Multi-gigabit Ethernet chips allow Cat 5E wiring to carry 5G data

December 15, 2016 // By Graham Prophet
Aquantia’s AQtion product line of multi-gigabit Ethernet controllers is aimed at extending the carrying capacity – and life – of existing data cabling at the “enterprise” level by sending data at 2.5G or 5G speeds over 100-metre distances, using in-place Cat 5E wiring.

The company previously announced technology to extend the capacity of copper to data rates as high as 100G – that being on direct point-to-point copper links within large data centres. Now it is turning its attention to allowing in-building wiring in commercial environments to support higher data rates without upgrading the cable infrastructure – increasing speeds from established gigabit Ethernet. A big driver, the company says, its the advent of the IEEE 802.11ac wireless standard; routers supporting many lined clients need a “wide pipe” to feed them. Aquantia has experience of the PHY aspect of 5G in this domain; with this announcement it is offering an integrated MAC + PHY product, to address the client part of the market. A spokesman declined to reveal whether the Aquantia package contains a monolithic device, or if it is a closely-integrated system-in-package.


The AQtion line of Multi-Gigabit Ethernet BASE-T controllers, AQC107 and AQC108, support 5 and 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet over copper, or 2.5/5GBASE-T, and are compliant with the NBASE-T specification and the new IEEE 802.3bz standard that was formally ratified in September 2016. Both devices also support backward compatibility with 100MbE and Gigabit Ethernet. The AQC107 has the extra feature of supporting up to 10 Gigabit Ethernet, or 10GBASE-T, on Cat6A copper cables, complying with the IEEE standard 802.3an. An auto-negotiation and cable-characterisation sequence maximises the data rates that any given link will sustain. The devices are structured as 1port-per-chip devices, and Aquantia anticipates the will be designed into both motherboards and PCIe cards. Aquantia further states that design-in of the devices should be no more challenging than for standard gigabit Ethernet ports, and should not require any “exotic” layout or signal handling.


Client machines adopting Aquantia’s AQtion controllers will, the company says, be able to connect to the many Ethernet switches that have already entered the market with Multi-Gig ports, otherwise connecting to the latest generation of WiFi 802.11ac Access