IP Switching Tech Simplified
Up to now, AV over IP solutions are divided into two groups – 10G or 1G networks. While both market their solutions differently, they use the same technology. Under the hood, all use Motion JPEG 2000 or a variation, developed years ago, initially for archiving video. Files can be compressed up to 3:1 without losing original quality, and the video stream is composed of individual compressed frames, simplifying video editing and switching. When you go to a digital movie theater (and almost all are now), you’re watching a 4K Motion JPEG 2000 video.
AV vendors quickly moved to JPEG 2000 for IP switching for the same reasons – excellent compression, switching, and 4-8K capacity-and the codec is free. While many vendors have tweaked and renamed the codec to make it proprietary, the functionality is the same.
- 10G systems use “mathematically lossless” 3:1 compression to reduce a 16G 4K video to less than 6G. That’s great, but 10G switching can’t run well over Category cable, requiring fiber for all connections.
- 1G systems use 20:1 “visually lossless” compression, resulting in an 800 Mbps stream that can use standard 1G switches and Cat 5e/6 cable. It’s a good tradeoff – 4K quality is still great and more functional, as most commercial systems will be routing 1080p streams, anyhow.
The key point is that the divide between 10G and 1G systems is purely arbitrary – the only difference is compression.
2.5G/5G Networks over Cat 5e/6 Cable
The division between 10G and 1G systems will be narrowed with the advent of 2.5G/5G Ethernet. While 10G is useful for connecting switches, it’s bust for wiring PCs. Sites already have millions of miles of 5e/6 Cat cable installed; there’s no way they will replace wiring with Cat 6a/7 or fiber.
2.5G/5G technology isn’t a new or proposed standard, it’s always been a part of 10G technology. In basic terms, 10G is a large checkerboard of data, while 2.5/5G is a smaller section in the center. That smaller section enables the transmission of 2 to 5 times more information over Cat 5e/6 cable than 1G Ethernet.
What’s new is the advent of multi-gigabit 1/2.5/5/10G IP switches and IP ports than can portion out the right speed for the application – typically 10G between switches, 2.5G to Cat 5e feeds, and 5G through Cat 6 wiring. It’s a great solution, adding new power to existing networks just by upgrading switches instead of installing new copper or fiber.
While a growing number of multi-speed switches are available, PCs, laptops, IoT devices and AV over IP gear are supplied with 1G ports. That will change over time as IT admins gradually adopt the new capability.
However, change may be quicker in AV over IP solutions, as suppliers can go beyond the 1G barrier, delivering 4K video at two to four times less compression over standard 5e/6 Category cable – just by upgrading their Ethernet ports. That’s a game-changer!