1000BASE-T (gigabit Ethernet over copper twisted pair) seems to have largely replaced 100BASE-T (100-megabit Ethernet over the same medium) in new equipment. However, 10GBASE-T (10-gigabit Ethernet over the same medium) has not had the same success, despite almost 20 years having elapsed since it was specified in 802.3an.

The proximate causes of this appear to be increased power consumption and thermal dissipation requirements for 10GBASE-T. However, I'm having trouble understanding the constraints that prevent vendors from building more efficient equipment. As someone without an electrical engineering background, the following explanations seem possible:

  1. The increased complexity of the encoding scheme (PAM-16 and DSQ128 vs. 4D-PAMS) requires more sophisticated digital circuits to encode and decode; efficiency improvements in this hardware are constrained by the end of Moore's law
  2. The increased frequency of 10GBASE-T (500 MHz vs. 100 MHz) causes an increase in overhead at the terminals to transmit the signal; efficiency improvements here are constrained by some relatively low-level physical principle
  3. The increased power becomes waste heat on the wire itself

Is one of these the primary explanation, or is it something else, or are these issues not clearly separable?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Legacy specifications and applications, if I had to guess. You mentioned IEEE 802.3an. 1000BASE-T does not have this standard. Many lower end budget laptop/desktop devices have a 1Gb/s SKU option. \$\endgroup\$
    – Colin
    Feb 28 at 4:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ 10GBASE-T will autonegotiate down to 1000BASE-T if necessary, so I don't think it's a compatibility issue. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 28 at 5:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ What equipment you mean? Home PCs, or equipment in a data center, something else? \$\endgroup\$
    – Justme
    Feb 28 at 8:49

1 Answer 1


I'm guessing because it does not have a broad use (yet).

10GBASE-T might be useful for server rooms or other high-performance applications, but for those there are other, even better alternatives (such as fibre links).

Standard desktop PCs often just don't need the higher speed. In private environments, the broadband access is already the limiting factor, so increasing the local LAN speed does not increase the speed for surfing in the web. For many applications, latency is more important than throughput anyway, particularly when you're only surfing the web and scrolling trough social media posts. Even in the office, I hardly ever need to download really large files, so the extra time it would save me if I had a faster link is negligible.

Additionally, many people use laptops with WiFi both at home and for work, and there a faster ethernet card would just increase the cost and (if it is ever used) the power consumption.

Obviously, it's also not done by upgrading the client computers, the infrastructure (mainly network switches) need to be upgraded, too. And that might be costly.


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