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What is 10GbE?

By R. Kayne
Updated May 16, 2024
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10-Gigabit Ethernet (10GbE) is the fastest Ethernet standard for hard-wired local area networks (LANs) since 2005. It crowns the latest in a long list of Ethernet technologies standardized by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) in their specification 802.3x. The 10GbE network operates at a rate of 10 gigabits per second (gbps), or ten times faster than standard GbE. Ethernet cabling is used to connect computers to hard-wired networks used in businesses, on campuses, and in homes. Over the years, the technology of transmitting digital signals across Ethernet cabling, including the cabling itself, has evolved to allow faster data transfer rates.

Ethernet standards are often referred to in abbreviated form. The speed is indicated first, followed by the word “base” for baseband, and finally a 2-digit abbreviation for the type of cabling technology used. When referring to a level of Ethernet without specifying the cable type, a simple “X” is used to be inclusive. At a glance, this abbreviation reveals which type of Ethernet network is being referred to. For example:

  • 10Base-X – Standard Ethernet at 10 megabits per second (mbps)
  • 100Base-X – FastEthernet at 100 mbps
  • 1000Base-X – Gigabit Ethernet at 1,000 mbps, or 1-gigabit per second (gbps), also known as GbE
  • 10GBase-X – 10-Gigabit Ethernet at 10 gbps, also known as XGbE

10GbE is ten times faster than GbE and has many competing standards that will likely shake down to a few over time. Most types of 10GbE use single or multi-mode optical fiber cabling. Single mode optical cable is used for 10GBase-LR (long range) and 10GBase-ER (extended range). Multi-mode optical fiber cable is used for 10GBase-SR (short range), 10GBase-LX4, and 10GBase-LXM. Wide area networks (WANs) have their own varietiess of 10GbE: 10GBase-SW, 10GBase-LW and 10Gbase-EW.

For running short distances with 10GbE, there is the less expensive 10Gbase-CX4, a copper alternative. This is commonly used for bridges, such as wiring router to switch. A traditional type of 10GbE that uses twisted pair cables should be standardized by IEEE in 2006, as 10GBase-T. The twisted pair cabling used for 10GbE will have to meet technical specifications required by Category 6A cable, or “Cat-6A” for short.

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