Where is Copper Cabling Headed?
For over 20 years Twisted-Pair cabling systems have dominated physical layer technology of commercial Ethernet networks. What was once considered “Fast” Ethernet (100Base-T) is no longer considered fast and is 10 times slower than Gigabit Ethernet (1000Base-T) and 100 times slower than 10GBase-T.
Today, Ethernet cabling systems are dominated by 1G links, and twisted pair represents 90% of all 1G Ethernet ports. The landscape is changing. Companies have already started to migrate to higher network speeds.
The IEEE802.3an (10GBase-T ) standard defines connections over twisted pair cabling using RJ-45 connectors. Cat 6A technology can deliver 10G up to 500MHZ at a distance of up to 100 meters. When comparing costs per port of equipment, maintenance and assembly of 10G Ethernet, Cat 6A and twisted pair is significantly more cost-effective than other technologies. Cat 6A is backwards compatible, and is being installed to support current 1G networks while preparing for a seamless migration path to 10GBase-T.
What is the future of copper beyond 10G you may ask? As bandwidth-hungry services gain momentum, many CIOs anticipate upgrades to 40G speeds or higher.
In 2010, IEEE published the 802.3ba standard for 40 and 100 Gig Ethernet transfer rates using single or multimode fiber and twinaxial copper DAC (Direct Attached Copper). However, copper links defined in the standard address short point-to-point distances only and will the next generation of copper twisted pair cabling meet 40G transfer rates?
Esixting Cat 7A cabling and connectors have been suggested as a possible solution to support 40G applications. Current Cat 7A Cable operates at 1GHz , but both TIA, ISO and IEEE are currently targeting frequencies well above 1 GHz – as high as 2GHz.