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Cisco LAN switches support 2.5, 5 GbE to boost future Wi-Fi speeds

Cisco has introduced Catalyst LAN switches that support 2.5 and 5 GbE for faster Wi-Fi without the need for costly cable upgrades.

Cisco has unveiled several Catalyst LAN switches that support 1, 2.5, 5 and 10 gigabit Ethernet (GbE), so companies can take a stepping-stone approach to faster speeds.

The multi-gigabit LAN switches, introduced Tuesday, can be used by companies planning to buy wireless access points that support the latest 802.11ac Wave 2 standard, which provides maximum speeds of 6.93 Gbps. For many companies, adopting the peppier technology will require upgrading their older Ethernet switch ports.

The new Catalyst 4500E, Catalyst 3850 and Catalyst 3560-CX, have switch ports for 1, 2.5, 5 and 10 Gbps. The switches can work with enterprises' legacy cabling infrastructure, typically Category 5e and Category 6 copper cables, according to Hasan Siraj, senior director of product management for Cisco's enterprise campus switching portfolio.

The new products are interoperable with existing Catalyst switches and can be rolled out as part of a staged deployment, so upgrading won't require customers to rip and replace their existing switch infrastructure, Zeus Kerravala, analyst for ZK Research, said.

For example, the new Catalyst 3850 can be stacked with existing 1G Copper and 1G Fiber models. The Catalyst 4500E will require a new line card, which will also work with existing Supervisor Engines 8-E, 7-E and 7-LE switches, Siraj said.

The expense of upgrading to new switches can't be avoided if enterprises want to get the most out of 802.11ac Wave 2 and future wireless speeds, Kerravala said.

"It would be more costly if [enterprises] didn't upgrade their switches, and the wireless network didn't perform properly," he said.

Migrating to 10 GbE will require a cabling upgrade to at least a Category 6a or higher. This can be expensive for enterprises equipped with older wires, like Category 5e cabling.

Because the new switches support the lower speeds, as well as 10 GbE, the products do not require an immediate cabling upgrade, which will be attractive to IT professionals who want to make the most out of older investments, said Craig Mathias, principal at analyst firm, Farpoint Group.

"These switches will very likely become a very mainstream Cisco offering very quickly," he said.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Gina Narcisi, senior news writer, and follow @GeeNarcisi on Twitter.

Next Steps

Hold off for 802.11ac Wave 2, or upgrade Wi-Fi now?

Gigabit Wi-Fi takes the lead, but wired network has to play backup

How did we get to the 802.11ac standard?

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