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Momentum Builds for NBASE-T as the NBASE-T Alliance Releases Specification and IEEE Takes Steps Toward Standardization

By Joseph Byrne, NBASE-T Alliance Board Member and
Senior Manager, Strategic Marketing, Freescale Digital Networking Group

Like a car building momentum by changing gears, Enterprise Access Ethernet is building momentum by moving from strict powers of ten for data rates to a regime embracing speeds such as 2.5Gbps and 5Gbps. The engine behind these new data rates is the open, multivendor-backed NBASE-T Alliance. On the 28th of October, the Alliance announced its formation. Two weeks later, the organization already has adopted an  NBASE-T 1.0 specification.

The specification supports 2.5Gbps and 5Gbps rates over 100m of Category 5e or better cabling with a bit error rate of less than 10e-12. The actual speed a compliant device selects is determined by the signal-to-noise ratio and status reported by error-protection algorithms. End customers seeking to upgrade their existing network can achieve a significant performance boost without the cost of installing new cable. New deployments can achieve multigigabit rates without paying for   10GbE-capable devices and cables.

The NBASE-T specification for these two new rates, 2.5GBASE-T and 5GBASE-T, preserves the IEEE 802.3 Ethernet frame structure and sizes. Compliant devices can also support the existing standard 802.3 data rates of 100Mbps, 1Gbps, and 10Gbps. The NBASE-T specification adapts the standard 802.3an 10GBASE-T, adjusting key parameters such as frame duration and baud rates. In summary, the NBASE-T specification is both a significant step forward for end customers and a straightforward adaptation of existing standards.

An important next step is the standardization of these adaptations, and this is quickly accelerating. At its September interim meeting, the 802.3 Working Group (WG) began looking at this area and scheduled a Call For Interest (CFI) at last week’s meeting in San Antonio. In part because of the hard work of NBASE-T Alliance members, the 802.3 WG voted to form a Study Group (SG). Quickly approved by the IEEE 802 Executive Committee, the SG is chartered to develop Criteria for Standards Development (CSD), Project Authorization Request (PAR) and Objectives for the standard. Once these are done and accepted by both IEEE 802.3 and the IEEE-SA Standards Board, a Task Force can be established to write the standard for 2.5Gbps and 5Gbps rates.

The NBASE-T Alliance welcomes the additional weight the IEEE is putting behind the new Ethernet speeds, and believes its specification is the ideal basis for an official standard. Momentum is indeed building. If you, too, are keen to join the movement, please contact the NBASE-T Alliance to become a member.