Use of Gigabit Ethernet over Copper Surges

Last quarter was a coming-out party of sorts for copper-based Gigabit Ethernet, analysts say, with shipments of 1000Base-TX switch ports accounting for nearly a fourth of all Gigabit ports shipped in the second quarter of 2000.

While Gigabit Ethernet ports still accounted for only 3 percent of total LAN ports, shipments were up over 300 percent from the second quarter last year, according to a recent report issued by Cahners In-Stat Group of Scottsdale, Ariz. The firm predicts that port shipments will reach four million by year-end, more than doubling last year's total.

Voice/data network convergence and the low cost of Gigabit-over-copper technology are the driving factors behind this surge in Gigabit Ethernet, says Lauir Vickers, industry analyst for Cahners In-Stat Group and author of the report.þConverged networks, she says, must utilize Layer 3-7 quality-of-service (QoS) switching technologies to deliver reliable voice quality. "When doing this kind of packet investigation, the only thing that gives you an advantage is to use Gigabit Ethernet to deliver QoS at the proper speed," she adds.

The large installed base of Category 5 copper cabling is also a factor in the surge of Gigabit Ethernet.þ"While not many people are installing new copper cabling, Category 5 accounts for almost 80 percent of the wiring installed base right now," Vickers says.

This has allowed Gigabit Ethernet to extend from a backbone and link-aggregation role all the way to people's desktops.

Vickers adds that switching manufactures are currently working to lower the cost of fiber-based Gigabit Ethernet, which will increase the presence of fiber in enterprise networks over the long run. Until that happens, Gigabit Ethernet over copper will continue to grow, and is expected to account for half the Gigabit Ethernet ports shipped by year-end.

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