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The IEEE 802.3 Ethernet Standards

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). The IEEE sets up committees to define industry standards. The IEEE 802 committee sets the standards for networking. The IEEE subcommittee 802.3 sets the standard for Ethernet.

The IEEE created a system to specify network cabling. For example, in the designation 10base5, the 10 specifies the maximum speed in megabits per second at which the cable can transfer data. Base stands for baseband signal type. Baseband means it uses a digital signal. The 5 specifies that 500 meters the maximum length of a cable segment.

10Base5 Thicknet

Speed: 10Mbps
Cable: thicknet coaxial
Maximum Length: 500 meters (1,640 feet)

Coaxial Cable (coax) uses a solid wire in its core that is surrounded by a braided metal shield. Insulating material separates the wire core and metal shield. The central wire carries the electrical signal of the network data. The metal shield protects the data from electrical interference. Early Ethernet networks used thick RG-8 coaxial cable. This cable is referred to as Thicknet.

Coaxial Cable

Thicknet cable is very rigid, so the network computers and peripherals do not connect directly to the cable. Each computer or other device, referred to as a node, connects to the coax using a thinner drop cable. The Thicknet backbone may run in the ceiling, with drop cables used to attach the individual computers. Each drop cable is connected to the Thicknet backbone using a transceiver.


To attach a transceiver to the Thicknet cable requires a technician to cut a hole through the cable shield and attach a vampire tap which pierces the wire core of the coaxial cable. The transceiver is then connected to the network interface card (NIC) of the computer using a cable with a DB-15 connecter called a DIX (Digital Intel Xerox) or AUI (Attachment Unit Interface).

Transceivers may be placed no closer together than 2.5 meters and the transceiver drop cable may be no longer than 50 meters. No more than 100 nodes may be connected to the Thicknet segment.

Because of the high cost and difficulty of installation, Thicknet is rarely used today. If it is already installed, or if there is high electrical interference in the environment, it may still be used. Large networks may use Thicknet as a main backbone cable to connect branch network segments.

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