Gigabit Ethernet Definition

Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) is a version of Ethernet that supports data transfer rates of one gigabit (i.e., one billion bits) per second.

Ethernet is by far the most commonly used local area network (LAN) architecture. It features high speeds, robustness (i.e., high reliability), low cost and adaptability to new technologies. Prior to gigabit Ethernet, the fastest Ethernet was fast Ethernet, with a capacity of 100 Mbps (million bits per second).

Gigabit Ethernet is carried primarily on optical fiber, although it can be used with Cat 5 cable (the standard twisted pair copper wire used for Ethernet LANs) for short distances.

Gigabit Ethernet is compatible with other Ethernet standards because it uses the same CSMA/CD (carrier sense multiple access/collision detection) and MAC (media access control) protocols. Many gigabit Ethernet components are backward compatible with fast Ethernet and standard Ethernet (10 Mbps), and existing Ethernet LANs with 10 and 100 Mbps cards can feed into a gigabit Ethernet backbone.

The first gigabit Ethernet standard was agreed upon in June 1998, and gigabit Ethernet was soon deployed mainly for high capacity backbone backbone links in enterprise networks. In the past few years it has also become a built-in feature in an increasing number of personal computers.

Gigabit Ethernet is no longer the fastest Ethernet standard, with the ratification of 10 gigabit Ethernet in 2002. However, it is not yet known to what extent this new standard will be deployed.

Created October 22, 2005.
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