New IEEE standard set to boost speeds over twisted pair cabling

The IEEE has proposed a new standard that the organization says will result in significantly higher Ethernet speeds over category 5e and category 6 cabling. The standard is expected to be ratified in 2016 or 2017.

At its first meeting the IEEE P802.3bz Task Force said it is planning to add 2.5 Gbps and 5 Gbps MAC operating speeds to the IEEE 802.3 base standard. The 802.3  standard currently provides speeds of 1 Gbps, so the new standard will provide a significant boost to speed.

The new standard is likely to have two other benefits--it will support power over Ethernet and it will have lower energy consumption.

Although the standard won't be ratified until 2016 or 2017, some pre-standard solutions are emerging. For example, chipmaker Aquantia demonstrated its AQrate chipset at the Interop Las Vegas 2015 conference in late April in Las Vegas.

The Ethernet Alliance is working to build support for the standard and the group recently hosted a webinar about the standard. The group has reported that 70 billion meters of category 5e and category 6 cabling have been sold, creating a large installed base for the new capability.

The emerging standard is not without controversy, as Panduit, an equipment maker, has argued that the technology should only be used with category 6a cabling and newer cabling variants, as there could be crosstalk issues with use of category 5e and 6 cabling. Also, Panduit has contended that there currently are no field tests or requirements to validate an installation. "As of now the only way to know if 2.5 or 5GBASE-T will work over an installed base of cabling is to hook up the equipment and try it," Panduit has said.

However, Aquantia co-founder Phil Delansay told FierceInstaller that more than 90 percent of buildings already feature category 5e or category 6 cabling, which in his view makes the current proposed standard the right choice to make. Delansay noted concerns that some have expressed about crosstalk, but he stated that such issues are "not insurmountable."

For more:
- see this IEEE release
- see this IEEE page with details on the development of the standard
- see the page of the IEEE Standards Association
- see this release from Aquantia
- see this statement from Panduit

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