Copper connectivity should enable far faster adoption of the latest 10Gbps-capable networking technology, as a result of it being more cost-effective than a fibre solution. And it has come to South Africa at an ideal time.

Although Cat6 is just starting to reach widespread levels of deployment, and Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) ports are still comparatively scarce in the local networking arena, cabling vendors have developed, and put on the market, even faster, 10 Gigabit-capable systems, which exceed this cabling standard in every way.

With Krone (Africa) (Pty.) Ltd. having just released its 10GbE copper cabling system, called Copper10, we sat down with the executive manager for sales at ADC Krone SA to get some insight into the hows and whys of 10GbE cabling solutions. Grant van Sittert takes up the story.

“If we go back and look at Cat6, we will find that it was really just a standard which was developed because the limitations of Cat5e were becoming clear. It featured twice the bandwidth of 5e in anticipation of the next application, but then 10GbE arrived and it was learned that, in a best case scenario, Cat6 could only handle these far faster data transmission at distances of up to 55m. Alien crosstalk is the leading factor involved in this failure, caused by the extremely high frequencies being used.”

“The whole theory behind using twisted pairs of cables was noise cancellation. The extra energy derived from the higher frequency in Cat6 led to the addition of the filler. But the presence of this item pushes the twisted pairs out to the edge of the cable, making interference more of an issue, especially at the frequencies at which 10GbE runs,” explains Van Siddert.

Originally networking standards bodies had accepted that 10 Gigabit networking would only be run over fibre links, but copper vendors became involved in proving them wrong, and it was Krone, in conjunction with Fluke Networks, which proved that copper could deliver this throughput reliably for distances of up to 100m. It was the development of a higher grade of copper, and better quality connectors, that eliminated the alien crosstalk problem encountered in previous generation cable.

Using these new components enabled the manufacturer to increase the cable frequency to 500MHz with no technicalities, and, according to Van Sittert, also allowed the creation of a cabling system more robust than Cat4e, which was notoriously thin and susceptible to damage during installation.

“The benefits of this higher-grade cabling system will be susceptible even to 100Mbps and 1Gbps networks. No more loose-laying Cat6 deployments either, Copper10 cables can be laid right alongside one another with no crosstalk, and it is robust enough to make the chances of damage during installation far smaller,” he says.

However, the primary driver for this latest UTP offering remains for the purpose of future-proofing – ensuring that your network be a long-term investment rather than a cycle of painful upgrades. Soon it will find its way into data centers, medical facilities and enterprises needing the highest-performing networks available. I

n January 2004 the Dell’Oro Group reported that it expected that 700,000 10 Gigabit ports would be installed by 2006, a statement backed up in August by Gartner Inc. which said that the number of 10 Gigabit NICs shipped would shoot from 7,000 in 2004 to in excess of 550,000 by the end of 2007.

Continues Van Sittert: “We have stock of this product in our warehouses, and are already busy installing at two local customers with a commitment for more in 2005. It has been very well accepted, and our end-users seem to appreciate where this is coming from. Ten Gigabit is clearly the next step for the fast-moving network world to take, and it is always best to buy for the future when it comes to your cabling solution.”

The build-up to the 2010 Soccer World Cup, an event which will rely heavily on bandwidth-intensive broadcast communications, adds an additional driver specific to the SA market, while globally demand will skyrocket, partially because IT infrastructure is seen as a key competitiveness driver in the modern economy.

The adoption of 10GbE will be accelerated by the ability to use copper as a medium, which is far more cost-effective than a fibre system when taking the active equipment costs into account. Of course fibre still owns any 10 Gigabit connection needing to run further than 100m, but Krone and competitive manufacturers of 10GbE copper intend attacking its hold on the short-haul with vigor.

“There are a number of silicone providers now offering active 10GbE equipment already, with a draft of the specification due this year and ratification expected early in 2006. The cost of a full fibre solution is high compared to twisted pair, so we expect to be driving 10 Gigabit over copper fast and hard into an eager marketplace,” concludes Van Sittert.