It is not often that a technology is built, ratified and used within a four-day time span, and it is not often the Networks show plays host to a "world's first" on the technology front, but network design firm Netcom managed to break with tradition last week when it gave a public demonstration of Gigabit Ethernet running over standard Cat 5 copper cabling at full wire speed.
Some users were surprised at the IEEE announcement of the ratification standard of 1000BaseT or 802.3ab, believing that it would be delayed until the end of the year. But Fishburn confirmed that close watchers of the Gigabit Ethernet arena knew it would be imminent.
Mark Fishburn, vice president of marketing at Netcom, said: "The silicon chips were fabbed on Thursday night in Irvine, California. I picked them up and flew over for the Networks show. On Friday they were integrated into test system product, by Saturday the standard was given approval and on Monday we had it up and running over our SmartBits equipment. It's been an eventful few days to say the least!"
Network vendor Foundry clarified the interoperability of the Netcom product at the show, but no performance testing was carried out.
The chip used was made by Broadcom, although it is also believed that chip maker Level One is working on a similar chip.
Fishburn concluded: "This announcement will mean that Gigabit will be something users can realistically consider deploying. It will also open up the door for faster applications. Although the technology hardly exists in the market today, people can start to roll it out, and be confident there will be a full upgrade available at a later date."
British networking company Bowthorpe is in negotiations to buy Netcom.
If the move comes off, Gigabit Ethernet over copper could effectively be a first for Britain.
More networking news, p15.
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