The Steady Rise of NBASE-T in a Bandwidth-Hungry World
Ethernet has been the networking protocol du jour over the past few years, enabling organizations of all sizes to enjoy gigabit bandwidth speeds affordably using their existing LAN cabling. And those speeds are becoming increasingly necessary as network traffic reaches Web-scale proportions, thanks to the cloud and the profusion of bandwidth-hungry services.
Vertical Systems Group estimates the business Ethernet services market will reach $57 billion this year, and Ethernet will comprise more than 75 percent of all global bandwidth by the end of the year. That growth, and potential growth in the market, may very well be based on an emerging standard that is responsible for making multi-gigabit Ethernet a reality.
Until a few years ago, organizations needing more bandwidth than their 1GbE connections could provide would be required to upgrade to 10GbE. But that migration comes with a hefty price tag, as 10GbE cannot run over the existing copper Cat5e and Cat6 cabling found in most LANs. Ripping out and replacing cables is a costly and disruptive process, one that few companies are ready to undertake.
Then the NBASE-T Alliance entered the picture, developing and last year getting the 2.5GBASE-T and 5GBASE-T standards ratified, which enable multi-gigabit Ethernet speeds over existing twisted-pair cabling. The standards bridge the gap between 1GbE connections and the expensive 10GbE upgrade, making increased bandwidth more affordable and accessible for businesses and consumers.
NBASE-T uses the IEEE 802.3z standard to downshift 10GbE signaling rates to a half or a quarter, rendering them capable of traveling over copper-based cabling. NBASE-T is also beneficial in that it enables Power over Ethernet (PoE), a useful tool for clearing up bottlenecks inherent with wired Gigabit Ethernet connections. PoE may also be used throughout distributed campuses and offices that wish to offer Wi-Fi roaming in outdoor areas, enabling access points to be powered through a single connection.
A variety of products already available are taking advantage of the multi-gigabit Ethernet standard and geared toward businesses and consumers alike. And last week the NBASE-T Alliance announced participation at the upcoming Interop ITX. Member companies including Aquantia, Aukua Systems, Cisco, Cu-Test, Fluke Networks, Intel, Microsemi, Panduit, Spirent and The University of New Hampshire InterOperability Lab (UNH-IOL) will be demonstrating switches, SPF+ modules, client PCs, NAS appliances, test equipment, reference designs, wireless access points and more. All solutions have been developed using the NBASE-T specifications and will demonstrate the many benefits and use cases for multi-gigabit Ethernet.