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Issue of March 2004 

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10 Gbps Ethernet over UTP copper? It’s possible!

KRONE's cable development laboratories have proved to a skeptical industry that 10 Gigabit/s Ethernet over unshielded twisted pair copper is possible and helped the networking industry move forward with a 10 Gigabit Ethernet standard.

Working closely with the IEEE, the body responsible for Ethernet standards worldwide, it began in early 2003 to establish whether 10 Gigabit/s Ethernet over copper cabling could become a realistic and cost-effective proposition.

Several chipset companies had undertaken development work, which indicated that they could develop the silicon, if the cabling industry could come up with the necessary copper cabling and connectivity.

The active equipment manufacturers ideally wanted to be able to pass 10 Gigabit/s Ethernet over existing CAT 5e and CAT 6 structured cabling. Unfortunately, the high transmission frequencies needed—around 650 MHz—were way over the 100 MHz and 250 MHz of CAT 5e and CAT 6 respectively. CAT 7 STP cable was a possible candidate—but with cables the thickness of pipes and very little international uptake this was thought to be commercially far too restrictive to make 10 Gigabit/s Ethernet viable.

Work by the cabling standards bodies did however indicate that an 'augmented' form of CAT 6, with the cable and connectors characterised to 650 MHz could potentially do the trick provided that a 'magic formula' for the insertion loss to crosstalk ratio could be achieved.

For CAT 5e and CAT 6, alien crosstalk has been a minor worry which installers could avoid by simple installation techniques. For 10 Gigabit/s Ethernet it has become a major stumbling block.

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