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Fiber to Ethernet Media Converters - Which to Buy (2021)

Learn about the different types of fiber to Ethernet media converters and which one will be the best for your needs.

Fiber to Ethernet Media Converter

Last Updated: October 29, 2021

Written by Kevin Jones

What Is a Fiber Media Converter?

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Fiber to Ethernet Media Converters

Fiber to Ethernet media converters adapt between a typical copper twisted-pair Ethernet cable (e.g., Cat 6a) and fiber-optic cable.

Fiber to Ethernet Media Converter Use Cases

  • Ethernet Extension - There are various ways to extend your Ethernet network. However, fiber optics allow you to reach a nearly limitless range while maintaining high signal quality.
  • IP Video Systems - Whether for CCTV or another video-over-IP system, being limited to the 100-meter maximum distance of copper Ethernet cable may be a constraint for you. Outdoor cameras and video equipment can also benefit from electrical isolation.
  • Electrical Isolation - By converting a segment of your Ethernet connection to fiber, you can electrically isolate your equipment. This electrical isolation can act as a means of insurance, protecting your equipment from power surges and lightning damage.
  • Connecting Fiber to Copper Ethernet Devices - It may sound ideal to have all of your equipment communicating at the speed of light. However, it is often convenient and necessary to communicate with devices with copper RJ-45 Ethernet ports.
10 Gigabit Fiber to 10G Copper UTP Ethernet Media Converter 10 Gigabit Fiber to 10G Copper UTP Ethernet Media Converter Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link) Pair of 1.25G Media Converters, SFP Slot and SFP Modules, MMF, 850-nm, 550 meters Pair of 1.25G Media Converters, SFP Slot and SFP Modules, MMF, 850-nm, 550 meters Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)

Fiber to Fiber Media Converters

Fiber to fiber media converters can convert between single-mode fiber (SMF) and multi-mode fiber (MMF) or between single fiber and dual fiber cable.

Fiber to Fiber Media Converter Use Cases

  • Converting between Single-Mode Fiber and Multi-Mode Fiber is useful when using MMF within a datacenter and SMF for longer fiber cable runs.
  • Converting between Single Fiber and Dual Fiber - BiDi transceivers may use a single fiber to transmit and receive data, whereas dual fiber transceivers use two. You could use a fiber to fiber media converter to adapt between the two.
SFP to SFP Fiber Media Converter SFP to SFP Fiber Media Converter Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)

Custom Media Converters

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Depending on which features you need, you could create a custom media converter by using a switch with SFP ports.

For example, suppose you're unable to find a 10 Gbps media converter. In that case, you could use a switch with SFP+ ports and use a copper Ethernet SFP+ transceiver and a fiber SFP+ transceiver.

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)

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.

Alternatives to Fiber to Ethernet Media Converters

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Suppose you don't have a specific need for converting between Ethernet and fiber. In that case, another option is to run fiber directly to a computer, using a PCIe network adapter with an SFP port.

10Gb PCI-E NIC Network Card, Single SFP+ Port 10Gb PCI-E NIC Network Card, Single SFP+ Port Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)

Transmissions Speeds

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When choosing a fiber to Ethernet media converter, it's essential to consider the supported Ethernet speeds and the SFP form factor.

Ethernet speeds are typically correlated with the SFP port form factor. For example, if it has a 10G SFP+ port, the Ethernet port will often be 10G. If you need to connect with a lower-speed network, you may want to determine if the Ethernet port also supports lower speeds.

The SFP form factor typically determines which speeds are supported.

Form Factor Supported Speeds Supported Media Type
SFP 100 Mbps or 1 Gbps Fiber or Copper
SFP 2.5 Gbps or 5 Gbps Copper
SFP+ 10 Gbps Fiber or Copper
SFP28 25 Gbps Fiber or DAC
SFP 56 50 Gbps Fiber or DAC
QSFP 4 Gbps Fiber or DAC
QSFP+ 40 Gbps Fiber or DAC
QSFP28 50 or 100 Gbps Fiber or DAC
QSFP56 200 Gbps Fiber or DAC
QSFP-DD 400 Gbps Fiber or DAC
DAC
Direct Attach Copper is a Twinax copper cable that integrates the SFP modules.
Twinax
Twinaxial cabling is similar to coaxial cable, except it uses two inner conductor wires instead of one.

Transceiver Compatibility

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Typically when connecting two devices with fiber transceivers (e.g., two SFP transceivers connected via a fiber optic cable), you should use the same transceiver models on both ends. Using the same models will ensure compatibility.

For this reason, if you get media converters with built-in transceivers, you'll probably want to buy them in pairs to ensure compatibility.

Built-in Transceivers

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Media converters with built-in transceivers can simplify setup, ensuring compatibility between two of the same device. However, the drawback is that you will be unable to select a specific transceiver to ensure that it can communicate with other equipment.

Media Converter Form Factors

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As the name implies, mini media converters are just a compact version of fiber to Ethernet converters. The mini media converters may be more suited for rack-mounting in a chassis.

Unmanaged vs. Managed

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Unmanaged media converters are plug-and-play and can sometimes be configured via DIP switches.

DIP Switch
DIP switches are physical switches accessible on a device, used for configuring it.

On the other hand, managed media converters have more advanced features such as remote configuration and monitoring.

PoE vs. Non-PoE

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Some media converters support Power over Ethernet (PoE/PoE+). Power over Ethernet allows you to power PoE devices such as cameras, video/audio IP phones, and Wi-Fi access points.

Keep in mind that passive PoE power sourcing equipment (PSE) is incompatible and will damage non-PoE devices.

PoE Fiber Single Mode LC Gigabit Ethernet Media Converter PoE Fiber Single Mode LC Gigabit Ethernet Media Converter Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)

Industrial Media Converters

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Industrial media converters can survive higher temperature ranges, shock, and vibration and usually require a separate industrial power supply. They are intended for harsh industrial and outdoor environments.

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  • 1 Gbps SFP media converter Pair of 1.25G Media Converters, SFP Slot and SFP Modules, MMF, 850-nm, 550 meters Pair of 1.25G Media Converters, SFP Slot and SFP Modules, MMF, 850-nm, 550 meters Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)
  • 1 Gbps SFP media converter with POE/POE+ PoE Fiber Single Mode LC Gigabit Ethernet Media Converter PoE Fiber Single Mode LC Gigabit Ethernet Media Converter Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)
  • 10 Gbps SFP+ media converter 10 Gigabit Fiber to 10G Copper UTP Ethernet Media Converter 10 Gigabit Fiber to 10G Copper UTP Ethernet Media Converter Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)
  • 10 Gbps SFP+ switch for a custom media converter 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)

Learn More About Fiber-Optic Networks

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