A gigabit Ethernet phone, or gigE phone, is a VoIP telephone that connects to and uses gigabit Ethernet transmission technology to communicate with other phones. Gigabit Ethernet is part of the Ethernet classification of computer networking and communication standards which is widely used in local area networks (LANs). It is an extension of the 10 megabits per second (Mbps) and 100 Mbps 802.3 Ethernet standard, supporting 1,000 Mbps, or 1 billion of bits per second (gbps). This speed means that gigE phones can operate at higher speeds than other VoIP phones.
A gigE phone acts as a network switch and provides improved internet connections for personal computers (PC). It connects to the internet via an Ethernet cable instead of through a phone jack. The Ethernet cable connects the phone to the VoIP provider or the hosted private branch exchange (PBX) provider.
Key features of a gigE phone
GigE phones use Ethernet cables to gain internet access through gigabit Ethernet ports. The gigabit ports can be backward compatible with 10 Mbps and 100 Mbps Ethernet ports. This means that the performance of the gigabit device that is plugged into the port will not be impacted by older, slower devices that are also plugged in.
GigE phones also use fiber optic cables to transmit information at accelerated speeds over long distances. Twisted pair connections and copper cables are often used to send information over shorter distances.
Gigabit Ethernet and gigE phones use the interface type 1000BASE-T. The different wiring includes 1000 BASE-SX for data transmission through a multimode optical fiber, 1000 BASE-LX for transmission over a single mode fiber and 1000 BASE-CX for transmission over copper cabling.
Although gigabit Ethernet connections can theoretically support speeds of 1 Gbps, factors like network protocol overhead and retransmission due to collisions often prevent the transfer of useful message data from operating at the full 1 Gbps. However, the cable frequently still reaches 900 Mbps for brief periods of time.
While most modern modems and routers come with gigabit Ethernet interfaces, bandwidth limits connectivity because the available download speed of 1 Gbps is halved as soon as a second device is added. Therefore, the more phones and other devices that are hooked up to a gigabit Ethernet system, the less likely it is that the router CPU can support maximum speed transfers over any link. Furthermore, as soon as a Fast Ethernet device is added to the system, the maximum network speed is decreased by 90%.
Finally, to have a wired gigabit Ethernet connection between computers, both computers need to support gigabit Ethernet, or a faster standard. The routers they are connected to and the cables that link them together must also support gigabit Ethernet as well.
Comparison of gigE phones to other VoIP phones
While gigE phones tend to be more expensive than standard VoIP phones, they do offer several benefits over the regular 10 to 100 Mbps Ethernet options. These benefits include:
- transmission rates that are 100 times faster;
- superior performance due to reduced bottleneck problems and enhanced bandwidth capacity;
- quality of service (QoS) features that reduce latency problems and provide improved video and audio services and
- compatibility with existing installed Ethernet nodes.
The increased speed of data transmission is perhaps the most notable difference between gigE phones and standard VoIP phones. The Fast Ethernet peaks at 100 Mbps, meaning it would take around one minute to transfer a CD's worth of data, or about 700 MB. With gigabit Ethernet, the same job would only take about five seconds.
Gigabit internet is seen as the next generation of broadband internet services, typically transmitting data over fiber optic lines with 1 Gbps speeds. This refers specifically to the wide area network (WAN) connection, not the gigabit Ethernet that runs within a home.
VoIP phones and, more so, Gigabit ports are becoming the de facto standard within the telecommunications industry. Gigabit hardware, cabling and bandwidth are expected to remain present throughout the foreseeable future.