Ethernet Standards and Protocols Explained

This tutorial explains Ethernet standards and their properties in detail. Learn what the Ethernet standards are and what the terminology they use.

What are the Ethernet Standards?

An Ethernet standard describes the properties, functions, and implementation of a specific media type. There are various types of media. A media type can provide different speeds of transmission on different types of implementation. An Ethernet standard specifies a specific implementation of a particular media type. Ethernet standards are defined by IEEE.

Ethernet Terminology

Ethernet standards are expressed by using the following terminology.

Transmission speed, type of transmission, and length or type of cabling

Let's take an example to understand the above terminology. The term '100BaseT' describes the following: -

100: - The number 100 indicates that the standard data transmission speed of this media type is 100Mbps.

Base: - The 'Base' indicates that the media uses a baseband technology for transmission.

T: - The letter 'T' indicates that the media uses twisted-pair cabling.

Key points
  • The name of an Ethernet standard consists of three parts. The first part contains a number, the second part contains a word (mostly Base), and the third part contains a number or letters.
  • The first part specifies the data transmission speed of the media.
  • The second part indicates the technology or the method the media uses to transmit data. The word 'Base' signifies a type of network that uses only one carrier frequency for signaling and requires all network stations to share its use.
  • The third part specifics the length or type of the cable that the media uses in implementation. For example, if the standard contains a letter T in this part, it means the standard uses twisted-pair cabling. Or if a standard contains a number 5 in this part, it means the standard can span 500 meters long.

Properties and functions of the most common Ethernet standards

The following section describes the properties and functions of the most command Ethernet standards.


This standard is also known as ThinNet. It uses coaxial cabling. It provides 10Mbps speed. It supports a maximum length of 200 meters. This standard is not used in modern networks.


This standard is also known as ThickNet. It also uses coaxial cabling and provides 10Mbps speed. It supports a maximum length of 500 meters. This standard is also not used in modern networks.


10BaseT is one of the most common Ethernet standards used in Ethernet networks. It uses UTP (Cat3 or higher) cables and Hubs. Hubs use a physical star topology and a logical bus topology. Hubs repeat and forward signals to all nodes. Because of Hubs, the 10BaseT networks are slow and susceptible to collisions.

This standard also specifies a rule about how many Hubs you can use in a network. This rule specifies that a maximum of four hubs can be placed between communicating workstations. This rule ensures that all stations on the network can detect a collision.

Due to the slow data transmission speed and collision, modern networks do not use the 10BaseT standard.


10BaseF is an implementation of 10BaseT over fiber optic cabling. 10BaseF offers only 10 Mbps, even though the fiber optic media has the capacity for much faster data rates. One of the implementations of 10BaseF is to connect two hubs as well as connecting hubs to workstations.

Due to the slow data transmission speed and expensive cabling, the 10BaseT standard is also not used in modern networks.


100BaseT4 was created to upgrade 10BaseT networks over Cat3 wiring to 100 Mbps without having to replace the wiring. Using four pairs of twisted pair wiring, two of the four pairs are configured for half-duplex transmission (data can move in only one direction at a time). The other two pairs are configured as simplex transmission, which means data moves only in one direction on a pair all the time.


100BaseTX is also known as Fast Ethernet. It transmits data at 100 Mbps. Fast Ethernet works nearly identically to 10BaseT, including that it has a physical star topology using a logical bus. 100BaseTX requires Cat5 or higher UTP cabling. It uses two of the four-wire pairs: one to transmit data and the other to receive data.

This is mostly used Ethernet standard in modern networks.


100BaseFX is known as Fast Ethernet over fiber. 100BaseFX runs over multimode fiber cables. Multimode fiber optic cables use LEDs to transmit data and are thick enough that the light signals bounce off the walls of the fiber. The dispersion of the signal limits the length of the multimode fiber.


1000BaseT is also known as Gigabit Ethernet. It uses Cat5 or higher grade UTP cable. It uses all four pairs of the cable. It uses a physical star topology with a logical bus. There is also 1000BaseF, which runs over multimode fiber optic cabling. It supports both the full-duplex and half-duplex modes of data transmission.


This standard is also known as 10 Gigabit Ethernet. It uses Cat6 or higher grade UTP cable. It uses all four pairs of the UTP cable. It provides 10 Gbps speed. It operates only in full-duplex mode.

Due to its high cost, it is normally used in the backbone of a network.

Differences between various 802.3 Ethernet standards

The following table compares the most common Ethernet standards and their properties.

Standard IEEE documentation Cable Minimum cable grade Speed Maximum distance
10Base5 802.3 Coxial RG-8 10Mbs 500 meter
10Base2 802.3a Coxial RG-58 10Mbps 200 meter
10Base-T 802.3i UTP Cat 3 10 Mbps 100 meters
100BaseT/TX 802.3u UTP Cat 5 100 Mbps 100 meters
100BaseFX 802.3u MMF or SMF N/A 100 Mbps 2 km over MMF, 10 km over SMF
1000BaseT 802.3ab UTP Cat 5 (Cat 5e or 6 preferred) 1000 Mbps 100 meters
10GBaseT 802.3an UTP Cat 6A 10 Gbps 100 meters
100BaseT4 802.3u UTP Cat 3 100 Mbps 100 meters
1000BaseLX 802.3z MMF or SMF N/A 1000 Mbps 550 meters over MMF, 5 km over SMF
1000BaseSX 802.3z MMF N/A 1000 Mbps 550 meters
1000BaseCX 802.3z Twinax N/A 1000 Mbps 25 meters
10GBaseSR 10GBaseLR 10GBaseER 10GBaseSW 10GBaseLW 10GBaseEW 802.3ae MMF or SMF N/A 10 Gbps 82 meters to 40 km
40 Gigabit Ethernet 802.3ba MMF, SMF,and copper N/A 40 Gbps 40 km over SMF, 7 meters over copper
100 Gigabit Ethernet 802.3bj and 802.3bm MMF, SMF N/A 100 Gbps 100 km

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