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NBASE-T Helps Wireline Networks Cope with Wireless Demands


July 03, 2017

To meet wireless network demands, which seem to be increasing at stratospheric rates with no end in sight, many businesses are struggling to improve and increase their wired network infrastructure. There are far more constraints to the wired infrastructure. While the 802.11ac Wave 2 access points are capable of delivering speeds up to five gigabits per second, Category 5e and CAT 6 cabling present in most buildings limits companies to one Gbps. Do the math.


According to Melissa Delaney writing for BizTech, to surpass this 1 Gbps max, enterprises can upgrade CAT 5e and CAT 6 cabling to CAT 6A, which supports up to 10 Gbps as well as Power over Ethernet (PoE), but it’s too prohibitively expensive for many companies as well as complex enough to interfere with other network activity.

“In fact, most enterprises replace cable only every 15 years or longer; some only if they renovate or move buildings,” wrote Delaney. “Since CAT 5e and CAT 6 cabling is so widespread, some observers have estimated that it would cost in the billions to replace worldwide.”

There lies the rub: the technology exists, but it’s out of practical reach for many companies. This is where NBASE-T technology comes in, according to Delaney. The NBASE-T Alliance has been working to develop 2.5- and 5-gigabit Ethernet over twisted-pair copper cabling. This capability would allow 802.11ac access points to move wireless traffic at the multigigabit speeds they’re capable of reaching without having to upgrade from the copper cable they have installed.

“NBASE-T is a new specification for Ethernet signaling that enables wireless traffic to move at faster speeds than are now possible over installed twisted-pair cables,” wrote Delaney. “CAT 5e and CAT 6 cables, which are in the majority of buildings today, max out at one Gbps, but with NBASE-T technology, they’re capable of supporting speeds of up to five Gbps over 100 meters.”

As more users connect to the Internet wirelessly, they expect the network to be there for them, particularly for bandwidth heavy requirements like video and conferencing and collaboration. For companies without extremely deep pockets, users will become extremely frustrated if the wireless access point isn't delivering the bandwidth they require because the upstream connection is limited. Luckily, companies of all sizes are able to cost-effectively adopt NBASE-T technology to take advantage of the network speeds they need thanks to the large network solutions providers such as Cisco, HP and Asus, as well as Intel’s NBASE-T controller chip. While many organizations may not yet feel they need multigigabit Ethernet, as they embrace applications such as video editing and high-performance computing, it’s very probable they will need to increase their throughputs. NBASE-T means they can do so without a costly upgrade to fiber.



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