A Quick View of 10-Gigabit Ethernet

Updated on Jan 5, 2022 by

The improvements in 10GbE technology are extending its reach beyond enterprise enterprise-grade users to the broader market to replace 1 Gigabit Ethernet. This article introduces the types of 10GbE and its market requirements.

What Is 10 Gigabit Ethernet?

10 Gigabit Ethernet is a telecommunications technology that transmits data packets over Ethernet at a rate of 10 billion bits per second. 10GbE standards were first defined by the IEEE 802.3ae in 2002. To implement different 10GbE physical layer standards, PHY modules including XENPAK(and related X2 and XPAK), XFP, and SFP+ were released specified by multi-source agreements (MSAs). The sizes of these five modules are getting smaller and smaller. SFP+ is the newest module standard and has become the most popular socket on 10GbE systems.

Types of 10 Gigabit Ethernet

There are two types of 10 GbE network, which differ by the type of cable used to connect devices.

Fiber-based 10 Gigabit Ethernet

There are two basic types of optical fiber used for 10 Gigabit network: single-mode (SMF) and multi-mode (MMF). In SMF light follows a single path through the fiber while in MMF it takes multiple paths resulting in differential mode delay (DMD). SMF is used for long-distance communication and MMF is used for distances of less than 300m (more information about SMF and MMF, click Fiber Optic Cable Types: Single Mode vs Multimode Fiber Cable). 10 Gigabit Ethernet can also run over active optical cables (AOC).

Name Standard Wavelength Media Interface Distance
10GBASE-SR/SW IEEE 802.3ae-2002 850nm MMF Duplex LC/SC 300m over OM3; 400m over OM4
10GBASE-LRM IEEE 802.3aq-2006 1310nm MMF/SMF Duplex LC/SC 220m over OM3 MMF; 300m over SMF
10GBASE-LR/LW IEEE 802.3ae-2002 1310nm SMF Duplex LC/SC 10km
10GBASE-ER/EW IEEE 802.3ae-2002 1550nm SMF Duplex LC/SC 40km
10GBASE-ZR/ZW proprietary (non IEEE) 1550nm SMF Duplex LC/SC 80km
10GBASE-LX4 IEEE 802.3ae-2002 1310nm MMF/SMF Duplex LC/SC 300m/10km
10GBASE-PR IEEE 802.3av-2009 TX: 1270 nm; RX: 1577 nm SMF SC 20km

Optical fiber can also be divided into three types according to the application scenarios: 10 Gigabit LAN Ethernet, 10 Gigabit WAN Ethernet, and 10 Gigabit PON over Optical Fiber.

10GBASE-SR, 10GBASE-LR, 10GBASE-LRM, 10GBASE-ER, 10GBASE-ZR, and 10GBASE-LX4 are used in the Local Area Network (LAN). 10GBASE-SW, 10GBASE-LW, 10GBASE-EW, and 10GBASE-ZW are applied to the Wide Area Network (WAN). They are set to work in OC-192/STM-64/ SDH/SONET. And 10GBASE-PR is a 10 Gigabit Ethernet PHY for passive optical networks.

Copper-based 10 Gigabit Ethernet

10 Gigabit Ethernet can run over twin-axial cabling, twisted pair cabling, and backplanes. 10GbE based on double-twisted cable includes 10GBASE-CX4, 10GBASE-T, 10GBASE-KX4, 10GBASE-KR, and SFP+ DAC.

Name Standard Cable Types Distance
10GBASE-CX4 IEEE 802.3ak-2004 Twinax Copper 4 Lanes 15m
10GBASE-T IEEE 802.3an-2006 CAT6A or 7 UTP Twisted Pair 100m
10GBASE-KX4 IEEE 802.3ap-2007 Improved FR-4 4 Lanes 1m
10GBASE-KR IEEE 802.3ap-2007 Improved FR-4 Serial 1m
10GBASE-CR SFF-8431-2006 Twinax Cable Twisted Pair 15m

10 Gigabit Ethernet Application Scenarios

There are broad demands for 10 Gigabit Ethernet in the Local Area Network (LAN), Metropolitan Area Network (MAN), and the Wide Area Network (WAN) markets. Each market typically has different requirements for linkspan and cost.

10 Gigabit Ethernet in the LAN

In the LAN markets, applications typically include in-building computer servers, building-to-building clusters, and data centers. In this case, the distance requirement is usually between 100m and 300m. In the medium-haul markets, applications usually include campus backbones, enterprise backbones, and storage area networks. In this case, the distance requirement is moderate, usually between 2km and 20km.

Figure 1: Example of 10 Gigabit Ethernet in Expanded LAN

10 Gigabit Ethernet in the MAN/WAN

The WAN markets typically include Internet service providers and Internet backbone facilities. A Point of Presence (PoP) is typically considered the node that links a long-distance network to a serving area, giving a service provider or enterprise a presence in the area and giving area users an economical way to access the provider’s services.

The demand for WAN-compatible 10 GbE in Service Provider PoPs already exits, particularly as eCommerce/eBusiness applications and high-speed Ethernet-based residential Internet access markets accelerate. Most of the access points for long-distance transport networks require the OC-192c data rate.

Figure 2: Example of 10 Gigabit Ethernet in a MAN


As the boundaries of LAN, MAN, and WAN continue to blur, 10 Gigabit Ethernet, providing high performance, high efficiency, and low cost at all scales, also delivers faster speeds with less compression and latency. Therefore, 10 GbE will be a low-cost solution for high-speed and reliable data networking and it will dominate the LAN, MAN, and WAN markets in the near future.

Related Article:

SONET vs SDH vs DWDM, What Are Their Differences?

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