Gigabit Ethernet (GbE or 1 GigE) is a term describing various technologies for transmitting Ethernet frames at a rate of a gigabit per second, as defined by the IEEE 802.3-2008 standard. Half-duplex gigabit links connected through hubs are allowed by the specification but in the marketplace full-duplex with switches are normal.
The result of research done at Xerox Corporation in the early 1970s, Ethernet has evolved into the most widely implemented physical and link layer protocol today. Fast Ethernet increased speed from 10 to 100 megabits per second (Mbit/s). Gigabit Ethernet was the next iteration, increasing the speed to 1000 Mbit/s. The initial standard for gigabit Ethernet was produced by the IEEE in June 1998 as IEEE 802.3z. 802.3z is commonly referred to as 1000BASE-X, where -X refers to either -CX, -SX, -LX, or (non-standard) -ZX.
IEEE 802.3ab, ratified in 1999, defines gigabit Ethernet transmission over unshielded twisted pair (UTP) category 5, 5e, or 6 cabling and became known as 1000BASE-T. With the ratification of 802.3ab, gigabit Ethernet became a desktop technology as organizations could utilize their existing copper cabling infrastructure.
IEEE 802.3ah, ratified in 2004 added two more Gigabit fiber standards, 1000BASE-LX10 (which was already widely implemented as vendor specific extension) and 1000BASE-BX10. This was part of a larger group of protocols known as Ethernet in the First Mile.
Initially, gigabit Ethernet was deployed in high-capacity backbone network links (for instance, on a high-capacity campus network). In 2000, Apple's Power Mac G4 and PowerBook G4 were the first mass produced personal computers featuring the 1000BASE-T connection. It quickly became a built-in feature in many other computers. As of 2009 Gigabit NIC's (1000BASE-T) are included in almost all desktop and server computer systems.
Faster 10 gigabit Ethernet standards have become available as the IEEE ratified a fiber-based standard in 2002, and a twisted pair standard in 2006. As of 2009 10Gb Ethernet is replacing 1Gb as the backbone network and has just begun to migrate down to high-end server systems.
There are four different physical layer standards for gigabit Ethernet using optical fiber (1000BASE-X), twisted pair cable (1000BASE-T), or balanced copper cable (1000BASE-CX).
The IEEE 802.3z standard includes 1000BASE-SX for transmission over multi-mode fiber, 1000BASE-LX for transmission over single-mode fiber, and the nearly obsolete 1000BASE-CX for transmission over balanced copper cabling. These standards use 8b/10b encoding, which inflates the line rate by 25%, from 1000 Mbit/s to 1250 Mbit/s to ensure a DC balanced signal. The symbols are then sent using NRZ.
IEEE 802.3ab, which defines the widely used 1000BASE-T interface type, uses a different encoding scheme in order to keep the symbol rate as low as possible, allowing transmission over twisted pair.
Ethernet in the First Mile later added 1000BASE-LX10 and -BX10.