The Future of Copper Cabling – Beyond 1000BaseT

Twisted pair copper cabling has been the predomninant technology used to support commercial and residential Ethernet networks . As the need for greater bandwidth continues to grow, structured cabling systems have followed suit, evolving and supporting higher speeds and great bandwidth.

Ethernet cabling systems today are dominated by 1 Gigabit networks, with twisted pair representing 90% of all 1G ports. The TIA standard for CAT 6A was published in 2008, but the market was initially slow to take off due to cost of first generation 10GBase-T equipment.

The landscape is changing and 1G Ethernet switch ports are projected to decrease. The migration to higher network speeds, such as 10GBase-T has begun.  The 10G growth rate is currently in the double digits, and will most likely surpass 1G in total port counts by 2014, according to market research.

As bandwidth demading services like cloud computing and vitualization gain momentum, we are certain to see  requirements for 40G speeds or higher. Cisco Systems has predicted adoption rates for 40G switching equipment to outpace 10G in just five years.

The global cabling standards bodies TIA and ISO are both in early stages of developing future copper cabling standards that support 40G or higher. The TIA TR 42.7 committee plans on defining standards to support 40G speeds using twisted-pair cabling system with a frequency of up to 2 GHz  performance. The ISO/IEC next generation cabling standard currently under development, known as ISO/IEC 11801-99-x, looks similar to the draft TIA standard. It also targets speeds of 40G or higher and a frequency of up to 2.0 GHz.

Existing CAT 7A (class FA) cabling and connectors have been suggested as a possible solution to support 40G applications. However, this technology presents some limitations. Current CAT 7A operates at 1GHz (ISO is  the only standard body recognizing CAT 7A), but both TIA, ISO, and IEEE are currently targeting frequencies well above 1GHz,  as high at 2GHz for next generation cabling.