EEE (Energy Efficient Ethernet) and PoE (Power over Ethernet), among others.

What’s driving the new standard?

The main driver for the new standard is the WAVE-2 WiFi technology. While there are Access Points that offer speeds of around 2 Gbps, the WAVE-2 WiFi standard can ultimately support 4-5 Gbps more. Pulling multiple cables to these APs or upgrading to 10GE can be expensive. That pushed the new multi rate standard which enables APs to connect at 2.5 Gbps or 5 Gbps through a single (existing) network cable, which is mostly Cat 5E or Cat 6.

Of course, other devices like NAS, Small Cells, Servers, IP Cameras, etc. might also find the new technology with increased speeds useful.

MGBASE-T & NBASE-T Alliances

Two competing industry alliances, NGASE-T – prominently pushed by Cisco, MGBASE-T – prominently pushed by Brocade & Alcatel/Lucent have come into existence. If you can’t wait for the IEEE standard, and want PHY interfaces supporting 2.5/5 GE today, you could buy products compliant with specifications of one of these two alliances. A few products are already available.

Since these are proprietary standards, the link will work only if the interfaces on both sides support either MGBASE-T or NBASE-T. While MGBASE-T says their specifications will be open source, NBASE-T will not be. The companies behind both the alliances claim their products should support IEEE 802.3bz when it is eventually released, but the IEEE is not endorsing either of the alliances yet.

If you are upgrading your network, don’t forget to evaluate the IEEE 802.3bz upgrade plan offered by your preferred vendors.

Further Info: IEEE P802.3bz.

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