Synergy between IEEE 802™ Wired and Wireless technologies: Meeting in the Ether

By David Law



By David Law, distinguished engineer, HP Networking; chair of the IEEE 802.3 Ethernet Working Group

We live in a networked world, and it is imperative that all technologies, wired or wireless, are capable of working together to enable an eco-system, where end-to-end communications are possible. Ethernet’s continuing evolution has helped to enable today’s eco-system, which has helped to deliver the value of Metcalfe’s Law.  There is this misconception out there that wireless technologies are somehow killing Ethernet. Some point to the freedom that wireless enables while others point to the lack of the RJ-45 jack on their favorite tablet computer. The simple reality is that while an Ethernet connection may not be visible, on the back of that wireless access point is an Ethernet port.  It isn’t disappearing, just moving out of everyone’s direct line of vision. Those responsible for wireless networks, either in their home or business, know that Ethernet is not going away. 

Therefore, instead of looking at these as competing technologies, people should look at the synergy between the two technologies, and understand how emerging use cases for wireless technologies will impact Ethernet. Some of this is happening. For example, in preparation to make the leap to 400 Gb/s Ethernet, IEEE 802.3 Bandwidth Assessment Ad Hoc was chartered to explore industry bandwidth requirements. Bandwidth going up due to increased wireless usage is probably not a big surprise.  However, as we look to the future of Ethernet, the future use cases and applications of wireless technology should be considered to fully understand potential implications to Ethernet development efforts underway.

For example, when looking at future bandwidth requirements, it was noted that by 2016 there would be more mobile users consuming video than wired users. Thus, the impact on the wired backhaul feeding these wireless access networks will need to be considered. And how about access points that leverage Power over Ethernet (PoE) technology.  Will these future use cases increase the power requirements of the access points? This becomes important as the IEEE 802.3 Working Group is currently working on the next generation of Power over Ethernet – 4 Pair Power over Ethernet. And we can’t lose sight of the bridging requirements between cellular, Wi-Fi, and Ethernet.

For those proponents of Ethernet to ensure that Ethernet isnot an evolutionary dead end technology, it is necessary to continue consensus building efforts to understand the potential application spaces where Ethernet may be leveraged. On October 15, 2013 at the Ethernet Alliance’s Technology Exploration Forum 2013, there will be a panel session titled, “Synergy Between IEEE 802 Wired and Wireless technologies: Meeting in the Ether.”  We will explore how IEEE 802 wireless technologies will impact Ethernet, and what the Ethernet community needs to consider. It is important that the industry as whole has meaningful discussions to build consensus on how Ethernet needs to evolve, and this session will provide that opportunity.

For more information regarding the Ethernet Alliance’s Technology Exploration Forum 2013, please see

David Law is a distinguished engineer at HP Networking and chair of the IEEE 802.3 Ethernet Working Group.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely that of the individual(s) and should not be considered the views or positions of the Ethernet Alliance


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