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The information technology and networking have a vicious circle. Higher bandwidth allows the development of applications that start consuming them. Eventually there reaches a time when the network becomes the bottleneck. This is warrants a newer faster technology. The Gigabit Ethernet standards are a testament to this ever evolving circle.
Ethernet has been one of the most primitive technologies used in the LANs since the early days. The real breakthrough that triggered the fast multiplication of LANs was the 10 BASE T standard. This introduced many new innovations like the hubs and unshielded twisted pair or the UTP cable.
The UTP and hub combination meant that more and more devices could be connected and the average diameter of the LAN increased drastically. Besides the 10 Mbps link capacity provided for enough bandwidth for the increased computers to talk to each other. Later the introduction of switch allowed full duplex operations which increased the LAN capacity further.
While these topological changes were improving the local area network capacity, the applications were fast evolving and demanding much higher bandwidths. It was not possible to continue with such incremental changes; something more drastic was needed. This is where the Fast Ethernet or the 100 BASE T standards was introduced. With a 10 times increase, this was a very significant step in the LAN evolution.
When Fast Ethernet was standardized, many people felt that it would be the last technology to run on UTP; any major upgrades like 1 Gbps would not run on copper. Just when people add written off the UTP based LAN, the 803.2ab standard was released in 1999. This allowed 1 Gbps to be transmitted over the same unshielded twisted pair that supported the previous Ethernet variations.
The 803.2ab standard was very significant for many reasons. The most important among them was that it used the same UTP for transmission. This meant that the LAN investments made by the enterprises could continue to be used even for 1000 Mbps rates. This is sometimes vital for successful adoption of new technology. Of course, to adapt copper for the higher bandwidth some changes were introduced like the use of auto negotiation.
Thus it is clear that the evolution of Gigabit Ethernet is akin to the evolution of modern day LAN. The standard 803.2ab in particular would have a very important impact in the future LANs. With the ability of 1 Gbps on traditional LAN networks, we are in for a new age of local area internet working.
December 11, 2013, 10:07:57 am, America/Chicago