The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) designations for Gigabit Ethernet are IEEE 802.3z and IEEE 802.3ab. The reason why there are two standards instead of one is because there were two different groups that developed the Gigabit Ethernet technology. The 802.3z standard came out first in 1998 and the 802.3ab standard came out in 1999. Individual houses and one-building centric businesses are more likely to use the 802.3ab standard.
About IEEE Standards
IEEE standards are designated by the fittingly named IEEE Standards Association. The purpose of developing technological standards is to make it easier for different devices to be able to work with each other. A common example of standards are flat head and Phillips head screws. To use the majority of screws, a person only needs two types of screw drivers. If every product that uses screws used a different type of screw it would be exceedingly expensive for a person to have all the equipment needed to work with the screws. The IEEE Standards Association helps groups work with and develop technological standards.
Before Gigabit Ethernet, 100BASE-T was the popular networking standard. 100BASE-TX, like its name implies, transfers data at 100 Megabits per second. While 100 Megabits per second is more than enough bandwidth to host a home cable Internet or DSL connection, it is not enough to handle the data load of a network with dozens of computers constantly sending data. The Gigabit Ethernet standard transfers data at 1000 Megabits per second, equal to 1 Gigabit per second.
Computers commonly use Megabytes instead of Megabits to measure data sizes. If you want to convert the speed in Megabits per second to Megabytes per second, divide the number of Megabits by eight.
802.3z is the older of the two technologies. It requires a different type of cable to connect networks than the preceding 100BASE-T technology. The newer cables are made out of copper or fiber. If you were to upgrade a network to 802.3z from 100BASE-T you would need to replace all the existing network cables with new ones.
However, the fiber cables used by IEEE 802.3z have substantially longer ranges than those used by 802.3ab. The fiber-type cables come in two varieties: SX, which can reach distances of up to 550 meters, and LX, which can reach distances of up to five kilometers. The 802.3z technology would be better suited for networks in huge buildings and networks spread over multiple buildings.
IEEE 802.3ab's advantage over IEEE 802.3z is that it is able to use the existing CAT5 Ethernet cables used by the preceding 100BASE-T standard instead of requiring new cables. If you were to upgrade from a 100BASE-T network to an 802.3z network you would need to run new wires and recreate the existing network. With 802.3ab you only need to replace the routers, switches, and computer network cards. This can be a much more cost-effective upgrade. The standards disadvantage is that its cables are limited to distances of 100 meters.
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