Media Converters – The SMART Way to Link IT Networks TogetherRita Mailheau
PLANET customers have been relying on PLANET media converters for decades. These handy little devices are great for helping professionals successfully pull together networks on the fly. They’ve used media converters for things like television coverage at the Olympics in Rio, on-the-scene news in Chile, and for localized applications like trade show demos and exhibits.
When you don’t know the technology infrastructure you’re walking into, having a few media converters on-hand can make all the difference. A good media converter can significantly reduce stress levels.
The demand for high-mobility integration has also given rise to SPF modules and interfaces, which are super-convenient, port-level transceivers. We’ve linked to more information on SPF modules above. For the purposes of this article, though, we’re only going to focus on the media converter.
What is a media converter?
A media converter is a device that uses a transceiver to connect networks comprised of different signal types, network protocols, data rates, connectors, or cabling types. It makes-compatible differing device-types and integrates them into one, well-functioning network.
In essence, it acts like a glue for your network.
What does a media converter convert?
A media converter converts light waves into electrical waves and vice versa. It is an absolutely essential part of a standard networking toolkit.
There is a different type of media converter for just about every network you can imagine:
- Copper to fiber
- Coax to fiber
- Fiber to fiber
- Single-mode to multi-mode
You name it.
It all makes sense because, practically speaking, there just aren’t that many single-media type enterprises out there. A number of factors contribute to this reality.
Legacy equipment – It’s cheaper and easier to use legacy devices that are still operating than to replace them as newer equipment comes to market and gets added to a network.
Legacy buildings – Structures like office complexes, apartment buildings, and older construction is already wired with copper from the telecoms days. Later, Tier 2 and 3 ISPs added coax into the mix. Office buildings in the 1980s and 1990s also got the lion’s share of Cat5e Ethernet cabling.
A full rewire just isn’t practical.
According to the cabling industry experts, it takes up to 10 years to replace old wiring in a building. Financial priorities are equally important. It’s not feasible to unify networking devices to ALL-FIBER compatibility or ALL-COPPER compatibility over an entire campus or residential complex.
The public tends to be conservative in how they spend their yearly budgets. Cost savings have been driving this whole Ethernet movement for years, including the steady development of media converters.
Other advantages to media conversion
Networks are becoming more complex due to the addition of wide geographic deployments. Speed, bandwidth, and distance requirements drive the need to blend fiber and twisted pair cabling.
- Fiber in outdoor settings withstands temperature extremes.
- WANs and LANs link together as companies grow.
- Fiber allows remote management and monitoring capabilities for large campuses.
- Wavelength division multiplexing (WDM) enhances bandwidth capacity, allowing signals to go in 2 directions.
When deployed in Ethernet networks, media converters improve switching rate and support advanced bridge features: VLAN, QoS prioritizing, and control of Port Access and Bandwidth.
These are only some of the reasons why media converters are selling in such massive quantities.
Types of media converter devices
PLANET offers a wide range of converters, extenders, GPONs and splitters of varying speeds and modes, to help our customers to fully unite and optimize networks.
We have web-manageable gigabit, single-mode, single-mode bi-directional (WDM), and multi-mode. We even have video over Gigabit Fiber bundle. In fact, PLANET has close to 78 different models. That number may vary due to phasing-out of older models and the introduction of new.
For simplicity, here are a few questions you can ask yourself to get the right model for your deployment.
- Which network protocols do I need to support? 10/100/1000? Gigabit Ethernet?
- Which cable type or connector type do you have? Multi-mode? single-mode?
- What type of cable am I connecting? Coax? UTP?
- Do I need managed capabilities or is unmanaged enough?
If you require configuration or monitoring in your deployment, then you’ll probably need to go with managed.
Ethernet copper to fiber
An Ethernet media converter connects different networking media such as fiber and coaxial cables so they can communicate. It spans-the-cap between UTP/STP and fiber, or coax and fiber.
Rate switching, from 10/100 and 10/100/1000, is available in some models. By adding a media converter, you can combine devices with different data rates.
Fiber to fiber
A fiber media converter traverses between multi-mode and single-mode. In essence, the optical fiber transmits the signals from one device to another in the form of light (optical form). Whereas, coaxial cable transmits the signals in electrical form.
They support long distances, legacy products, and conversion from one type of wavelength to another.
The continuing development of Ethernet technology will fuel the need for media converters for years to come.
For one thing, speeds are getting faster. The IEEE 802.3bz has squarely reached 1.3-1.6 Gbps levels and is well on the way to 2.5Gbps and 5Gbsp respectively for Cat5e and Cat6 cabling. 10 Gbps is looming on the horizon. Interestingly, it does only take 400Mbps to stream video over the Internet. But higher speeds are definitely required in business and industrial settings.
Cost is another thing that keeps Ethernet strong. Because it has a lower CAPEX and OPEX than other networking solutions, manufacturers are spending development dollars right here.
Don’t expect Fiber to replace Ethernet as a single technology solution, especially when the uniting power of the media converter is available.
We trust you enjoyed this article and welcome stories of how you are using media converters in your networking installations.
If you’re not in a hurry on receiving equipment for your next installation, be sure to take advantage of our FREE shipping on all ground orders. There are some limitations on ship times, so be sure to ask.