Cisco Systems, Freescale and other tech vendors are creating an industry consortium aimed at driving the development of 2.5 and 5 Gigabit Ethernet technologies to help enterprises deal with the rapidly growing amount of wireless traffic running over their networks.
The founders of the NBASE-T Alliance—which also include semiconductor firms Aquantia and Xilinx—want to push the industry to develop more multi-Gigabit technologies than can run over the cabling that many enterprises adopted for their 1 GbE networks.
Businesses are seeing an increasing amount of wireless traffic hitting their networks, due in large part to such trends as the growth in the number of mobile devices and the rise of mobile computing, as well as video becoming a larger part of the network traffic. Cisco officials expect that by 2018, the amount of mobile data traffic worldwide will hit more than 30 exabytes per month, and that about 52 percent of the traffic will come from cellular networks, as carriers look to offload traffic onto WiFi networks.
The 802.11ac WiFi standard was created to deal with the increase, and the 802.11ac Wave 2 access points will push data rates beyond 1 GbE. However, many businesses still have Category 5e and Category 6 twisted-pair copper cables connecting such access points that can't support those speeds, which means enterprises need a way to increase the data rates of their existing networks.
"The NBASE-T alliance is addressing one of the top networking challenges of today—speed in the access layer," Chris Spain, vice president of product management at Cisco, said in a statement. "The industry is moving to the next generation of 802.11ac—Wave 2 with theoretical data rates of up to 6.9 Gbps and actual aggregated bandwidth of up to 5 Gbps. A 1 Gbps link between the access point and switch is not sufficient."
The consortium wants to enable businesses to increase the speed of their networks over Ethernet's standard distance of 100 meters without having to upgrade the cabling they already are using, Spain said. By enabling 2.5GbE and 5GbE speeds on these legacy networks, the alliance members hope to help businesses extend the life of the cabling they already have in place.