What is a Gigabit Switch?

In computer networking, an Ethernet switch connects various devices, such as computers, servers, or game systems, to a local area network (LAN). Small businesses and home offices often use this switch to allow more than one device to share a broadband Internet connection. A gigabit switch operates in the same way, just at much higher data rates than standard or Fast Ethernet. People can use these options to quickly transfer data between devices on a network or to download from the Internet at very high speeds.

Cat 5 cable with RJ45 plug.


Broadband Internet connections for streaming audio and video have increased the demand for faster, more stable transmissions. Gigabit Ethernet transmits at approximately one gigabit per second. This occurs at speeds nearly 100 times faster than Fast Ethernet, which transfers data at approximately 10 megabits per second. The gigabit switch is designed to work at these increased speeds without signal loss or throughput reduction.

Difference between a switch and a hub

When purchasing a gigabit switch, it is important to ensure that the item purchased is actually a switch and not a hub. An Ethernet switch and a hub are similar in their functions, but they operate very differently. The main feature that sets the switch apart is that each connection to it has its own dedicated bandwidth and does not share transmission lines with other connected devices; this is called “Full Duplex”. This leads to less data collision and faster, more reliable communication speeds compared to hubs that share bandwidth between connected devices.

Functionality with other devices

A gigabit switch can be used in conjunction with other network devices. Broadband modems, such as those used with Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) or cable Internet services, only have a wired connection available. Users can install a gigabit switch together with a modem to allow multiple connections or to create a local network between different devices. While these switches were initially very expensive, they have become increasingly available for use in home offices and for entertainment settings.

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Proper configuration

When setting up a gigabit Ethernet network, users must ensure that all components are designed for high gigabit speeds. Using a slower modem can reduce transfer rates, even if other network devices, such as a computer and a gigabit switch, are tuned to gigabit speeds. People who set up this type of system should also ensure they have the fastest internet speeds available from their service providers.

Typically, a Category 6 (CAT6) Ethernet cable is ideal for connecting other network devices or computers to a gigabit switch. Category 5 (CAT5) cables are rated for Fast Ethernet or 10 megabits per second only. People can use some Category 5E (CAT5E) Ethernet cables to connect to a gigabit switch, but they are generally less reliable than CAT6 cables.

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