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Ethernet Definition

by Tom Niswander on February 20, 2020
ethernet definition

Let's get to know some of the more popular terms in networking. The term you'll see a lot around our site is Ethernet. Ethernet and cable usually go hand and hand but Ethernet is actually at standard protocol which groups computer networking technologies used in local area networks (LAN) metropolitan area networks (MAN) and wide area networks. (WAN). This standard which has become very popular among many throughout the world can be complex but let's break it down for you to better understand what is the ethernet definition.

Introducing Ethernet

Ethernet is pronounced "E-thernet" and is the common way we connect devices such as computers on a wired connection Ethernet was introduced to the public in 1980. It was originally developed at Xerox between the years of 1973 and 1974. Ethernet didn't start making waves until the company 3Com was created and multiple corporations got on board to make ethernet a standard. The first standard of ethernet was then introduced towards the end of the year in 1980. The first standard of ethernet specified 10 Mbit/s ethernet with a 48-bit destination. This standard would then become refreshed in 1982 and would ultimately result in the publication of IEEE 802.3 in 1983.

Ethernet and IEEE 802.3 are commonly used as to refer to the same thing as IEEE 802.3 is a collection of electrical/electronic engineers who define the physical layers and media access control of wired ethernet. This is known as LAN or depending on size a WAN. Physical connections are made between node and ethernet hardware such as hubs, routers and switches. To connect these devices the most commonly used source is an ethernet cable or fiber cable.

In it's early days ethernet was in competition with token ring and other protocols for networking purposes. Being flexible in application ethernet was able to shift with market uses and would lead to the creation of coaxial cable and twisted pair cables. At the end of the 1980's ethernet was clearly becoming the most popular networking technology. Ethernet ports were then the must have feature on devices which helped connect your ethernet cable.

ethernet definition

Ethernet Progression

With the increase in technology came the increase in ethernet capabilities. Throughout the years there have been many ethernet standards. Ethernet standard are created to specify certain requirements for speeds and capabilities. To assist with the definition of ethernet it's helpful to understand the progression of all the standards. The ethernet standards that have been created are:

  • 10Base2
  • 10BaseT
  • 10BaseFL
  • 100BasetX
  • 100BaseT4
  • 100BaseFX
  • 1000BaseX
  • 1000BaseT
  • 10GBaseSR/SW
  • 10GBaseLR/LW
  • 10GBaseER/EW
  • 10GBaseT

Some of these standards are also referred to other names such as 1000BaseT can be referred to as 1000BaseTX but this covers the foundation. As you can see from this list ethernet has changed numerous times to keep up with technological changes. Some of these are still being introduced and refined today.

ethernet definition standards through the years

Ethernet Today

With all the advancements in technology and new hardware there has become many different uses for ethernet. Ethernet has become the most popular way to connect your computers, switch, gaming systems, routers, modems, printers and much more. You can see some of the use cases for ethernet and ethernet cables here. Not only for cable but ethernet is also a standard for WiFi technology. The 802.11ac WiFi standard (also referred to 5g) is the fifth generation of WiFi technology. It advances on previous versions 802.11n by giving you greater bandwidth and increased spatial streams. Put all that together and it gives your speeds multiple times faster than 802.11n. The majority of cable installations today are looking for 1000Base-T (Gigabit Ethernet). Gigabit is very fast for the majority of users and with the increase in cable categories we are able to push that even higher. 10Gb and even 25Gb or 40Gb are out there but the hardware for this is limited.


The introduction of ethernet has made all of our lives just a little bit easier. You'd be surprised just how many devices and hardware use ethernet that you come in contact with. The ethernet definition can be summarized as a way to connect computers on a network using a wired connection. Some of the cables you can use to wire ethernet is coaxial and twisted pair cable. Overall ethernet is a great technology that will improve your overall network by giving you more reliable, secure and less interference compared to WiFi.


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