What does 10/100/1000 Base-T mean?

What does 10/100/1000 Base-T mean?

Written by Brian Lowery, Senior Network Administrator at Jackson Technical

Today let’s talk about speed. Not the speed of light, or how fast a car can go around a racetrack. We are going to discuss the speed of data or bandwidth. With the world we live in today, everything revolves around data speed. Your cell phone company boasts about 5G, or your internet service provider tells you about the latest turbo boost you can get from them. All of these things rely on how fast they can get data from point A to point B. All networks are built around speed standards and the one we are interested in today is 10/100/1000 ethernet.

When we look at networking hardware and wiring, we see the reference to 10/100/1000 and wonder; what does this mean? The 10/100/1000 reference is an Ethernet standard developed by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). The IEEE sets standards when it comes to Ethernet data transmission. Formed in 1963, they are best known for setting the IEEE 802 standards. This standard is how businesses design hardware and cable for every network.

To break down 10/100/1000 ethernet - we get 10 Megabits, 100 Megabits, and 1000 Megabits. When you look at network cabling for example, you find many different ratings based on these speeds. These ratings are separated into categories (cat) determined by how much bandwidth it can support. So for the 10/100/1000 speed rating we are talking about today, our categories would stack up like this. 10/100 is best supported when using Cat5 or Cat5e cables. If we wanted the 1000 Megabits rating it is best to use Cat6 or above. Technically CAT5e (enhanced) can support up to 1000 Megabits, as it has better reduction in noise and signal interference than plain CAT5, but as a professional I always recommend using CAT6 as it will support up to 10Gb in shorter runs. 

Graph of what cable best supports 10 100 1000 base-t

Now you ask, why is that important to me? Let’s say you need to upload pictures to an online retailer so you can order some prints. If the year was 1998 you might get 56 kbit/s because you were using dial up internet. Those were painful learning years for the birth of home computers, but with today’s technology you can get much faster speeds. That being said, the 10/100/1000 standard means the difference of your upload taking 1 hour or 1 minute. Yes, back in the 90s we could wait hours to upload even the smallest amount of data that today, can take minutes to upload. Our latest generation of children will never comprehend slow internet like us older adults have endured to achieve what we have today.

When building out your network, you need to understand how to maximize the bandwidth you can get for your users. Most networks today are built on the 1000 Megabits, or 1 Gigabit speed standard. This means you purchase hardware and cable that is rated for that speed or higher, such as Cat6 cable. Data is getting larger and larger, so network bandwidth is one of the most important things to consider.

In conclusion, the hustle and bustle of today’s world runs on speed. Our internet backbone throughout the world is built on the 10/100/1000 ethernet standard and that’s what makes it reliable. Our providers supply us, the end user, with bandwidth and charge a premium for it. Our lives revolve around how many Gb of data we get with our cell phone provider, or how fast our home bandwidth is so we can stream the latest movie. Without the 10/100/1000 standard, we’d have data chaos. How fun would that be?


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