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The IEEE 802.3 standard, first published in 1983, and commonly referred to as "Ethernet," applies to local area networks ("LANs") built on copper, and more recently fiber optic, cables. The standard initially accommodated a maximum data transmission rate of 10 megabits per second (10 Mbps) between networked devices.
By 1994, the 802.3 Working Group was developing a new 802.3 standard for "Fast Ethernet," which would transmit data across a copper wire at 100 Mbps. The Working Group determined that it would be desirable for Fast Ethernet equipment to be compatible, to the extent possible, with existing LAN equipment and with future generations of equipment. A technology, variously known as "autodetection" and "autonegotiation," was developed that would permit such compatibility.