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IEEE turns crank on new wired Ethernet standards

Following NBase-T trailblazers down the 2.5/5 Gbps track

Industry interest in faster enterprise Ethernet on twisted pair cables is driving a new standardisation effort in the IEEE, the chair of the Ethernet Alliance says, with a new study group formed last week to kick things along.

D'Ambrosia told The Register that the industry consensus is so strong it's feasible that a task force could come into being in Q1 of 2015, and while it's far too early to commit to a timeframe, standardisation could take place quite quickly.

As evidenced by the emergence of groups like the NBase-T Alliance in late October, it's clear that enterprises are going to need higher performance out of their wired Ethernet networks.

The driver for this is 802.11ac, since it's silly to have multi-gigabit wireless access points served by blue cables that can only limp along at 1 Gbps.

That same concern led to an October decision by the IEEE to issue a Call for Interest in developing twisted pair Ethernet standards to articulate the next increments in the venerable networking standard, and D'Ambrosia told El Reg interest was very strong, with 67 individuals representing 26 companies at the meeting.

Individuals from names like Broadcom, Cisco, Intel, Marvel, and HP Networking (some of the participants in the consensus presentation), the meeting request was attended supported by "a real who's who" of the industry, including individuals from Microsoft, Ericsson, Applied Micro, Huawei and others.*

The outcome is the “Next Generation Enterprise Access Base-T 5 PHY Study Group” in the IEEE, to be chaired by Intel's David Chalupsky. Given the strength of interest, D'Ambrosia suspects that at the study group's January 2015 meeting it will ask to be elevated to IEEE Task Force status.

D'Ambrosia said the biggest challenge in kicking wired Ethernet's speeds along is going to be handling the crosstalk in cable bundles.

A second challenge will be to develop modulation techniques that can maintain 2.5 Gbps and 5 Gbps transmissions over the full hundred metres of Ethernet cables. For that, D'Ambrosia told Vulture South, “people are looking at basing it on a slowed-down 10 Gbps Ethernet technology – that had a lot of discussion last week.”

Any new standard out of the process would also have to maintain power-over-Ethernet compatibility with the legacy base, he noted. ®

*Update: John D'Ambrosia has asked The Register to emphasise that participation in the IEEE 802 LAN/MAN Standards Committee (LMSC) is on an individual basis, not an entity basis.

"This is a significant difference from other standardization organizations, including even other groups within the IEEE. Therefore, participation is never on a company basis. As a group that provides marketing of IEEE 802 Ethernet technologies, the Ethernet Alliance always attempts to be very clear on this distinction, given the sensitivity within standardisation processes," he wrote in an e-mail.

The Register is happy to highlight this distinction. ®

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