2.5 Gbps and 5 Gbps Ethernet Goes Mainstream

By Peter Jones

Peter Jones, NBASE-T Alliance Chairman

It always amazes me how new innovations keep propelling our industry forward.  Less than two years ago when the NBASE-T Alliance was founded, there was no easy way to take advantage of rapidly improving Wi-Fi bandwidth that we could see coming with IEEE 802.11ac™ Wave2 and yet today, that technology is within our reach.  In September, we expect IEEE will be ratifying the new IEEE P802.3bz™ standard for 2.5 Gbps and 5 Gbps Ethernet and, as you may have seen in this press release today, the Ethernet Alliance and the NBASE-T Alliance have partnered to help accelerate deployment of products by hosting a joint plugfest event for October 2016 to showcase multi-vendor interoperability.

On behalf of the NBASE-T Alliance, I am looking forward to seeing the great things we can accomplish working with the Ethernet Alliance. I believe it will enable us to drive mainstream deployment of 2.5 Gbps and 5 Gbps Ethernet technology.  With the technology maturing as fast as it has, this partnership is important for so many reasons. 

First, I believe this is the most significant Ethernet market transition since the 1000BASE-T standard was completed back in 1999.  1000BASE-T has become massively successful, to the point where it’s close to ubiquitous.  The Ethernet Alliance’s mission is to promote IEEE 802™ Ethernet technologies and, since we have many of the same members and share similar goals in this area, it makes perfect sense to work together. 

Secondly, the market opportunity is significant and our two Alliances can do a better job working cooperatively.  We are so fortunate to be able to leverage the massive infrastructure of installed base Category 5e and 6 already in place for NBASE-T technology.  The fact that the industry can get to 2.5 Gbps and 5 Gbps Ethernet speed without having to rebuild the network is huge.  The last we checked, we had 70 billion meters of cabling and 1.3 billion outlets already installed. This is an enormous asset that we can get more value from. Working with the Ethernet Alliance lets us tell this message to more people in more places.

Upcoming Joint Plugfest

As I mentioned above, plans are well underway for our first joint plugfest.  This is being organized by both the Ethernet Alliance and NBASE-T Alliance and will take place the week of October 10th at the University of New Hampshire InterOperability Laboratory (UNH-IOL) in Durham, NH.  We both want to accelerate deployment of 2.5 Gbps and 5 Gbps Ethernet products, and everyone knows that the best way to do that is to get multi-vendor interoperability rock solid. That means we need to get the industry together for events like the plugfest.  I want to personally thank Ethernet Alliance for their help in this event, which demonstrates a key part of their mission of establishing and proving multi-vendor interoperability for new Ethernet technologies.

The interoperability testing in this event will be another major milestone towards the broad commercialization of NBASE-T and IEEE P802.3bz products.  There is already strong support for the plugfest event so get in touch with morgan@ethernetalliance.org or admin@nbaset.org quickly if you want to be involved.

What’s Next?

As we complete the transition from standard definition to standards deployment, there is still much work in rolling this technology out to the broad community currently using 1000BASE-T.  The good news is that supporting 2.5 Gbps and 5 Gbps Ethernet will enable deployment of the higher-performing Wi-Fi capabilities rolling out from major vendors.  This enables new capabilities throughout the industry by providing the increased bandwidth that we so desperately need, and not just for Wi-Fi access points.   This technology is already available, and as usage spreads, the world can take advantage of it wherever and however they please.  Innovation never stops moving in our industry, and it’s exciting to work with you on this next big change.