Celebrating 30 Years of Ethernet Standards

This year marks a technology milestone for IEEE

17 July 2013

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On 22 May 1973, Ethernet was invented. This technology has changed how we have worked and communicated over the last four decades. Ethernet is used around the world in data centers, personal computers, medical devices, cars, and smartphones. But Ethernet would probably not be as widespread if it weren’t for the suite of standards known as IEEE 802.3. This year the IEEE 802.3 Ethernet Standard is celebrating 30 years.

Standards for Ethernet have made communications faster, lighter, and more efficient. Ethernet’s original speed of 2.94 megabits per second (Mb/s) is now 100 gigabytes per second (Gb/s). Its thick coax cable is now replaced with twisted-pair, fiber, and copper traces on a backplanes.

The co-inventor of Ethernet, IEEE Member Bob Metcalfe, says “By 1985, there were people ‘inventing’ Ethernet and they continue doing so today with great success using the open standardization processes of IEEE.”


Co-inventor of the Ethernet, Bob Metcalfe, discusses how he and his team developed the first Ethernet network and its advances since.

The recognition for Ethernet standards goes to an entire community around the world. Thousands throughout the Ethernet ecosystem have participated in developing its standards in the last 30 years, says IEEE Senior Member David Law, chair of the IEEE 802.3 Ethernet Working Group. “The efforts of all of them have contributed to the standards amazing success,” he says.

Ethernet’s innovation is never-ending. Participants of various IEEE 802.3 study groups and task forces are now tackling projects such as reducing the number of wire pairs required to deliver faster in-vehicle networking and built-in “infotainment” and improving the bottlenecks in data centers.

In April, the IEEE 802.3 Ethernet Working Group announced the launch of an IEEE 802.3 study group to explore the development of a 400 Gb/s Ethernet standard with the goal that a faster Ethernet will support exponential network bandwidth growth.

“Throughout its history, the IEEE 802.3 Ethernet Working Group has reacted well to emerging global market needs,” says IEEE Fellow Paul Nikolich, chair of the IEEE 802 LAN/MAN Standards Committee. “The fact that almost all information flowing in the Internet is possible because it is transported over a flexible IEEE 802.3 Ethernet-compliant infrastructure is a tribute to everyone who has in some way contributed to the standard’s development, refinement, and expansion.”

For more information about IEEE’s 802.3 Ethernet Working Group, visit their website or follow all of IEEE Standards Association news on their blog and social networks.

Photo: iStockphoto

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