Tata Communications' Henry Bohannon on the 40th anniversary of Ethernet: Still crucial for next generation superfast 4G & 5G

We questioned Henry Bohannon, Senior Director and Head of Ethernet Product Management at Tata Communications, to find out what are his thoughts on Ethernet as we celebrate the 40th anniversary of one of the most important computer technologies ever, one that underpins many aspects of our day-to-day life.

This month is the 40th birthday of Ethernet. Why is this such an important milestone?

Over the past 40 years, Ethernet has completely changed the way we communicate. Ethernet has been the backbone of the Internet and, more importantly, our global economy, accelerating us into the second industrial revolution – the digital age.

How has Ethernet evolved from its inception in 1973 to now? What are the most exciting developments in recent years for Ethernet?

Initially, Ethernet was as simple as a cable connecting a group of computers to a printer. It slowly evolved, connecting a small network of computers before becoming what it is today – supporting global connectivity between businesses and allowing them to store and easily accessible data from the cloud. Today, because of companies like Tata Communications, Ethernet is connecting the far corners of the world, bringing us all closer than ever before.

How is Ethernet important for today’s businesses and the global economy?

Ethernet is a high capacity but flexible data highway, ensuring data, video and information is securely and reliably directed to available lanes. It enables businesses to operate across many locations as if they are in the same office, and opened up new markets and global operating models. Because of this high speed plumbing, businesses have been built online. Vast social media sites have come to define our lifestyle and through online financial trading, millionaires have been made.

What is Tata Communications’ take on Ethernet?

Tata Communications has always recognised the huge opportunity Ethernet offers businesses and the wider economy. In fact, Tata Communications operates the world’s only fibre optic cable ring around the world, which forms the basis of its global Ethernet network, and we offer a suite of Wide Area Network (WAN) Ethernet services. This solution empowers unparalleled choice and flexibility to ensure competitive advantage, which is increasingly vital in today’s challenging economic environment.

Do you believe Ethernet is still relevant despite Wi-Fi and other mobile developments/ alternatives?

Definitely; and not only is Ethernet relevant, it will play a central role in enabling future technology innovations. It will allow mobile carriers to take advantage of the next generation of communication services. With greater speed over mobile communications – like 4G and LTE- coming online, the use of Ethernet in the mobile backhaul is opening doors to more streaming video, video calling and next generation data and mobile applications. Ethernet is providing the ladder for these applications to improve, meaning speedier access to the pictures, videos and data we crave on our devices. There are also positive disruptors, such as cloud based apps. People increasingly want to put large amounts of data in the cloud and third party data centres, but might not want to do so over the Internet; this is when the Ethernet comes into its own.

What improvements to Ethernet will we see in the near future, and how can Ethernet continue to progress and thrive (for example 100 GbE/PoE)?

Ethernet is often seen as just plumbing, but it is becoming so much more exciting with the latest applications of the technology, and the speed is improving further. In January Tata Communications announced the launch of 100GbE services across the Atlantic Ocean and in April the IEEE announced the formation of a 400GbE study group.

What does the future hold for the Ethernet?

I believe that Ethernet will enable mobile operators to make the most of the next generation superfast 4G and 5G communications, delivering speedier and delay free access to live broadcasts for consumers on their smartphone or tablet. For business users Ethernet connectivity used in partnership with cloud based services will allow them to enter new markets quickly and respond to ever more flexible working practices in a dynamic economic environment.

When we look back at how far we’ve come since 1973, I’m excited about the infinite possibilities of Ethernet that have not yet been realised. Over the next forty years, Ethernet will make us even more connected than we are today, continuing to drive the growth of the digital economy in both developed and emerging markets.