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Updated: August 22, 2022; Written by: Valorie Sands-Budelis  November 18, 2010


The Age of fiber ethernet has dawned, rising  to meet the escalating needs for more reliable and faster bandwidth – and evolving  to  support complex corporate communications like streaming video, podcasts, webinars, and other server communications  – while also answering to Corporate America's rising cost-containment consciousness.

In the face of a decade marked by a downturn, corporate America's appetite for new and faster communications has not waned.  Laying new fiber to carry fiber ethernet is one solution to meet the growing appetite for bandwidth; but one that represents  a significant capital expenditure, although one with a high payback.  Given it's reliability and quality, it is very popular in spite of alternatives that many businesses use, such as cable or Ethernet over Copper (EoC). Where it is available, EoC builds on existing infrastructure as a practical solution.   To meet bandwidth requirements above T1, compared to legacy systems, fiber ethernet offers more speed, at lower cost per mg, and with a very high degree of reliability, flexibility, and with a scalable environment..   

 In this environment, many fiber ethernet equipment vendors have flourished; a few that currently lead the pack include:  Juniper Networks, Cisco, Tejas, and ECI Tekecin.  Emerging market countries such as India are also seeing the rise of fiber ethernet where companies like Ciena, Extreme, Brocade and Foundry continue to thrive.

If your bandwidth needs have escalated – or are predicted to increase – switching to fiber ethernet offers many advantages. Consider how you'll SCORE:

Scalability – Bandwidth can be adjusted quickly and conveniently, with the ease of just a phone call to your carrier.  Then, within a few hours, or as many as a few days, depending on your set-up, your bandwidth needs can be throttled up to meet your new requirements.  No waiting for weeks and the cost to change is minimal.

Cost-effectiveness – In meeting requirements for escalating bandwidth – fiber ethernet technology provides the opportunity to gain more bandwidth at lower cost per bit. In fact, the higher your bandwidth...the more you save. If you're building does not have a fiber ethernet connection; Ethernet over Copper represents a cost effective solution.

Opportunity – If fiber ethernet is available the cost per bit will be lower than legacy T1–DS3 technology. If not, you can use SD-WAN and any combination of EoC, cable, cellular, and satellite to obtain a virtual pipe that will be at least as reliable as a fiber ethernet connection. And, it will likely be less expensive.

Reliability – fiber ethernet is more reliable than legacy systems including T1's and DS3's that use twisted copper pairs, where if one pair goes down, the whole system is out.  With EoC, if one pair goes down, the bandwidth might be reduced but the service does not go down. With SD-WAN combining 2 or more diverse circuits, the only effect of one of the services going out, is that bandwidth will be reduced.

Ease – Ethernet over Copper installation can be accomplished conveniently, compared to Legacy Solutions.


            The Father of Ethernet was Bob Metcalfe, a Xerox researcher who in 1973 designed the first Ethernet network as a solution to connecting Xerox’s "Alto" computer to a printer. 

             Ethernet was born when the Harvard Ph. D, who called the first experimental network – the Alto Aloha Network, changed the name to "Ethernet" to help define the way the newly evolved system worked: it could support any computer--not just Altos. The root word "ether" expressed the essential characteristic of the system, chosen by Metcalfe to equate his design 'Ethernet', to a technology which could carry bits to all devices through the physical medium (i.e., a cable) – just as the classic scientific term 'luminiferous ether,’ was widely used by nineteenth century physicists to describe how waves of energy were thought to broadcast simultaneously – emitted throughout space via this amorphous body, ether.

            Now the most widely deployed network technology on earth – at first, Ethernet could be used only as local area technology (LAN), connecting devices which operated in close proximity. Thus, early Ethernet usage was primarily restricted to small networks with connections made only using a few hundred meters of cable, usually within the same building.  Originally, Ethernet was carried through a shared coaxial cable (the shared medium) wired throughout a location to every attached machine.  A design scheme known as carrier sense multiple access (CSMA/CD), which governs the way computers share a channel, supported the next evolution by allowing for the increased complexity of multiple users and more than one computer sending information at a time.

             Initially connecting to more distant locations was too expensive and impractical.  The advent of Ethernet over fiber is perhaps the most significant advance that effectively solved connectivity challenges between much wider locations.

            Perhaps the most notable advancement in the evolution of state-of-the-art fiber ethernet is the use of a switched Ethernet to replace the shared medium of legacy.  This solution allows for the deployment of fiber ethernet with segments connected to a switch, which works similarly to an Ethernet bridge, yet with capability to connect many single station segments. Today switches can be designed to support hundreds of dedicated segments.


Switched Ethernet

            Modern fiber ethernet configurations barely resemble previous generations. Decades ago, legacy Ethernet employed long runs of coaxial cable to connect multiple stations, whereas current state-of-the art Ethernet networks use fiber optics or copper twisted pairs to connect devices in a radial pattern. But perhaps the greatest advances are in bandwidth speed and capability: For example, typical legacy Ethernet networks transmitted data at no more than 10 Mbps (megabits per second), while modern networks can deliver 10 Gbps or, in some cases, even 400 Mbps. (When migrating from Ethernet to Fast Ethernet, users first need to assess upgrade requirements which may include changing network interface cards, the wiring and the wiring hub.)

            fiber ethernet vendors, driven to answer to the need for increased bandwidth have also evolved techniques to enable the support of increasingly complex network configurations. Ethernet technology evolved rapidly when in May of 1996, eleven network vendors formed the Gigabit Ethernet Alliance, with the goal of developing a standard for 1 Gigabit.


 Gigabit Ethernet

             Just as Fast Ethernet boosted traditional Ethernet from 10 Megabit to 100 Megabit speed, Gigabit Ethernet improved Fast Ethernet by an equivalent ratio by delivering speeds of 1000 Megabits (1 Gigabit). Initially Gigabit Ethernet was designed to travel over optical and copper cabling, but the 1000Base-T standard also supports it over Cat 5 cable.

            In 2004 another leap forward occurred in Ethernet technology with the advent of l0 Gbps Ethernet and its infrastructure.  In terms of data storage, the increased speed to 10 Gbps proved beneficial to many applications including system backup, teleconferencing, surveillance systems, video servers, etc.  In fact, overall – higher density Ethernet, characterized by reduced power and better cost-effectiveness is of interest to most major system developers. Today, at some locations, Ethernet circuits are available up to 400 Gbps.

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