Standard time

New wired and wireless standards promise higher speeds for users, but pre-emptive vendors and technical issues may limit their appeal to enterprises.

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By  Eliot Beer Published  September 3, 2006

|~|plug200.jpg|~||~|This summer has seen the emergence of at least two new networking standards; 10GBase-T, and Wi-Fi ‘n’. The wired standard – going by the name of 802.3an – has been formally approved by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE). Meanwhile, IEEE is still making its way through the thousands of comments it has received for its proposed 802.11n standard, but this has not stopped several vendors releasing more n-enabled products based on the draft. There are now enough of these pre-standard systems for research firm Dell’Oro Group to publish a report on their market share. The report suggests that ‘draft n’ wireless products have captured around 8% of the router market and 6% of the interface card market. The price difference between ‘g’ and ‘draft n’ equipment is very high at the moment – the newer technology is going for around twice the price of older ‘g’ systems. “The difference in average selling prices between a ‘draft n’ router and a 802.11g router is too high to generate mass appeal,” says Elmer Choy, analyst of wireless LAN research at Dell’Oro. “When 802.11g routers were first introduced in 2003, their average selling prices were only 28% more than those of 802.11b routers, which made it easy for consumers to justify the upgrade to the newer technology. “However, current ‘draft n’ router prices are more than double that of the 802.11g routers, which makes for a more difficult upgrade decision.” Choy also notes that there is no significant penalty for customers who choose to wait before the standard is finalised before purchasing new equipment. While ‘draft n’ vendors are confident their equipment will be upgradeable to the final standard, this is not guaranteed and customers of pre-release systems face a small but significant risk of being left with incompatible access devices or routers. The new 10GBase-T standard is happily free of this level of complexity, as regards approval. Many commentators have noted that 10Gbit/s over copper cable was long considered to be technologically infeasible, if not impossible. A number of technical challenges have been overcome to achieve a workable system for high-speed copper networking. A large part of this has been the development of a new physical layer entity (PHY) which can handle the demands of the high-speed standard. Issues around crosstalk, both within the cable and between neighbouring cables, as well as the demands for a very efficient analogue-to-digital converter (ADC), contributed to the technical complexity. Now the standard has been published, 10GBase-T products will start appearing, but organisations with older cable infrastructures may struggle with the new standard’s stringent requirements. So for the moment, regional enterprises may want to evaluate 10GBase-T carefully, to see if it will add value to the business, or cause more problems than it solves.||**||

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