What is Gigabit Ethernet? How is It Used with PoE?

What is Gigabit Ethernet? How is it used with PoE?

What is Gigabit Ethernet? How is It Used with PoE?

Gigabit ethernet is the evolution beyond Fast Ethernet. It is… a lot faster. The “Gigabit” stands for 1 gigabit of data per second, or Gbps. This translates to 1000 Mbps which you may recognize as being really freaking fast.

If you dig Power Over Ethernet technology like we do, few things are more interesting than how data gets down those cables. Cat5 and Cat6 Cables have been in use for a long time, and with internet technology shooting for the stars, it’s often hard to believe that we’re still using the same cables, ports, and even some of the same routers we’ve been using for, oh, 20+ years now.

Part of this is that the original cables were designed well enough that there hasn’t been a need to change them yet, beyond upgrading the different ethernet cable types along the way.

There’s also the fact that those wires are pretty much everywhere at this point, so upgrading the existing technology is a lot cheaper than starting over from scratch.

Modern internet technology often simply finds new and better ways to make use of what already exists. It’s called innovation, and Gigabit Ethernet is the next evolution of the same old ethernet that has been around since 1973.

If you’ve read this far, I’m sure you’re willing to get read on to get your answer. Want to know what the heck is Gigabit ethernet? Will it work with PoE?

Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered.

What is Gigabit Ethernet?

Gigabit ethernet is the evolution beyond Fast Ethernet. It is… a lot faster. The “Gigabit” stands for 1 gigabit of data per second, or Gbps. This translates to 1000 Mbps which you may recognize as being really freaking fast.

To be honest, very few devices and connections manage to use up an entire Gigabit system, though many split it into multiple Fast Ethernet connections effectively from a central network point.

Gigabit ethernet works the same way Fast Ethernet does, through twisted copper wires. Specifically, it can be run through any Cat5e and Cat6a cable if configured correctly. Just as Fast Ethernet was designed to work with the original Cat5 cables.

For short distances (inside a home or building, but not between estates), Gigabit Ethernet is an unbelievably powerful way to transfer data at break-neck speeds and/or distribute high-speed access to multiple endpoints inside the network.

Advantages of Ethernet

Gigabit ethernet is considered a must for some professionals and hobbyists who need the highest possible data streaming speed on the market. Mainly, video creators, 4K video streamers, and video game streamers. Visual data, as you may know, is extremely data-heavy. So among the best uses for gigabit ethernet is to ensure that transferring or streaming video data is as smooth and frame-rate-perfect as possible.

Even better, a gigabit connection allows you to split off an incredibly high-speed internet into multiple tasks and devices without slowing any one device or streaming session down. Gigabit ethernet is also highly valuable if you do an extensive amount of file transfers inside your internal LAN network of computers.

For businesses and private tech owners alike, gigabit offers serious speed capabilities both as a unified transfer channel and split into multiple ethernet sources within the network.

How Gigabit Ethernet Uses Cat5e and Cat6a Cables to Transfer All That Data

Now for how Gigabit ethernet actually works inside a normal Cat5e or Cat6a cable. In addition, you already know that Cat5e and Cat6a cable each have 8 wires in 4 pairs.

So the 10/100 Mbps ethernet (fast ethernet) speeds each only take up two pairs of wires for their entire data transfer tasks. Gigabit ethernet (or 10/100/1000 Mbps) gets all its super-charged data power from using all four pairs, or all eight wires, when transferring the full 1000 Mbps of data from one computer to another. Keep that in mind as we move forward.

What is PoE?

PoE, for a quick refresher, stands for Power over Ethernet. It uses those same pairs of wires in Cat5e and Cat6a cable to transfer small amounts of electricity to low-powered devices like web cameras, wireless access points, LED lights, and VOIP phones. In other words, it saves you the trouble and expense of rigging up a second powered cable for a device when the small amount of electrical transfer through a Cat6a will do.

PoE is powered by installing a PoE injector into the data line which simply pushes electricity down the wires in addition to the data that is already flowing. Nifty, right?

How PoE Uses Cat5e and Cat6a Cables to Transfer Power

Remember that traditional 10/100 Mbps ethernet only uses two of the four pairs of wires. This leaves the other two spare pairs of wires to be used for PoE (power). Data travels down one path, power travels down the other. Back when PoE was first introduced, this was the safest way to do things.

But internet technology has come a long way since then. And thankfully so. Whoever has lived long enough to experience a 56k modem would just as soon face a zombie apocalypse before going back to dial-up internet speeds.

Which begs the question, how the heck can Gigabit Ethernet — which uses all four pairs of wires — also power PoE devices? Remember that we’ve been using the same cable design for a loooong time.

In that time, we’ve gotten much better at using it.

Ethernet Cable Pairs with PoE

How Gigabit Ethernet and PoE Work Together in the Same Cable

As it turns out, PoE doesn’t actually need it’s own dedicated pairs of wires to run, that’s just how we did things initially. When ethernet signal advanced to use up all four pairs of wires, optimizing the cable design, PoE technology advanced as well.

The voltage used by PoE can actually share the exact same wires as those transferring Gigabit Ethernet (a.k.a. data) because of the difference in frequency. Gigabit Ethernet transfers at incredibly high frequencies, in the 10 million Hz to 100 million Hz range. Where PoE frequency transfers way down at 60 Hz.

This low-frequency power transfer is, cool enough, referred to as “Phantom Power” because the electricity ghosts along the lines underneath the ethernet signal that is the primary purpose of the cable. And PoE Powered Devices are designed to accept power in either format.

For more awesome insights into the high-tech, low-power world of PoE, contact us today!

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