Although the complex terminology and abbreviations used in the industry for Ethernet properties can be confusing, Ethernet is the most common set of standards for networks in operation in the world for the physical properties of a network, particularly network cable. New standards with different variations are published periodically, each offering the network administrator another alternative, but terms overlap and series codes get confused. Learn the jargon to understand what different Ethernet standards can do.
Ethernet follows two unsynchronized systems to abbreviate the requirements of each standard version. The Ethernet standards are managed by the 802.3 working group of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, which publish their recommendations with that code followed by one or two letters to indicate a sequence. Networking equipment lists the Ethernet standards to which they comply as 802.3ae or 802.3ba, for example. Each complete networking system defined in the standards has a separate naming convention, so consumers will also see that a product is for a 10BASE-T or a 1000BASE-LX Ethernet network. Products mentioning 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet refer to this naming system.
The naming system of an Ethernet category has three elements: the network speed, the transmission system and the cable type. The speed is given in megabits per second, and a megabit is a million bits, so a 10BASE-T network can transmit data at 10 megabits per second. The transmission system is either broadband or baseband; most Ethernet standards are baseband the origin of the "BASE" in 10BASE-T. The cable type element of the naming convention is created from a mixture of cable type, wave method (for fiber optics) and operating distance 10BASE-T uses twisted pair cable. 1000BASE-SX uses fiber-optic cable with a near infrared wavelength. 1000BASE-LX uses fiber-optic cable with a long wavelength laser. A gigabit is a thousand megabits, and the Ethernet types starting with 1000 are gigabit systems.
After defining networks capable of carrying 1000 megabits per second, the 802.3 working group continued creating recommendations for faster networks. The next-fastest systems carry data at 10 gigabits per second, 40 gigabits per second and 100 gigabits per second. However, with these three systems, the naming convention changed. Gigabit networks are expressed as 1,000 megabits, but 10-, 40- and 100-gigabit systems are known as 10G, 40G and 100G; thus, 10BASE-T and a 10GBASE-T networks.
The switch in naming convention for gigabit systems causes confusion. For example, a product claiming to follow 10/100/1000 gigabit Ethernet standards seems to be claiming to provide a transfer speed of 10 gigabits, 100 gigabits or 1,000 gigabits per second. However, these speeds would be written as 10G, 100G and 1000G. The 10/100/1000 gigabit claim actually indicates 10, 100 and, finally, 1,000 megabits - 1,000 megabits is a gigabit. The strongest reason for this interpretation is that there is no 1,000-gigabit system in existence.