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Oh What a Year!

By Peter Jones, NBASE-T Alliance Chairman and Principal Engineer, Cisco

Some one-year-olds crawl and others walk, but it’s the rare breed that hits the ground running and doesn’t look back.  Just about a year ago, four companies came together to found the NBASE-T Alliance, an organization with a mission to build consensus around a standard for 2.5G and 5G BASE-T Ethernet – what we now know as IEEE P802.3bz.  Today, the group has expanded to include over 45 members representing all aspects of enterprise infrastructure from chips and systems to cables, connectors, test equipment and more.  As important, the alliance has played an instrumental role in furthering the standards process by providing a forum for building consensus around the technical aspects of a new standard.

With NBASE-T board members and individuals from member companies contributing to the IEEE standards process, we can now say with confidence that the IEEE P802.3bz standard and NBASE-T specification will be compatible, and thus all members implementing solutions based on the NBASE-T specification have an early start in 2.5G and 5G BASE-T Ethernet product development.  Moreover, we have confirmed interoperability of the member products that have been deployed thus far, hosting a plugfest that was an important first step toward insuring compatibility through certification, and we are shifting our sights toward new complementary specifications intended to streamline system development.  Just last week, we announced the release of a new MAC/PHY interface specification.

And so, just one year after taking a proactive role in the creation of a new Ethernet standard, the alliance is happy to report that we have an IEEE standard in draft form, a compatible NBASE-T specification and a rapidly expanding ecosystem of 2.5G and 5G Ethernet products.  Time for a nap, right?  Of course not!

While we are energized by the incredible progress of our first year, we recognize there’s more work to be done.  We saw 2015 as a year to focus on building consensus so we could fast-track the path to a new standard. The upcoming year, on the other hand, will be a time to facilitate and encourage the widespread use of 2.5G and 5G Ethernet.  From an alliance perspective, that means we will continue to work with existing and future members to provide not only new technologies that streamline deployment, but also to implement a formal certification program that will give users confidence that products are NBASE-T compliant and interoperable. We expect to provide more details on this program by mid-year.

It appears that these activities can’t happen soon enough.  Industry experts agree there is significant demand for products that support these speeds, and the list of target applications continues to grow.  While we believe the first demand will come from traditional enterprise wired infrastructure – a market that has been largely relegated to 1Gbps because of high building rewiring costs – we also see opportunities in home networking, security cameras, small cells, signage and more.  Industry analyst firm IHS expects the onslaught of Wave 2 wireless access points alone to drive significant demand, expecting 2.5G Ethernet switch ports to grow at a 175 percent CAGR through 2019.

We are proud of our accomplishments in just one short year, and are also honored that so many industry heavyweights have helped us move toward a new, and desperately needed, standard.  While many organization live by the mantra, “Crawl, Walk, Run,” our sprint out of the gate has made 2.5GBASE-T and 5GBASE-T products a reality today.  We can’t wait to see what 2016 has in store.