Beyond 400 GbE

By Ethernet Alliance



For the past 40 years IEEE 802™ standards have provided the foundation for today’s networked world.  Nonetheless, IEEE 802’s true legacy is brightly emerging in today’s COVID-19 world – IEEE 802 has connected a world that needed connection. It is through this hyper-connected world that people are continuing some semblance of normalcy. Friends and family are staying in touch through social media and different video tools and applications.  Our students are continuing their education online.  Many are working remotely from home.  People are shopping online, while others are seeking escape through online video streaming and game playing.  Life is continuing, though in a much different manner than before.

In this new world the Internet is holding up to the demands being imposed on it by this COVID-19 way of life.  During this pandemic, reported traffic numbers around the world are increasing from 30% to almost 110%.  At the same time download speeds, in general, appear to be mostly decreasing, and in some instances significantly, as decreases up to 35% have been reported.  Furthermore, steps are being taken by some to reduce traffic on networks, such as Netflix, which reduced its traffic by 25% to assist European networks.

The importance of bandwidth in our daily lives has become apparent, and it is not clear if things will go back to where we were before this pandemic, settle at this new “normal”, or find some new middle-ground.

In the midst of this great upheaval, the second IEEE 802.3 Ethernet Bandwidth Assessment was released.  See  This assessment is a wealth of information that covers a multitude of topics related to the simple equation that the Ethernet community has been using for the past 13 years to explain bandwidth explosions –

The Ethernet Bandwidth Assessment summarizes a significant amount of information that was presented that addresses all the factors in the equation noted above: 1) the number of users; 2) increased access rates; and 3) increased services.  Upon reviewing the Ethernet Bandwidth Assessment, it is felt that the reader will agree that the forecasted growth of these factors all point to a continuing bandwidth explosion.

Figure 1 shows a summary forecast from the Ethernet Bandwidth Assessment.  In this figure traffic for a given application is normalized to its 2017 value.  By 2025 the projected growth of the various applications is expected to vary anywhere from 2.3x to 55.4x the values of 2017.  From an observation perspective, based on the standardization of 400 GbE in 2017, 800 GbE would only represent a 2x increase and 1.6TbE would only represent a 4x increase.  These projected growths for Ethernet are significantly lagging nearly all of the observed growth rates for the application spaces studied.

Figure 1- Ethernet Bandwidth Assessment Forecast

It is very clear that many have opinions on what the next rate of Ethernet should be, but that is really the role of a study group in IEEE 802.3.  I argue that the actual next rate of Ethernet doesn’t matter at this point in time.  The real key is to get the conversation started, which is why I have requested an activity within the IEEE 802.3 New Ethernet Applications to start development of a “Call For Interest” for a “Beyond 400 GbE Study” Group.  Delay in getting a study group started will only exacerbate the lag between that Ethernet solution and the needs of the industry.

A quote that I have kept in mind for the past 10 years is from Albert Bartlett, a noted American scholar.  He said “The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.”  The Ethernet Bandwidth Assessment has provided us with a potential snapshot of our future.  It is one we should take heed of.


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