2.5 and 5 Gbps Ethernet Efforts Expand with MGBASE-T Alliance

A new consortium of vendors has emerged to help develop and support 2.5 and 5 Gbps Ethernet networking speeds. The group is known as the MGBASE-T Alliance and includes Aruba Networks, Avaya, Broadcom Corporation, Brocade, Delta Electronics, Delta Networks, Freescale Semiconductor, Pulse Electronics and Ruijie Networks.

Noticeably absent from the list of MGBASE-T supporters is networking industry giant Cisco. At the end of October, Cisco announced its own 2.5 and 5 Gbps networking effort, known as the NGBASE-T Alliance.

Dr. Ali Abaye, senior director, Product Marketing for Broadcom’s Infrastructure and Networking Group, told Enterprise Networking Planet that the MGBASE-T Alliance is not associated with the Cisco-led NGBASE-T Alliance, thought the two efforts have similar goals. Both groups aim to help create and support a new Ethernet standard that bridges the gap between existing 1 Gigabit Ethernet networking gear and 10 Gigabit Ethernet equipment.

Abaye noted that the MGBASE-T Alliance is fully aligned with IEEE efforts, which are currently in the study group phase for 2.5 and 5 Gbps.

With the emergence of faster 802.11ac Wi-Fi, which can scale to more than 1 GbE, there has been growing demand for faster wired technology to handle the increased bandwidth. While 10 GbE can provide more bandwidth, a number of limitations hold it back. One of those limitations is cabling.

Existing 1 GbE network deployments typically use copper Cat5E cabling, which is not sufficient to handle 10 GbE. Cat5E and even Cat6, however, will be able to support the emerging 2.5 and 5 Gbps standards, which would enable a faster wired network without the need to rip and replace cables.

Abaye explained that with the MGBASE-T Alliance effort’s own studies, much of the work and technology that was developed for 10 GbE can be leveraged for the 2.5 and 5 Gbps specifications. He noted that while the new speeds will likely not be using the same silicon or firmware that Broadcom has for 10 GbE, there is a lot of existing, applicable technology that can be leveraged.

At this stage, Abaye said that he was unable to comment on any plans for commercial deployment. That said, he commented that 2.5 and 5 Gbps technology will likely begin to enter the market in modest volumes at some point in 2015.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at Enterprise Networking Planet and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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