Cisco and friends chase WiFi's searing speeds with new cable standard

Cat 5e and Cat 6 are bottlenecks for WLAN access points


Cisco is buddying up with three semiconductor companies to push Cat 5e and Cat 6 connections beyond the gigabit mark, to bring the Ethernet world into line with speeds on the table from future WiFi network standards.

The Borg, along with Freescale, Xilinx and Aquantia, has looked at enterprise cabling and found it wanting: while wireless vendors are gearing up to ship 802.11ac Wave 2 products that could crank access up into the multi-Gbps range, the cables connecting those access points can't keep up.

Announcing the NBase-T Alliance, Cisco says it wants to avoid enterprises having to upgrade cabling to deploy Wave 2 solutions (a consideration that would risk crimping the market for the next generation of WiFi, not to mention the next proposed standard in the 5 GHz band, 802.11ax).

Hence Nbase-T (alliance page here): its target is to create technologies that will ship data at 5 Gbps over Ethernet's standard distance of 100 metres, while maintaining power-over-Ethernet to power the access points. The partners also propose auto-negotiation of lower speeds – 2.5 Gbps, 1 Gbps, and 100 Mbps – if necessary.

Cisco says the alliance will also work on interoperability, as well as working with standards bodies to set down the speed increments NBase-T will use. ®

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