The evolution from 1 to 40 Gigabit Ethernet

Advances in communication technology and in the design of cabling systems are constantly opening up new possibilities for IT. Twisted pair copper cabling for local data networks has gone through an impressive evolution over the last decades. The driving force was

the need within the market to be able to transfer more and more data at an ever-greater speed.

The repertoire of Ethernet standards, protocols for data transmission, and specifications for RJ45 network adapters have developed accordingly. The universal connection modules for LAN cabling are now divided into four categories from Cat. 5e to Cat. 8.1.

In structured cabling systems, the 1000BASE-T protocol with a transmission rate of 1 Gigabit Ethernet per second (1G) has prevailed since the start of the new millennium. The IEEE accordingly defined Category 5e (Cat. 5e) for cabling and connection technology.

10GBASE-T with 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10G) and Cat. 6A followed in 2006. Ten years later, IEEE pushed the performance levels 2.5G and 5G between them. They can be transferred with previously installed Cat. 6 cabling. The performance levels 25G and 40G then followed in 2017: These require shielded Cat. 6A and Cat. 8.1 cabling. The graphic shows the corresponding range of the R&Mfreenet cabling system.   Evolution from 1 to 40 Gigabit

Avoiding misdirected investments

With this technological diversity, it is essential to make the right choice of cabling systems for every project and every application. Whether it is for a little-used building network, a business center with hundreds of computer workstations, or for an enterprise data center.

If it is clear which applications structured cabling should support, misdirected investments can be avoided. Important criteria are, for example, the expected volume of data traffic, the desired transmission rate, extended equipment requirements such as WLAN, electromagnetic influences, and distances in the building.

Help in planning and specification

R&M helps planners, installers, and users to specify their networks according to requirements and standards. This enables them to accurately select cabling systems and connectivity. Some orientation:

  • 5e: The unshielded version of the classic Cat. 5e masters a maximum of 1G over 90 meters. The shielded variant can deliver 2.5G over 90 meters because it can better attenuate alien crosstalk. This allows structured cabling for buildings with limited data traffic or for offices up to medium size.
  • 6: Another classic, Cat. 6, is also available as a shielded or unshielded version. Cat. 6 connection modules master 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet in the unshielded version and 5 Gigabit Ethernet in the shielded version over a distance of 90 meters.
  • Unshielded Cat. 5e and Cat. 6 modules even support the next highest speed, however only with optimal cable properties and installation conditions. Alien crosstalk should not drown out the signals.
  • 6A: For 10G, R&M specifies the innovative module Cat. 6A EL as an unshielded and shielded version. Cat. 6A EL is the best choice for data networks in buildings with several hundred workplaces.
  • R&M also approves the shielded, premium Cat. 6A module for 25G up to 24 meters due to its extraordinary reserves. In this case, Cat. 7A cables have to be installed. Users require 25G particularly for connecting high-performance WLAN access points or for realizing 5G services in picocells within buildings.
  • 8.1: R&M has developed a shielded RJ45 module with brilliant transmission characteristics for 40G applications too. R&M combines the high-end copper system Cat. 8.1 with an S/FTP installation cable of Cat. 8.2/8.1. The permanent link can be a maximum of 24 meters long and have two connectors. It is mainly used in data centers. Further areas of use: LAN cabling in buildings that require extremely fast data transmission and 25G on link distances up to 50 meters. The characteristics of the Cat. 8.1 system from R&M in terms of universal use and backward compatibility is the same as modules of categories 5e to 6A.