Netgear shows off copper gig

At the Comdex Fall 2001 show earlier this month, Netgear Inc. showed off an array of copper-based gigabit Ethernet products, some with a per-port price tag as low as US$90.

The new 1000Base-T switches and network interface card (NIC) could be used by small businesses looking to boost their bandwidth without spending a lot of money, or in larger enterprises looking to expand their copper Gigabit connections on the cheap.

The GS516T and the GS24T provide 16 and 24 ports, respectively, of unmanaged Layer 2 10/100/1000Mbps Ethernet over Category 5 wiring. The FS309T and FS509T both provide eight 10/100Mbps links, with a single 1000Base-T uplink port. The FS309T’s casing is designed as a desktop switch, while the FS509T is meant to sit in a rack.

The 16- and 24-port switches could be deployed as server connections in a data centre, while the two 10/100Mbps switches are designed as workgroup connectivity boxes.

Also introduced was the GA302T, a 32-bit, copper gigabit Ethernet NIC that is targeted for desktop users who require 1000MBps network connections, such as database file analysts, graphic artists or computer-assisted design (CAD) engineers.

While running gigabit Ethernet over Category 5 wire has its limitations – such as a 328-foot maximum cable reach, and incompatibility with older copper cabling types – enterprises are starting to use the technology for running gigabit connections to desktops, connecting workgroup switches to a local server or for server connections in a data centre.

With copper-based gigabit Ethernet products shipping for over a year now, the significance of these products is not so much what they do, but what they cost. At US$90, Netgear’s new NIC is the lowest-cost product of its kind, while the US$91 and US$97 per-port costs for the GS516T and GS24T are also market leaders for 10/100/1000Base-T switch ports.

The GS516T is priced at US$1,590, while the GS524T costs US$2,190. The FS309T and FS509T workgroup switches cost US$199 and US$290, respectively, while the GA302 NIC costs US$90. All products are available now.