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10G or 40G Home Network?! A Guide to Insane Ethernet Speeds

Learn how to build a home Ethernet network that can reach speeds of 10 Gbps or even 40 Gbps! Bring your home lab or studio to the next level!

Fiber SFP in Unifi Switch Thomas Jensen / Unsplash

Last Updated: October 29, 2021

Written by Kevin Jones

Use Cases for a High-Speed Network

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As Internet speeds and storage capacities increase, there is a continued drive for higher quality photos, videos, and other content. For professionals who edit and store large creative projects on multiple workstations or servers, having the ability to transfer that data quickly can save precious time.

In this article, I'll show you some of your options for building your perfect network setup.

Thankfully the price of 10 Gbps network components is now within reach. 40 Gbps are still a bit pricier, but I'll give you some tips on achieving those speeds on a lower budget.

Keep in mind that network speeds are in gigabits per second. In other words, 10 Gbps network components have a throughput of 1.25 GB per second, and 40 Gbps components have a throughput of 5 GB per second.

Speed Bottlenecks

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When designing your fast home network, you must ensure that you don't have any bottlenecks. Bottlenecks include any components which can't support your desired speed.

Storage

SSD and disk speeds are often constrained by the speed of either the storage device or the interface being used. SATA has a max speed of 600 MB/s. PCIe NVMe storage devices are constrained by the PCIe version and the number of PCIe lanes used. The combination of the PCIe version and the number of lanes determines the supported throughput. For example, a PCI-Express 4.0 NVMe M.2 card using x2 lanes can theoretically support up to 4 GB/s. However, you'll need a device that makes use of that potential speed. RAID configurations using multiple drives could also further allow you to make use of the bandwidth.

PCI-Express Speeds (Rounded)
x1 Bandwidthx2 Bandwidthx4 Bandwidthx8 Bandwidthx16 Bandwidth
PCIe 2.0 500 MB/s 1000 MB/s 2 GB/s 4 GB/s 8 GB/s
PCIe 3.0 1 GB/s 2 GB/s 4 GB/s 8 GB/s 16 GB/s
PCIe 4.0 2 GB/s 4 GB/s 8 GB/s 16 GB/s 32 GB/s

Learn more about storage speeds in my Storage Type Comparison: M.2, U.2, NVMe, SATA, SSDs, HDDs article.

PCIe

In addition to storage being dependent on PCIe bandwidth, a fast network interface card and the PCIe port it connects to must support the desired speeds.

PCIe speeds depend on the PCIe version and the number of PCIe lanes used.

PCI-Express Speeds (Rounded)
x1 Bandwidthx2 Bandwidthx4 Bandwidthx8 Bandwidthx16 Bandwidth
PCIe 2.0 500 MB/s 1000 MB/s 2 GB/s 4 GB/s 8 GB/s
PCIe 3.0 1 GB/s 2 GB/s 4 GB/s 8 GB/s 16 GB/s
PCIe 4.0 2 GB/s 4 GB/s 8 GB/s 16 GB/s 32 GB/s

Learn more about PCIe speeds in my PCI-Express article.

Cables

For typical copper Ethernet cables, the maximum supported speed and distance depend on the cable category.

Copper Ethernet Cable Max Speeds and Distances
Cable CategoryMax Speed and Distance
Cat 5
  • 100 Mbps @ 100 meters
Cat 5e
  • 1 Gbps @ 100 meters
Cat 6
  • 10 Gbps @ 55 meters (37 meters if high cross talk)
  • 1 Gbps @ 100 meters
Cat 6a
  • 10 Gbps @ 100 meters
Cat 8
  • 40 Gbps @ 30 meters
  • 10 Gbps @ 100 meters

Learn more about various Ethernet cable speeds in my Cat 5e vs. Cat 6a article, which also discusses Cat 8.

For fiber-optic networks, the cable grade will determine the maximum supported distance.

Learn more about fiber optic cables in my article Set Up a Fiber-Optic Network in Your Home or Office.

How to Build a 10G Home Network With Cat 6a

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If your home is already wired for Cat 6a, then you're in luck! Cat 6a Ethernet cable will support 10 Gbps speeds for up to 100 meters (328 feet).

What you need to support 10G speeds in this configuration:

  • 10 Gbps PCIe network adapters (one for each computer)
  • 10 Gbps Ethernet switch, if you have more than two computers or plan to connect to a router for Internet
  • Cat 6a or higher Ethernet cable

What Is SFP?

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10GBase-SR SFP+ Transceiver, 10G 850nm MMF, up to 300 Meters 10GBase-SR SFP+ Transceiver, 10G 850nm MMF, up to 300 Meters Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)

While less common in home networks, due to the slightly increased complexity, it's possible to build your network using the same components used in datacenters!

Switches and network adapters with SFP modules allow you to create custom high-speed Ethernet networks.

Small form-factor pluggable (SFP) transceivers are compact hot-pluggable network interface modules. SFP modules exist for fiber and copper Ethernet cables, allowing conversion between cable types when combined in a switch.

MikroTik 5-Port Desktop Switch, 1 Gigabit Ethernet Port, 4 SFP+ 10Gbps Ports MikroTik 5-Port Desktop Switch, 1 Gigabit Ethernet Port, 4 SFP+ 10Gbps Ports Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)

With SFP+ transceiver modules, you can achieve 10 Gbps speeds, and with QSFP+ transceivers, you can achieve 40 Gbps speeds.

With copper Ethernet cabling, SFP modules are typically limited to 30 meters (with a few modules supporting 80 meters).

Unless you're leaving some ports open, I don't recommend using copper Ethernet SFP+ modules for 10G speeds (e.g., SFP+ 10GBASE-T) on an SFP+ switch. The 10G copper modules use more power than SFP+ ports were designed to provide. This power usage means that you can sometimes only use half of the SFP+ ports on a switch. The high power usage may not be a problem if you directly connect computers with network interface cards.

With fiber, you can expand that distance to reach nearly any destination (up to 160 km away!).

How to Build a 10G Home Network With SFP+

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To build a fiber-optic 10G home network, you would need the following components. I've linked to specific recommended products below.

What you need to support 10G speeds in this configuration:

  • 10GBASE SFP+ PCIe network adapters (one for each computer)
  • 10GBASE SFP+ MMF fiber transceivers with LC connector ports (one for each network adapter and switch connection)
  • 10GBASE SFP+ switch
  • PoE injector to power the switch
  • LC to LC OM3 MMF duplex fiber patch cables (one for each connection)

Note that if you only connect two computers, you could skip the fiber switch and PoE injector.

To learn more about fiber optic components, check out my article, which discusses all of the terms and considerations: Set Up a Fiber-Optic Network in Your Home or Office.

  • 10GBASE SFP+ switch MikroTik 5-Port Desktop Switch, 1 Gigabit Ethernet Port, 4 SFP+ 10Gbps Ports MikroTik 5-Port Desktop Switch, 1 Gigabit Ethernet Port, 4 SFP+ 10Gbps Ports Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)
  • PoE injector to power the PoE switch TP-LINK 802.3af Gigabit PoE Injector TP-LINK 802.3af Gigabit PoE Injector Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)
  • 10GBASE SFP+ MMF fiber transceivers 10GBase-SR SFP+ Transceiver, 10G 850nm MMF, up to 300 Meters 10GBase-SR SFP+ Transceiver, 10G 850nm MMF, up to 300 Meters Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)
  • 10GBASE SFP+ PCIe network adapters 10Gb PCI-E NIC Network Card, Single SFP+ Port 10Gb PCI-E NIC Network Card, Single SFP+ Port Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)
  • LC to LC OM3 MMF duplex fiber patch cables Fiber Patch Cable - LC to LC OM3 10Gb/Gigabit Multi-Mode Duplex 50/125 Fiber Patch Cable - LC to LC OM3 10Gb/Gigabit Multi-Mode Duplex 50/125 Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)

How to Build a 40G Home Network With QSFP+

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To build a fiber-optic 40G home network, you would need the following components. I've linked to specific recommended products below.

What you need to support 40G speeds in this configuration:

  • 40GBASE QSFP+ PCIe network adapters (one for each computer)
  • 40GBASE QSFP+ SMF fiber transceivers with LC connector ports (one for each network adapter and switch connection)
  • LC to LC OS2 SMF duplex fiber patch cables (one for each connection)

Because 40G QSFP+ switches are relatively expensive (and loud), my recommended design is to connect computers directly together via network adapters. However, if you want a larger network, you may be able to find a used 40G QSFP+ switch for a reasonable price. If you go this route, be sure to check compatibility with the transceiver modules.

It may be possible for more than two computers to use a computer with multiple network cards as a switch, with software such as PfSense. However, you'd need to evaluate the achievable throughput and compare the cost of doing this to just buying a switch.

To learn more about fiber optic components, check out my article, which discusses all of the terms and considerations: Set Up a Fiber-Optic Network in Your Home or Office.

  • 40GBASE QSFP+ SMF fiber transceivers 40 Gigabit QSFP+ LC Single-Mode Transceiver 40 Gigabit QSFP+ LC Single-Mode Transceiver Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)
  • 40GBASE QSFP+ PCIe network adapters Dual Port 40G QSFP+ Network Card Dual Port 40G QSFP+ Network Card Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)
  • LC to LC OS2 SMF duplex fiber patch cable Fiber Patch Cable - LC to LC OS2 Single-Mode Duplex 9/125 Fiber Patch Cable - LC to LC OS2 Single-Mode Duplex 9/125 Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)

Configuration

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Suppose you don't have a router in the network. In that case, when connecting computers directly or via a switch, you'll need to either set up a DHCP server or assign the network interface IP addresses manually.

Learn More About Fiber-Optic Networks

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To learn more about fiber-optic networking, check out my article: Set Up a Fiber-Optic Network in Your Home or Office.