TE Connectivity Paving the Way into 100 GBps Data Rates and Devices

Judy Warner
|  Created: November 26, 2019  |  Updated: February 5, 2021

Nathan Tracy and Justin Pickel from TE Connectivity discuss how they’re feverishly paving the way to 100 gigabits per second data rates! They tell us about how this will affect your design as well as the whole infrastructure of our industry. Get ready to drink from the fire hose... 

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Show Highlights:

  • Justin has been with TE’s high-speed data development group for 11 years, and as the Principal Development SI Engineer, develops high-speed products—both connectors and cables for use in the data center market. 
  • Nathan is a technologist on the system architecture team responsible for managing their industry standards efforts. He’s been with TE for what he calls “an embarrassing 38 years”. 
  • Between 2014 and 2018, the industry standard for high-speed connectivity rose dramatically; from 25 GBps to 50 GBps, with the estimated launch of 100 GBps in 2021. A major factor driving these improvements is demand—such as the many ways people are using data (for example, ‘killer apps’).
  • A vast range of technological challenges arise due not only to increasing speed but also due to heightening bandwidth but also density.
  • There’s a high demand for higher-speed products which have to function at higher frequencies and send more data per unit of time, so more channels, systems, and actual bitstreams must be packed into the same space.
  • With increasing data rates come new sensitivities to impairment or signal degradation. This problem manifests itself in the form of insertion loss: how far you can send the signal before it’s lost?
  • Within a connector or PCB, transitions occur from the connector to the PCB or from one layer of the PCB to another, and those transition structures increase loss by introducing reflections that cause a loss of signal, affecting reach even further.
  • Another problem with higher data rates is crosstalk. With multiple channels, each sending data while sitting side-by-side, one creates noise for the other.  
  • Density issues also come about as the data rate increases—silicon providers are increasing the number of transmitters and receivers they can put into a device, which requires higher density, and again, creates more crosstalk.
  • At the PCB level, there’s usually an active device sending a signal to the PCB trace, which is a significant electrical length, and although copper is a great conductor, the actual printed material is lossy, and there’s a migration to different laminate materials as well as smoother copper. 
  • With the notable trend towards smaller via holes, the structures themselves are both low in impedance, which creates extra reflections as well as electrical noise or crosstalk. 
  • TE understands the market trends of laminates and how they can interlock different technologies and use the advantages of materials to provide higher density and higher performing interconnects.
  • Different modulation techniques are also required; not only to push the bandwidth at which a device functions electrically, but also to create an even lower crosstalk profile. All of this requires considerable optimization at the PCB level.
  • To address these seemingly insurmountable challenges, TE is constantly upping their game in human resources and the tools they use in concert with industry ecosystem partners who provide board layout tools and powerful signal integrity modeling tools. 
  • On the board side, the next-gen materials are moving toward an EPO resin with a dielectric constant of around 3 and lower loss. 
  • The movement in connectors is toward a different family of plastics. Instead of PCB-type laminate materials, injection-molded thermoplastics are used, such as high-end engineering polymers like LCP.     
  • On the metal side, high-performance copper alloys that are very springy are applied to create a denser interface. 
  • Different extrusion technologies are used for cabling to increase reach and density while minimizing loss. 
  • Products that are helping solve problems en route to 100 GBps are: internal cabling assemblies (instead of PCB routing) to overcome loss, new interconnect technology and much more. 
  • This podcast’s takeaway for the industry is that the robust solutions will exist and TE will help with the introduction. Things are going to change whether it be removing traces in favor of cabling or overcoming thermal problems. Get ready for 100 gigs, it’s coming and it’s going to work!    


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About Author

About Author

Judy Warner has held a unique variety of roles in the electronics industry for over 25 years. She has a background in PCB Manufacturing, RF and Microwave PCBs and Contract Manufacturing, focusing on Mil/Aero applications. 

She has also been a writer, blogger, and journalist for several industry publications such as Microwave Journal, PCB007 Magazine, PCB Design007, PCD&F, and IEEE Microwave Magazine, and an active board member for PCEA (Printed Circuit Engineering Association). In 2017, Warner joined Altium as the Director of Community Engagement. In addition to hosting the OnTrack Podcast and creating the OnTrack Newsletter, she launched Altium's annual user conference, AltiumLive. Warner's passion is to provide resources, support, and advocate for PCB Design Engineers worldwide.

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