In case you’re new to networking technologies, a media converter is the sort of little device every IT networking professional should keep on hand. That is because it allows you to join different signaling formats onto one well-functioning LAN.

This technology has gone the way of its predecessors in that it has become more streamlined, smaller in size, and simpler through the years. And that is the result of very hard work done by some very smart engineers at the Small Form Factor Committee. These shining lights have moved on to other pastures, the Storage Networking Industry Association, but their contribution to efficient network connectivity is strongly felt.

A media converter is an essential tool in stretching the IT dollar. It allows admins to repurpose existing wiring configurations while delivering high-end device support. It is an infrastructural backbone that will transition business into the Internet of Things (IoT) mainstream.

With all of this in mind, PLANET has put together a quick guide to help newcomers through the terminology.

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What is a media converter?

A media converter is a device used to connect media that would otherwise be incompatible. It is used to link fiber optic cable to twisted pair for supporting ethernet-compatible devices. It may also link together networks comprised of coax cable, and single-mode to multi-mode fiber optic cable.

What is a fiber optic media converter?

A fiber optic media converter is essentially the same thing as a plain media converter. One reason manufacturers and distributors call them fiber optic is to make it easier for customers to find them in an online search. Fiber optic cable is valued for its high speed and long distance capabilities.

What types of media converters are there?

For the purposes of this article, PLANET will sort through media converter types to provide a greater understanding as to how they function:

  • PON
  • Standard
  • Managed
  • Industrial

We will further sort by…

  • Speed
  • Mode
  • Fiber connection

Expanded Description of Types of Media Converters

For this section, think about context. Where and how will this media converter be deployed? The IoT isn’t just about fun microwaves that can talk to Alexa. Many businesses, like heavy manufacturing, transportation, mining, and utilities, have exploited the benefits of IP technologies for years.

Passive Optical Networking (PON)

The demand for faster bandwidth continues to expand, and installers and ISP providers are turning to fiber optic cable. Additionally, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are moving their delivery model to G.Fast. Fiber-to-the-Node (FTTN) or Fiber-To-The-Curb (FTTC) network architectures are beginning to be replaced because of the associated demands for bandwidth. GEPON (Gigabit Passive Optical Network) supports ATM, Ethernet, and WDM. GEPON only requires a single fiber cable to connect to an Optical Network Terminal (ONT) near a Customer’s Premise (CP) making it an attractive solution.

Standard Media Converters

Standard Media Converter | XT-705A

The standard media converter does not require a web interface, and essentially convert signals from ethernet to fiber. These are some of the simplest models and are perfect for companies with junior IT staff and simple retrofits as their networks develop.

Managed Media Converters

A managed media converters can be easily deployed through a simple web interface. They can also be loaded into a chassis, resembling a switch. This option stabilizes the units.  Management capability allows remote web configuration. This capability used in conjunction with a managed switch can add an additional security layer for LANs used to manage intellectual property or financial data.

Industrial Media Converters

An industrial media converter provides highly efficient media conversion in extreme temperatures and environments. It will work well when installed outdoors or on the floor of a manufacturing facility.

Media Converter Speeds

If you look on our Fiber Media Converter product page you will see this in the left-hand column:

Media Converter SpeedsThe definition of 100Mbps

Ethernet technology does employ optical fiber when required to reach greater distances. Signals over fiber optic cable can reach up to 74 miles; signals over copper in the processed form can only reach a distance of 328ft.

The definition of 1G

1G refers to Gigabit Ethernet transmissions. They can reach rates of up to 1000 Mbit/s. This application is widespread in the telecom industry which relies heavily on cables reaching much longer distances. These cables are also subject to harsher extremes.

The definition of 10GMedia Converter Speeds

10G, also known as 10Gbe or 10GigE, refers to the Gigabit Ethernet next generation that’s on track to achieve transmission rates of 10 gigabits per second. These speeds support robust networks that need larger bandwidth rates such as business class deployments.

The definition of Serial RS422/485

Serial RS422/485 are serial communication standards frequently used in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). RS-422, a single ended multi-drop standard, supports one transmitter and up to 10 receivers at distances of 40 feet at 10 Mbits/sec, 400 feet at 1 Mbit/sec, and 4,000 feet at 100kbps.

RS-485, is the multi-drop version, and can support 32 transmitters and receivers also at distances of 40 feet at 10 Mbits/sec, 400 feet at 1 Mbit/sec, and 4,000 feet at 100kbps.

SPF is simply small form factor pluggable and refers to a smaller device technology.

Media Converter Modes

What do we mean when we say media converter mode? This refers to the IEEE 802.3 fiber standards for communication. You can have a one-way or single mode. You can also have a two-way or multi-mode configuration.

Single-Mode Fiber

Single-Mode light signals transmit in one direction on an optical fiber. One mode of light propagates through a decreasing diametral core producing low attenuation [number of time the signal passes back and forth]. That narrowing propels the light signal forward. This is also known a transverse mode. Single-Mode fiber has a core/cladding diameter ratio of 9 microns to 125 microns.

Multi-Mode Fiber

Multi-Mode light signals transmit in two directions on an optical fiber. Multiple modes of light pass through an increasing diametral core. Larger quantities of data can transmit because of high dispersion and attenuation rates. This type of signaling loses quality over long distances. Multi-Mode fiber has a core/cladding diameter ratio of 50 microns to 125 microns or 62.5 microns to 125 microns. Multi-Mode is best for LANs where data and video streaming take place. It does not transmit RF signals.

What Are Media Converters Used For?

Simply put, media converters are used in every industry and sector of the economy to provide a connection between fiber and copper. They are definitely a mainstay of the enterprise network toolkit.

Industries where you are likely to find media converters used are:

  • Healthcare
  • GovernmentMedia Converter Industries | Government
  • Telecom
  • Datacenters
  • Utilities
  • Manufacturing
  • Entertainment
  • Transportation

These are just a small cross-section of the notable places this little device is making a huge difference in performance and budget-friendly infrastructure purchases. We hope this one-pager will help you or a friend understand some of the jargon used to describe the functions of a media converter.

If you’re putting together a network and would like a little product help, feel free to reach out.  We are committed to helping your succeed in your business.