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Getting a 10Gbps broadband plan: 4 other investments you need to make first

By Ng Chong Seng - 5 Mar 2016

Getting a 10Gbps broadband plan: 4 other investments you need to make first

Note: This article was first published on 4th February 2016.

Getting ready for a 10Gb/s connection can be an expensive affair

By now, you should have heard about the three 10Gbps home broadband plans from M1, Singtel, SuperInternet, and ViewQwest.

Of course, not everyone needs such a high-speed connection. But for those who’ve a use for it, these latest announcements are exciting indeed.

But here's the thing: beyond the simple act of signing up and paying the monthly subscription fee, there could be several other investments and preparations you may need to make first to ensure a pleasant experience at the end of the day. What are they? Let's find out.


1.) You need at least Cat 6 cabling

A Cat 6 Ethernet cable. (Image source: Wikipedia.)

A wired connection is a must if you wish to get anywhere near the claimed 10Gbps speed. For 10-gigabit Ethernet (10GBASE-T), you need at least Category 6 cabling, which generally costs about S$4 or so per meter.

For even better performance, improved alien crosstalk characteristics, and especially if you need to run a longer distance (say, up to 100 meters) between the ONU (optical network unit) or ONR (optical network router) and computer, go for Cat 6A cabling instead.


2.) You need a 10GBASE-T network interface card or adapter

StarTech ST10000SPEX single-port 10GbE NIC. (Image source: Amazon.)

Your computer also needs a 10GbE port, and if it doesn’t have one, you may need to get a 10GBASE-T network interface card (NIC), which doesn’t come cheap.

As highlighted by a reader, one of the cheaper 10GbE NICs one can get at the moment is this StarTech ST10000SPEX; and even then, this card costs US$313 (cheaper on Amazon). Another ‘affordable’ 1-port 10GbE card is this P2E10G-1-T from SmallTree, which costs US$595. Other popular and affordable NICs include the Intel X540 and X520 series.

For Mac users, if your Mac supports Thunderbolt 2, you can get this Promise SANLink2 Thunderbolt 2 to 10Gb/s Ethernet adapter. The price? A cool S$819.


3.) To use a 10GbE NIC, your motherboard must also be up to mark

The ASUS X99-E WS Intel X99 motherboard has seven PCIe x 16 slots. (Image source: ASUS.)

Your computer also needs to be fairly modern and high-end to support a 10Gb/s connection. In fact, most systems that run 10GbE are servers and high-powered workstations.

Before you even rush out to buy the NIC, first check if your motherboard supports the NIC you want to get. A 10GbE NIC typically requires a PCI Express x4 or higher slot.

Heck, if the stars don’t align, you might even need to change your motherboard, such as one of these Intel X99-based ones.


4.) Oh, a fast processor and PCIe SSD, too

Since you've already decided to spend, why not get a Samsung SSD 950 Pro, too?

To sustain the insane speeds, you need a fast system; there’s a reason why Singtel lists an Intel Core i7 as a minimum system requirement.

You should also try to avoid storage speed bottlenecks, so get a high-end PCIe-based solid-state drive (SSD) while you’re at it. Why do I say that? Consider this: a 10GbE connection can hit a speed of about 1,200MB/s. The Samsung SSD 950 Pro PCIe M.2 NVMe SSD, for example, tops out at 2,500MB/s and 1,500MB/s for reads and writes respectively. The just 1-year-old midrange SSD 850 Evo only hits around the 500MB/s range.

Update: Added Intel X540 and 520 series to list of popular 10GbE adapters.

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