Despite anaemic IT spending by companies in recent months, the Dell'Oro Group expects Gigabit Ethernet product shipments to surge in the next several years. This follows Apple’s decision to build Gigabit Ethernet into all its professional systems, the desktop Power Mac G4 and portable PowerBook G4.

The analyst released a report that predicts Gigabit Ethernet Switch port shipments will jump from 4.9 million ports in 2001 to 51.3 million ports in 2006. The firm says Gigabit Ethernet over copper, or 1000Base-T technology, is the major driver behind the Gigabit growth.

Recent uptakes in Gigabit desktop ports may also signal that a new LAN upgrade cycle is just around the corner, according to the market research firm.

Dell'Oro analyst Seamus Crehan says 2004 will be the year when the rubber meets the road in terms of moving Gigabit Ethernet to the desktop.

More vendors, such as Dell and Hewlett-Packard are following Apple’s leads in integrating 1000Base-T ports onto the motherboards of new business desktop PCs as a standard practice. While not all of these PCs will be used on Gigabit connections, some businesses are buying the products as investment protection for when Gigabit on the desktop becomes commonplace.