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Fast Ethernet vs Gigabit Ethernet: What's the Difference?

Ethernet is a network communication protocol designed to link network appliances, switches, and routers. Ethernet functions in a wired or wireless network, including wide-area networks (WAN) and local area networks (LAN).
Ethernet is several types:
  • Fast Ethernet
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • Switch Ethernet
Advancements in Ethernet technology resulted from various network needs such as system application to both large and small platforms, security issues, network dependability, and bandwidth requirements.
Specifically, the demands for higher bandwidth capacity for high-quality video transmission and uninterrupted video streaming brought upon the development of Fast Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet.
In this piece, we’ll explain how the two are different and what you need to consider when selecting an Ethernet data protocol.

What Is Fast Ethernet

Ethernet was standardized in the mid-80s as IEEE 802.3 and continues to develop and improve with dependability and speed. Standard Ethernet speeds averaged at about 10 megabits per second and reached higher speeds of about 15 megabits per second.
Fast Ethernet is a version of Ethernet standards, initiated in 1995 as IEEE 802.3u. Fast Ethernet focused on increased network and network appliance speed over standard Ethernet and Ethernet devices. Fast Ethernet provided uniform operability for data transmission at over 100 megabits per second.
Fast Ethernet is the Successor of 10-Base-T Ethernet. It is more popular than Gigabit Ethernet because its configuration and implementation are simple. It is faster than its successors.
It is designed for 100 Base T networks and is also compatible with 10 Base T networks, allowing users to benefit from faster Ethernet speeds (with the use of compatible switches) without having to completely upgrade their network systems. Its variants are:
Fast Ethernet transmission is at least 10 times faster than standard Ethernet and proves to be useful in maintaining compatible connections to high-speed servers, reducing bandwidth bottlenecks for network systems operating multiple IP video cameras and IoT, and seamlessly supporting complex networks that run multiple bandwidth-intensive software packages at the same time.
Fast Ethernet appliances and devices can run on unshielded twisted pair (UTP) cabling such as Category 5 and higher rated cables. However, the maximum length and effectiveness of UTP cabling are 100 meters and bandwidth can be limited.
Fiber optic transmission allows for longer distance and greater bandwidth capacity over UTP cabling, permitting Fast Ethernet network appliances and devices to deliver at full potential.

What Is Gigabit Ethernet?

Another type of Ethernet offers 1000Mbps in computing networking, therefore, got the name gigabit. Gigabit Ethernet (GE) was released only a few years after Fast Ethernet came about, but was not widely used until the internet demands increased around 2010. It uses a frame format of 803.2 and also runs on half-duplex and full-duplex modes. The maximum length of this system can be up to 70km, therefore most universities and companies use it. GE has different versions such as 1, 10, 40, and 100 gigabits. There are several typical varieties of Gigabit Ethernet. For example, 1000BASE-CX is an initial standard for Gigabit Ethernet connections with maximum distances of 25m, 1000BASE-XK is part of the IEEE 802.3ap standard for Ethernet Operation over Electrical Backplanes and its specified distance is 1m, 1000BASE-SX is an optical fiber Gigabit Ethernet standard for operation over multi-mode fiber using 770 to 860 nanometer, near-infrared (NIR) light wavelength.

Difference between Fast Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet:

Both Fast Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet are used for network connection. They can work with fiber switches, fiber optic cables, Ethernet cables, and some similar devices. However, how do they differ from each other? The following are some key differences between Fast Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet.
The simplest difference between Fast Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet is their speed. Fast Ethernet runs at the maximum speed of 100 Mbps and Gigabit Ethernet offers up to 1 Gbps speed which is 10 tiswitchesster than Fast Ethernet.
The round-trip delay of Fast Ethernet is 100-500 bit times. Against, Gigabit Ethernet has a delay of 4000-bit times.
Configuration problems in Gigabit Ethernet are more complicated than in Fast Ethernet. Sometimes Gigabit Ethernet needs a high-compatibility fiber switch to work with, for instance, the 10gbe switch.
The distance covered by Fast Ethernet is at most 10 km. However, Gigabit Ethernet has a limit of 70 km.
Gigabit Ethernet is more expensive than Fast Ethernet. Upgrading Ethernet from Standard Ethernet is easy and cost-effective while upgrading Gigabit Ethernet from Fast Ethernet is complex and expensive.
Gigabit Ethernet requires specifically designed network devices that can support the standard 1000Mbps data rate like a Gigabit Ethernet switch. Fast Ethernet requires no specific network devices.
Basis For Comparison Fast Ethernet Gigabit Ethernet
Basic Offers 100 Mbps speed. Provide 1 Gbps speed.
Delay Generate more delay. Less comparatively.
Configuration Simple Complicated and create more errors.
Coverage Can cover distance up to 10 km. Has the limit of 70 km.
Relation Successor of 10-Base-T Ethernet. A successor of fast Ethernet.
Round trip delay 100-500 bit times 4000 bit times

Comparing Fast Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet:

  • Cost – Fast Ethernet is less expensive than Gigabit Ethernet.
  • Configuration – Fast Ethernet is simpler to config and manage than Gigabit Ethernet.
  • Compatibility – Fast Ethernet is backward compatible and can support and benefit standard network systems.
  • Applicability – Unlike Gigabit Ethernet, Fast Ethernet does not require specifically designed network appliances and devices.
  • Scalability – Gigabit Ethernet is more scalable than Fast Ethernet and is applicable for residential, commercial, and large industrial uses.
  • Speed – Gigabit Ethernet is 100 times faster than Fast Ethernet.
  • Space – Gigabit Ethernet uses relatively smaller hardware and less cabling than Fast Ethernet, resulting in more availability of physical space and fewer room requirements.
  • Distance – Gigabit Ethernet covers more distance than Fast Ethernet (70 km vs. 10 km, respectively).
  • Virtual Networks – Gigabit Ethernet can configure and easily manage virtual networks due to its high bandwidth potential.
  • Choosing Between Fast Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet
  • Users and organizations should evaluate which Ethernet data protocol is beneficial for their operation. Small operations may meet their network needs and benefit from the less expensive Fast Ethernet improvement.
However, the same small operation may also benefit from Gigabit Ethernet devices if they want to incorporate high-quality IP surveillance cameras with on-demand high-quality video streaming.
It is important to evaluate the existing network system, available bandwidth, operational needs, future network configuration, desired network system upgrades, and facility limitations when choosing the right Ethernet data protocol.


This article has looked at and explained the two types of Ethernet: Fast Ethernet vs Gigabit Ethernet. Fast Ethernet and gigabit ethernet are the types of ethernet where fast ethernet is slower than gigabit ethernet and provide maximum data speed up to 100 Mbps. On the other hand, the gigabit ethernet has extended its speed to a maximum of 1 Gbps by improving cabling technology, MAC layer, flow control protocols, and quality of service.