Broadening the boundaries of Ethernet Technology
Burt Patton
Friday, August 1, 2008
The Opportunity

Due to its low cost, high degree of flexibility, and standards based interfaces, Ethernet has become the most common data-network technology in the world. PC’s, workstations, info kiosks, POS (Packet Over SONET/SDH), cable set-top boxes, video cameras, industrial PLCs) Programmable Logic Controller) — even elevator control boards — can all be readily found with Ethernet interfaces.

The Problem

For all of Ethernet’s strengths, it does have some limitations that need to be overcome. The first and most limiting factor of Ethernet is its distance limitation, 328 feet (100 meters), set forth by the IEEE 802.3 specifications. This distance limitation forces users to install equipment not where they want it, but where the specification limits them to. In some circumstances this limitation altogether eliminates the possibility of using Ethernet. Another major factor in Ethernet’s limitations is the requirement to use CAT5 or better cabling. Users that have already installed cabling which does not meet the stringent CAT5 specifications must go through an extremely cost prohibitive, and sometimes impossible, process of rewiring their infrastructure.

The Solution

Copper-based Ethernet Extenders are plug-and-play devices that you can install quickly to take advantage of existing copper twisted-pair infrastructure. Ethernet extenders allow users to expand their Ethernet connections beyond the 328 feet (100 meters)limit. Ethernet extenders can establish long-range, high-speed data communication links between geographically separated LANs or Ethernet enabled devices.

The Benefits

Copper-based Ethernet extenders can send packets at full line rate to a peered LAN or Ethernet enabled device up to 5 miles or 8 kilometers away. While networks typically deploy Ethernet Extenders within a limited geographical area, this area no longer needs to be limited to one building. Ethernet extenders create effective bridged-Ethernet connections across buildings, streets, over a college or enterprise campus, and between Ethernet LANs.

Ethernet extenders are the most cost-effective alternative to extending Ethernet communications, as they take advantage of the existing copper twisted-pair infrastructures. Ethernet Extenders eliminate the need for complicated and pricey CAT5 or fiber wiring, or installing additional equipment such as switches, 802.3 repeaters and others. Wireless Ethernet technologies also eliminate the need for cost prohibitive CAT5 cabling or fiber. However, wireless does have issues that include lower packet throughput, barriers causing line of site issues, overall reliability, quick and noticeable degradation in performance over longer distances, and of course security issues if not properly installed.

The author is the President – Products, Patton Electronics India. He can be reached at burt@patton.com

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