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Senior Editor

Copper 10G Ethernet issues

Oct 13, 20032 mins

* The major driver for copper 10G development is cost

While many enterprises have yet to buy a single fiber-based 10 Gigabit Ethernet switch port, the IEEE is hard at work on a copper-based standard for the next-generation Ethernet technology. And like copper did for Gigabit Ethernet, a 10GBase-T (or other such standard) could be what brings 10G to the masses, experts say.

Our Special Focus author this week ( says interest within the IEEE for developing the 10G Ethernet over copper standard has been around since 10G Ethernet was being developed. But serious consideration for the technology began in November 2002, when the IEEE formed two study groups: one for studying how to run 10G Ethernet over Category 5 or 6 cabling; and another for figuring how to run 10G bit/sec Ethernet over four pairs of twinaxial copper cabling.

Unshielded twisted pair (UTP) cabling, which includes Category 1-7 cables, has traditionally been the copper medium for Ethernet, from 10Base-T to 1000Base-T. But the 10GBase-T working group in the IEEE has found it a challenge to take Ethernet to the next level over copper. Engineers say that in running 10G over UTP, issues such as crosstalk and signal noise, where electrical signals on one wire pair with others, have been hard to over come. As a result, the 10GBase-T effort has fallen behind the Twinax group.

The 802.3ak working group, which developed 10GBase-CX4, has already moved through several versions of its draft standard, and IEEE engineers on the working group say the standard could be ratified as early as year-end. Products could hit the market around the same time, or by the first quarter of 2004.

The major driver for copper 10G development is cost. Fiber Ethernet ports cost more than copper at every level of connection speed. When 10GBase-LX debuted in 2001, ports cost as high as $80,000. This equates to ten times the performance of Gigabit Ethernet, at around eight times the cost.

That alone will be a significant driver. For more on this story see: