For most of Ethernet's history, new standards progressively added more bandwidth, expanding the top end of speed. That progression is now changing, as the IEEE has now ratified the 802.3bz standard that defines 2.5 Gbps and 5 Gbps Ethernet speeds.
In 2014, multiple groups started efforts to create new mid-tier Ethernet speeds with the NBASE-T Alliance starting in October 2014 and MGBASE-T Alliance getting started a few months later in December 2014. While those groups started out on different paths, the final 802.3bz standard represents a unified protocol that is interoperable across multiple vendors.
The promise of 2.5 and 5 Gbps Ethernet is that they can work over existing Cat5 cabling, which to date has only been able to support 1 Gbps. Now with the 802.3bz standard, organizations do not need to rip and replace cabling to get Ethernet that is up to five times faster.
"Now, the 1000BASE-T uplink from the wireless to wired network is no longer sufficient, and users are searching for ways to tap into higher data rates without having to overhaul the 70 billion meters of Cat5e / Cat6 wiring already sold," David Chalupsky, board of directors of the Ethernet Alliance and Intel principal engineer, said in a statement. "IEEE 802.3bz is an elegant solution that not only addresses the demand for faster access to rapidly rising data volumes, but also capitalizes on previous infrastructure investments, thereby extending their life and maximizing value."
In a video interview with EnterpriseNetworkingPlanet earlier this year, Chalupsky discussed the 802.3bz effort and how Ethernet ubiquity continues to advance.
While the IEEE 802.3bz standard is only now being formally approved, multiple vendors have already demonstrated comparable products that are fully interoperable. At the Interop 2015 event, Peter Jones, chairman of the NBASE-T Alliance, explained to EnterpriseNetworkingPlanet that vendors were already building solutions.
At the Interop 2016 event, Jones and NBASE-T Alliance members demonstrated real-world working 2.5 and 5 Gbps gear in anticipation of the standard being finalized this year.
"From proposal to approval, the standards process took less than two years -- a remarkably fast progression," Jones said in a statement released today. "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."
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at EnterpriseNetworkingPlanet and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist