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Copper 10G spec takes another step forward

Nov 17, 20052 mins

* 10GBase-T standard hits a milestone this week

I received a breathless e-mail letting me know that the IEEE specification for sending 10 Gigabit Ethernet over unshielded twisted-pair wiring is expected to hit a major milestone this week.

The 802.3an Task Force is expected to approve the generation of draft 3.0 of the spec and request that it be submitted for sponsor ballot. That means the spec is technically complete, but a standard is not yet official. Sponsor balloting would be expected to close in six months, with the official stamp of standard-ness coming in the summer of 2006.

But the move to sponsor ballot means that chip vendors at least can develop for 10 Gigabit Ethernet on UTP wiring with confidence that the standard is technically set.

A default 10G connection on your iMac can’t be far behind.

The effort to bring 10 Gigabit to UTP – to create a 10GBase-T – started three years ago, if you can believe it, with the initial call for interest. Two years ago the study group got its project authorization, and the spec has been under development ever since.

In the meantime the group has struggled with differing approaches to how to handle 10G on different grades of cable – whether they be Category-5, Cat-6, or Cat-7. Some have expressed their doubts about copper 10G and have said that 10G can be done cheaply over fiber after all.

But UTP cabling has a lot of successful history behind it, and soon the market will show us whether that history means anything when it comes to taking Ethernet up another order of magnitude.