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What Is an NBASE-T Switch, and How Can You Benefit from It?

August 30, 2021

With the rapid tech innovation and adoption, networking infrastructure has evolved to meet and exceed customer needs. The shifting market dynamics have seen tech companies stretch the limits of what is possible with the new NBASE-T or Multi-Gigabit Ethernet networking standard.

So what is NBASE-T, and why is it gaining popularity in the market? We've highlighted everything about this technology – from Gigabit ethernet definition, specifications to common applications and benefits.

What Is NBASE-T, and How Does It Work?

NBASE-T is an Ethernet signaling technique characterized by high-speed and low-latency networking. This network boosting technique provides better bandwidth and reliability compared to the traditional networking standards. One of the benefits of NBASE-T Ethernet technology is that it allows you to enhance the speed of installed twisted cables beyond their initial limits. A typical twisted pair cable can support up to 1 GB/s bandwidth within a limited distance of up to 100 meters. Upgrading to an NBASE-T technology will further push these limits, delivering even more speed. For example, this technology can boost the speeds of Cat5e and Cat6 cables to 2.5 and 5 GB/s.

As far as its working principle is concerned, Multi-Gigabit Ethernet technology downshifts the signaling rates of 10 Gigabit Ethernet to either one-quarter or one-half, i.e., 2.5 Gbps and 5 Gbps, respectively. This modification is cost-effective and least disruptive since it allows the existing copper cables to support higher speeds.

Specifications and Common Applications

NBASE-T technology comes with some standard specifications that define the scale of operation and networking limits. These include:

  • 2.5 and 5 Gigabit per second support for a distance of up to 100 meters with category 5 cabling or higher.

  • A bit-error rate of less than 10e-12.

  • NBASE-T physical layer v2.3 specification.

  • Simple multi vendor interconnection of MAC & PHY components with the MAC-PHY specification.

By embracing this multi-Gigabit Ethernet technology, it's possible to utilize the 802.11ac Wave 2 gen devices, which allows you to break the speed barriers. This networking standard also provides enhanced bandwidth with a speedy delivery of up to 5GB/s – that is imperative with the newest Wi-Fi standard, the 802.11ax.

Switching to Multi-Gigabit Ethernet Networking

Next-gen devices in the office and even at home will be capable of 2.5G or 5G connectivity, e.g., desktop computers, network cards, servers, and Wi-Fi 6 access points. By moving to multi-Gigabit Ethernet, you will maximize the devices' potential to enhance speed and performance.

For most small businesses, replacing all the networking hardware – from servers, switches, network cards, and storage is costly and somewhat impractical. Similarly, the industry standards for high-speed switches vary; for instance, a 10GB switch requires Cat6a or a better cable category, yet most businesses use Cat5e. In such situations, the network will be downgraded to the Gigabit speed the Cat5e can support.

A solution to this problem is to use multi-Gigabit switches, which allow devices attached to the switch to work at the speed of the port. That means the speed of the port will determine the speed of the attached cable within the same network.

What Is a Multi-Gigabit Ethernet Port?

So you may ask, what is a multi-Gigabit Ethernet port? Simply put, a switch has multiple ports, each rated to support a given data speed. For instance, an NBASE-T switch may contain Ethernet ports that support 100 Mbps, 2.5 Gbps, 1 Gbps, 5 Gbps, and in some cases, 10 Gbps. This makes networking very flexible, plus the optimal speed of the connected devices is instantly detected and optimized, meaning there's no manual tuning or intervention.

Choosing an NBASE-T Switch

Before proceeding to find a multi-Gigabit or NBASE-T switch, there are some factors to keep in mind. The first thing is to assess the current load of the network and take note of the high-speed storage, Wi-Fi access points, CAM/CAD systems, etc., that require more than 1 GB.

After analyzing the network load, ensure that the switch you intend to use has a maximum throughput higher than the total throughput of all the connected devices. In other words, ensure that the rated speeds of the ports suit your typical use cases.

Final Thoughts

When choosing NBASE-T switches, it's advisable to always keep in mind your current and future networking needs. Another important consideration is to select a reputed vendor that’s been in the market for long. That way, you are assured of high performance and highly reliable switches.

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