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IEEE standards update

This tip focuses on updates to the IEEE's network cabling standards that falls under the category of Information Technology.

In our last tip, we discussed the new data center standards. This week we'll discuss new standards activities within the IEEE. While the IEEE covers a wide variety of technology -- we're focusing specifically on standards within Information Technology.

If you have an interest in the other technologies covered by the IEEE there are three sites that will provide you with excellent information on standards activities.,, and These sites incorporate not only IEEE standards activities, but include those related standards from other bodies. The sites are broken into subsites for Information Technology and Telecommunications. These sites include IEC, ISO, ASTM, TIA, and ITU standards, among others. You can also keep up to date on the standards by joining the respective organization.

Here's a brief overview of how a standard is created within the IEEE:

  • Call for interest (if this passes a vote)
  • Becomes a working group to study technical feasibility
  • If feasible, becomes a task force with a formal project authorization request (PAR) with the criteria that must be met to become a standard.
  • Members of the task force begin drafting the standard
  • The draft is circulated, revised, recirculated, until final draft is approved
  • It is then submitted to the IEEE committee that overseas the task force
  • It is then voted on and if approved, is slated for publication

The most notable potential standard for this year is the development of 10 Gigabit Ethernet over twisted pair (802.3an – 10GBASE-T). This standard is set for first draft in the summer of this year with final publication in the summer of 2006. The project authorization request was approved by the 802.3 committee and NesCom (the final approval) is slated for this month. The objectives for this standard include creating one 10 Gbps PHY (physical layer chip) that will support operations over a 4-connector structured 4 pair twisted copper cabling for all supported distances. The PHY will support links of at least 100m on four pair Class F balanced copper cabling (also known as Category 7) and 55-100m on four-pair Class E (Category 6) cabling with a bit error rate (BER) of 10 –12. (NOTE: Category 5e is NOT being considered in this standard). The reason that class rather than category specifies the cabling is that the standard being used for the cabling distances is ISO/IEC because it is an international standard. This standard is expected to significantly lower the price of 10 gigabit operations and targets 10 times the speed for 3 times the price of 1000BASE-T. Currently, 10 gigabit fiber transmissions are available, but are still a premium.

Another 10 gigabit standard is due to be blessed this year – 10GBASE-CX4. This standard allows for 10 gigabit operations over twinax cabling for 15 meters. This distance has already been doubled with Class F cabling, and some of the same technology will probably play a part in the above standard. The standards for fiber have already been finalized. However, a new group will begin studying 10 gigabit operations over legacy FDDI grade multi-mode fiber this year.

802.3af addresses the ability to provide power over the data cabling. This allows devices such as IP phones, Wireless Access Points and a myriad of other devices to be powered without a separate electrical connection via low voltage. Power can be supplied either end-span (at the switch) or injected mid-span, between the switch and the powered device. There are different pair configurations for supplying power: two for end-span 10/100 and one for mid-span 10/100. Support is in the standard for gigabit data communications and power over the same pairs. Cisco announced last week that they will begin shipping equipment that conforms to 802.3af as opposed to previous proprietary power supplying equipment. There are several companies that make equipment for both mid-span and end-span.

The 802.3ah (Ethernet in the First Mile) task force is well on its way to becoming a published standard. This standard has already been through several rounds of ballots and is expected to be approved by June of this year. The purpose of this project is "to expand the application of Ethernet to include subscriber access networks in order to provide a significant increase in performance while minimizing equipment, operation, and maintenance costs." This standard will make it possible to have 10 Mbps up to 1 Gbps transmission to your home, office or between buildings using standard Ethernet over copper and/or fiber and might very well replace T-1 lines in the future. This will also place additional bandwidth demands within networks as more and faster connections are possible.

A few others that we will be watching include:

  • Ethernet communications to be used in backplane communications within blades and similar equipment to allow 1 Gbps and 10 Gbps over a distance of 40 inches.
  • The ability to provide network connections and services over power lines.

There is a lot going on in wireless -- watch for these updates in the next tip! As always, if you have questions or comments, feel free to email

Carrie Higbie, Global Network Applications Market Manager, The Siemon Company
Carrie has been involved in the computing and networking industries for nearly 20 years. She has worked with manufacturing firms, medical institutions, casinos, healthcare providers, cable and wireless providers and a wide variety of other industries in both networking design/implementation, project management and software development for privately held consulting firms and most recently Network and Software Solutions.

Carrie currently works with The Siemon Company where her responsibilities include providing liaison services to electronic manufacturers to assure that there is harmony between the active electronics and existing and future cabling infrastructures. She participates with the IEEE, TIA and various consortiums for standards acceptance and works to further educate the end user community on the importance of a quality infrastructure. Carrie currently holds an RCDD/LAN Specialist from BICSI, MCNE from Novell and several other certifications.

This was last published in March 2004

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