bluecables.jpgIt seems that we just can’t get enough of that Ethernet. It’s been around for over 40 years, and for most of that time those multi-colored wires that plug into the backs of our computers have been more than adequate for connecting devices around the office. Now that our machines are connected, we have new challenges to throw at the technology.

What started as an astonishingly meager 10 Megabits per second has been parlayed into ever faster speeds and higher capacity. We now regularly encounter networks of 10, 40 and 100 Gbps. Considering that there are 8000 Mbps in 1 Gbps, we commonly have available to us 800,000 times more carrying capacity than a 1983 network.

To meet the communications demands by cloud-based data transfer, the standards are in the works for 50 Gbps up to 400 Gbps and beyond. Of course it’s not as simple as all that. The physical properties and configurations of different twisted pair cables or fiber optics, the distances they cover, energy consumption, cost and the processing power of the devices they connect all affect the amount of information that can be sent down a wire or optical strand.

So far, there hasn’t been a challenger to the established reign of the Ethernet. More Wi-Fi accessibility, connected cars and the internet of things means that access needs will only increase, and so far the Ethernet protocol seems poised to continue providing flexible solutions for our electronic requirements for the foreseeable future.

Although it seems like a regression, the development of 25 Gb standards is the latest thing. The most voracious consumers of 25 Gb cables are cloud-server companies like Google and Microsoft. All the servers are interconnected, and with the right equipment, four 25’s can be combined into a 100 Gb uplink. One big advantage is the lower cost as the production of one type of cable can serve two standards. Another is reuse. Recycling 25’s into 50’s or 100’s is simple and effective. As server facilities age, the four-to-one ratio can delay or eliminate the cost for new infrastructure.

The 50 Gbps standard is the next in line for installation in data centers. Why not jump straight to 100? Mainly because it pushed the components in the racks a bit too much all at once.

Another development is the 2.5 Gbps Ethernet. The latest and most common Wi-Fi strength is IEEE 802.11ac which operates at around 1 Gbps, or more with some finessing. The 2.5 speed is a case of “just right.” 10 Gbps would require new cabling for a capacity return that wouldn’t be appreciably noticed. 2.5 is plenty fast for the typical office, keeps up with the increased abilities of the wireless access points, and doesn’t require new cabling. Cat 5e and Cat 6 cabling can work just fine.

Now, about that 400 Gbps standard. An IEEE task force is hoping to zero in on it next year (2017). The first iterations of these speeds would be in the cores and backbones of service provider networks. Speeds up to 1 Tbps are under consideration as well. British telecom company EE is making sure that Wembley Stadium is fully equipped to handle 90,000 handheld devices all connecting at once by proffering a 400 Gbps LTE-A wireless signal in London. If your phone was able to handle it, you are able to see downloads of up to 400.

NetQ Media is on top of all the latest and not-yet developments in the structured cabling industry. Have no fear, we can translate any techno-jargon into plain English and help you with any cabling project you might have. Call us  or click on us: NetQ Media