Nexans CAT7A 1200MHz network cableThis short article is our summation of Nexans‘ 40Gb/s (40G) standardisation update bulletin, which reports on the progress of the standardisation of 40Gb/s network speeds. 40Gb/s network speeds is the generation of networking standards for copper-based Ethernet networks, which will then be followed by 100Gb/s; at the time of writing,  there is no formal standard for 40Gb/s networking, where network hardware manufacturers still face the challenge of achieving 40Gb/s speeds.


10 Gb/s

Currently 10 GB/s (10G) is the fastest speed available for copper-based Ethernet networks.  CAT6A cabling systems are accepted to be the minimum standard required to run 10 Gb/s networks.

A number of 10Gb/s hardware products that claim they can run on CAT6 cabling systems, however they do so unreliably, and certainly do not always operate in an optimum fashion. It may be possible to run 10Gb/s reliably on CAT6 if the cable length is fairly short.

CAT6A is a shielded cable with performance to 500MHz, in comparison, CAT6 is typically unshielded and provides performance to 250MHz.


40Gb/s standardisation update


The noteworthy points from the update are:

  • Category 8 cabling standards will be defined in 2013/2014 by TIA, which is fast tracking this definition.
  • Category6A (CAT6A) network cabling will (likely) not be used for the 40Gb/s standard. It will require very complex network hardware to signal at these speeds. Further more than one CAT6A will be required to run at these speeds.
  • Cat6A or Class EA cabling has insufficient bandwidth even over short distances such as 30m to support 40G
  • Cat7A with its “double frequency range” of 1000MHz could be used for a 40G application.
  • The Cat7A system’s extended frequency range would allow a simplified encoding which might be easier to implement for chip designers.
  • The biggest news for copper cabling is that the 100m distance support has found its end. No cabling system is intended to run 40GBase-T with a link length above the new 30m limit. This new length limitation should be respected in any new data centre layout from now on.
  • ISO describe two new sets of channel performance specifications, both specified up to 2 GHz.
    • The first (Channel I) is similar to the TIA Cat.8 approach.
    • The second (Channel II) is based on an improved version of ISO Class FA and shows a significantly better Signal-to-Noise Ratio.
  • Currently several new specifications to support 40GBase-T are being studied and three of them are based on Cat7A components. Cat.8 or Channel I systems are not on the market yet and therefore cannot be purchased. Cat7A systems even with extended frequency support are available from certain vendors.


Nexans and ISO/IEC


Nexans publish bulletins on the progress of the standardisation of 40Gb/s. Nexans, as cabling manufacturers, are contributors to the formal development and definition of new networking standards to support faster network speeds in IT networks.

Nexans represent cabling manufacturers, who need to develop cables and connectors that will conform to the specifications required by the next generation of network hardware manufacturers, including switches, routers and network adaptors.

Nexans work with ISO/IEC to formally define cabling standards (categories) for the next generation of networks and their high expected speeds.



Siemon 10 gigabit capable network connector

A recent workshop held between some of the major network cabling, connector and chip manufacturers to discuss the development of  copper networks beyond 10Gb/s was held at Pennsylvania State University CICTR (Center for Information and Communication Technology Research) in August last year.

Why I have only just recently received a press release from one of its co-sponsors, Nexans, is anyone’s guess, however I thought it relevant that I should share the outcomes of this workshop held between some the finest technical minds, and industry leaders in the manufacture and development of copper networks; we are always keen to know what the next big leap in speeds will be. Currently the maximum speeds attainable on both copper and fibre network systems is 10Gb/s, which some would say is fast enough; however we believe that if high definition TV, HD audio and 3D TV continues its development and mass-adoption at the pace we are currently seeing, it won’t be long before even 10Gb/s will seem like a very slow network indeed, even in domestic settings. If we consider that blu-ray movies can be 50 Gigabytes in size, and soon 3D titles could very well require more that 33% more capacity, it is not hard to understand that the transfer, backup and streaming of high-definition video content is going to put demands on networks never seen before on the internet or within domestic settings.

In essence the workshop concluded that in 2010 there is sufficient cause and interest in creating a committee to call-for-interest to establish a 40BASE-T solution.

The key observations, which I have copied verbatim from the press release are:

  • Copper solutions beyond 10G could include many possible options but the highest Twisted Pair Category (Category 7A) is clearly in prime position.
  • Data Centre architecture will play a vital role in next generation networks. Jeff Cain, of Cisco systems, suggested that rack-centric, modular designs could change current thinking.
  • Chip Vendors and Data Centre designers pointed out that structured cabling had many benefits over ‘Top of Rack’ switching, and that future copper solutions for 40G shall not be “point to point”.
  • The concept of a unified I/O, spawning the prospect of “any machine, anywhere, anytime” was introduced.
  • The PHY vs. Channel, aka “Chicken or Egg” debate, continues…with chip vendors saying the cable channel needs to be established first, while the cable manufacturers say the PHYs need to be developed first. Workshop attendees agreed that concurrent development was the best plan.
  • Based on his market analysis and model, independent consultant Alan Flatman (LAN Technologies) suggested that the call for interest (CFI) for 40GBASE-T should be initiated in IEEE during 2010.

Bottom line is it is actually possible for you to install 40GB/s capable networks today, even though this technology has yet to be developed. Category 7A cabling systems are already available, and if these cabling systems are installed correctly they will be able to deliver speeds well in excess of 10gb/s, where some cabling and connector manufacturers are even guranteeing 40gb/s performance, even though such technology is only in conceptual stages.

TEA London are already installing Category-7A networks, our first cabling project of this nature started in early 2009, following acceptance of a cabling design proposed in 2008; such cabling systems are not significantly more expensive than good Category-6A copper networks, and if one takes into account that a Category 7A network is truly future proof, and will likely give a lifespan of a minimum of 15 years, but likely as much as 25 years, then this is an investment well worth making in any new build, or during any refurbishment project where you own the building.

The more common Category-5e cabling systems are less expensive to implement, but is already at its end of life, where you will be hard pressed to get a stable optimised 1GB/s network, let alone 10Gb/s, similarly, cheaper Category-6 networks have proven themselves to only just scrape through in passing minimum requirements.

We have been advising our clients to implement a minimum standard of Category 6A cabling systems for some time now, you should strongly consider the same if you consider what developments are around the corner.

Should 40Gb/s copper networks appear in the near future, here is an important fact worth considering: it will be faster than fibre optic networks, currently copper 10Gb/s networks match fibre optics (and we mean only high-0end fibre optic networks, over short distances, using the most expensive equipment), the key difference being that copper networks are always cheaper, in terms of hard costs, implementation costs and installation costs; fibre optic networks have the advantage of being able to deliver data over long distances reliably, but copper networks will soon take over as the faster technology.

©Tea London 2004 - 2013