The push to offer greater bandwidth for corporate and residential users is driving innovation in developing new 10G bps (bit per second) Ethernet products, making fiber optic networking more pervasive and improving the speed of wireless local area networks (WLANs).
These trends were evident this week at the giant Networld+Interop networking conference here. A common standard for 10G bps Ethernet is now in its third draft and expected to be a reality by March 2002, according to Tony Lee, president of the 10 Gigabit Ethernet Alliance (10GEA) in Newport Beach, California, and marketing director for Extreme Networks Inc. The alliance represents more than 100 companies that are working together on the standard's development.
Ethernet technology is used in nearly 95 percent of all LANs, Lee said. The new 10G bps technology is expected to be used in metropolitan area networks (MANs), wide area networks (WANs), LANs and even storage area networks (SANs), he said. The 10G bps Ethernet transmission standard increases the speed from the Gigabit Ethernet, or 1 billion bit-per-second, rate commonly used now. The perks of using Ethernet include simplicity in management, installation, design and support, Lee said. An analyst backed Lee's comments.
"Ethernet is simple," said David H. Axner, president and network technology analyst from DAX Associates in Oreland, Pennsylvania. "Everyone knows it. It is not a forklift upgrade. It's an easy migration. There is no high cost."
A few 10G bps products were on display this week, but more are expected when the Networld+Interop show in Atlanta convenes in September, 10GEA's Lee said.
Products that enable the delivery of fiber optics services to the home or curbside were also on show here. NTT Communications Corp. in Tokyo now has 300 test users that are directly connected to a metro optical network, said Takuya Kato, a representative from Mitsubishi Gas Chemical Company Inc., which displayed an Access Media Converter that allows end users to connect to the fiber with an Ethernet connection. NTT's fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) trial offers users data speeds of 100M bps, Kato said. Similarly, SBC Communications Inc. announced this week that it would begin trials offering direct fiber connections in Houston and to a residential and business development connected to the University of California at San Francisco. The initial roll out in Houston will provide a T-1 service, which offers data rate speeds of 1.54M bps.
"It's all driven by the bandwidth demands and companies' WAN growth," said Kurt Prather, a senior sales support engineer with optical network equipment provider Digital Lightwave Inc.
In the wireless broadband space, a few vendors talked about the move from 802.11b to 802.11a WLAN technology. 802.11b, the current standard, offers an 11M bps wireless connection for distances of about 150 feet indoors. The new 802.11a technology increases the wireless data rate to 54M bps. Benefits include the ability to wirelessly stream video and multimedia to wireless-enabled devices, according to vendors here.
The two main chipset makers in the 802.11a space, Cisco Systems Inc. and Atheros Communications Inc., were on hand for the show. Cisco acquired its technology through the February acquisition of Australian-based Radiata Inc. San Jose, California-based Cisco expects to begin seeing 802.11a products in the market by the second quarter of 2002.
Meanwhile, Atheros Communications, based in Sunnyvale, California, plans to start shipping its AR5000 Wireless LAN chipset in the U.S. in the third or fourth quarter this year, said company spokeswoman Cheryl Patstone. It expects its chipset to be used by companies like Intermec Technologies Corp., Proxim Inc. TDK Corp. and Xircom Inc., a division of Intel Corp.
Networld+Interop continues through Friday.