Broadcom, Brocade, Aruba Networks and Avaya are among the founders of a new industry consortium that wants to accelerate the adoption of 2.5 and 5 Gigabit Ethernet speeds in enterprise-level wireless products to help speed up the movement of traffic over wireless networks.
The bulk of wireless networks in enterprises are based on 1GbE. At a time when workers increasingly are carrying more mobile devices and relying more on video-based content, and 802.11ac WiFi is hitting the market, 1GbE networks are having a difficult time keeping up with growing tide of wireless traffic. The IEEE is working to develop 2.5G and 5G Ethernet standards for access points and other systems that rely on unshielded twisted pair (UTP) cabling. The goal is to meet the demand for Ethernet speeds that fall between 1G and 10G.
The new MGBASE-T Alliance—which also includes Freescale, Delta Electronics, Delta Networks, Pulse Networks and Ruijie Networks—is throwing its support behind the efforts of the IEEE, which has formed a study group to look at 2.5G and 5G.
There already are 802.11ac products on the market—part of Wave 1 for the standard, according to Simon Assouad, associate director of product marketing for Broadcom's Infrastructure and Networking Group. Wave 2 will come next year, bringing even greater speeds and wireless ranges. That, combined with such trends as bring-your-own-device (BYOD), threaten to overwhelm current networks.
"It's evident that the backbone of these wireless access networks—1 gigabit per second Ethernet—can't keep up," Assouad wrote in a post on the company blog."Most companies pushing up against the limits of 1G-bps Ethernet are ready to make an upgrade, but their choices are limited. They can either jump up to 10G-bps Ethernet, the next available IEEE standard, or add a second, 1G-bps connection to double the bandwidth."
Both options present challenges, he wrote. Upgrading to 10GbE is a significant investment that includes rewiring, more power and more cabling. Adding another 1GbE connection also means more money and infrastructure changes.
The MGBASE-T Alliance is rallying around Multi-rate Gigabit Ethernet BASE-T for enterprise access points, which will enable more affordable scaling to 2.5G and 5G speeds, wrote Assouad, who also is president of the alliance. Group members want an open standard that is available to everyone and makes interoperability between products easier.
"This is really important in the networking industry, because otherwise every vendor will have to develop their own unique tools that may not work together, or be scalable for large organizations that need to keep pace with their users' needs," he wrote. "Of course, there will probably be plenty of people who continue to be satisfied with 1G-bps speed, but the number of 'premium' users who take advantage of the latest multi-user technology is bound to grow with the shift to cloud-based apps that download data on-demand."
This is not the only industry group pushing for 2.5GbE and 5GbE speeds on wireless networks. In late October, Cisco Systems, Freescale, Aquantia and Xilinx launched the NBASE-T Alliance, which 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, organizers said. Doing so will help businesses extend the life of the cabling they already have in place.