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Media Conversion: Ethernet to Fiber

Network complexity, escalating workloads, and the increases in network devices are driving the forces to build a network with higher speeds and greater bandwidth. Traditionally, PoE is often applied to simply network setups for its inherent advantage of sending power in parallel with data through the same network cable, while its uses are highly limited to applications within 100m/328ft. And it might experience severe latency and attenuation over extended lengths. To overcome the geographical limit of Ethernet, fiber optic network is introduced to secure fast-speed data transfer in long-distance deployments.

Cost is the main challenge when implementing fiber optic cables. It’s obviously unrealistic to replace all the copper cabling systems with fiber-based ones. But how can we realize the partial upgrades of network infrastructure in a budget friendlier way? To add the newer fiber optic cabling to the older copper cable systems, a media converter is needed to connect two different media types and integrate them into one seamless network. In this blog, we’re gonna introduce everything you need to know about media converters.

What is a Fiber Media Converter?

The fiber media converter is a supplementary network device used to repurpose the existing network infrastructure and create a connection between dissimilar media types (i.e. fiber optic cables and twisted pairs) by converting optical signals into electrical signals, and vice versa. The media converter presents an economical way to its users to upgrade the existing wiring configurations with a minimal influence on the legacy devices but with a substantial increase in network speeds. The media converters often work in pairs for copper-to-fiber conversion. The media converter normally has three interfaces: a PoE port, an SFP slot and a power-in port. The unit itself receives the electrical signals from the PSE such as a PoE switch and PoE injector, converts the signals into the optical ones and transfers them down the fiber cable to the other media converter. And the second device will then convert the signals back to the electrical signals that the edge device (PoE-supported) can receive.

Applications of the Media Converters:

The media converter is widely used in various scenarios, ranging from security surveillance to access controls, to realize high-speed data connection over extended distances.

You may find media converters used in:

• Telecom, data center and network management

• Industrial applications like oil and gas drilling and mining

• Cross-building network communication in campuses

• Data connection in geographically challenging places

• Factory floor applications or automation systems

• Mission-critical applications like surveillance camera systems

Media Converters Leverage the Benefits of Fiber Optic Cabling

• Cost-effective and Time-saving Network Upgrade

Media converters are an incredibly cost-effective solution to retrofit legacy systems into broadband networks. Without media converters, you may have to undergo a full-scale fiber optic network upgrade to mix different types of devices in the same network. Therefore, the media converters are undoubtedly a worthwhile investment to take advantage of fiber optic cabling at long distances without needing to invest a great deal in new infrastructures. They feature a rather small footprint, making it easier to pave its way into the traditional copper-based network system. You can easily connect the media converters to the available uplinks and disconnect them when not in use.

• Increased Network Speed but Less Electromagnetic Interference

Media converters allow network administrators to integrate new devices into the available cable infrastructures with increased network speed. With fiber optic cabling, you can get the job done in the fastest possible way. The fiber optic cable features a larger bandwidth with symmetrical upload and download speeds in point-to-point fiber connections to deliver data at higher throughput. Moreover, media converters also help reduce potential signal degradation experienced by the copper cabling given that fiber optic cables have complete immunity to electromagnetic interference. And they also allow copper cabling to take advantage of the higher security level that fiber optic cabling provides.

Type of Media Converters

Media converters can be mainly categorized into managed and unmanaged, commercial and industrial-grade, standalone and chassis-based converters by their functions and forms.

Unmanaged vs Managed Media Converters

The unmanaged media converter is a relatively simple plug-and-play device and doesn’t have any monitoring and management functions. It is manufactured with a fixed configuration, often used to create a simple communication between dissimilar media types. It’s easy-to-use, affordable, an ideal choice for newbies. On the other hand, the managed media converter offers full management capabilities and high-level security features for network configuration and troubleshooting. Most managed media converters support SNMP, NEMA, AAA security services used in corporate networks. And obviously, the cost will be much higher.

Commerical vs Industrial Media Converters

The commercial media converter is designed for use in a climate-controlled environment (0 ~ 40°C) like an office or control center. However, the industrial media converter has good resistance to extreme temperatures (-40 to 85°C), vibrations, electrical noises, chemicals and combustible environments, etc. The industrial converters also have redundant power supplies and rugged enclosures using Din-Rail or panel mounting so they can be easily installed. They are ideal for use in factory automation, oil and mining, public transportation, etc. Fastcabling has launched a Waterproof Industrial Hardened Grade Fiber PoE Media Converter (IP67-rated) that can also generate PoE power for the edge device with a regulated power output of DC 54V, 30W to power devices like IP cameras and wireless access points in remote areas and reduces the chances of power loss and voltage drop in long power cable runs.

Standalone vs Chassis-based Media Converters

The stand-alone media converter provides a space-saving solution for point-to-point media conversion between two communication endpoints. It is more suitable for partial network upgrades in individual homes, small-to-medium-sized businesses. Chassis-based media converters are designed for high-density network connections used in enterprises, large data centers and campus networks. For better management, a number of standalone media converters are installed in a chassis that is capable of housing 16 media converters to enable multiple fiber runs in daisy-chain or star topology. The chassis comes with its own power supply. For maximum power availability, an optional redundant power supply is available for installation in the chassis. And each media converter can be easily removed or disabled.

How to Choose Media Converters?

There are a variety of media converters that correspond with different media types, network protocols, cable and connector types and so on.

Types of conversion: The most commonly used media converters in fiber optic cabling are the copper-to-fiber and fiber-to-fiber media converters. The copper-to-fiber media converter is used to build the connection between the Ethernet cables (CatX series) and the fiber optic cables by transforming the electrical pulsed into the light pulses in the fiber optic networks. On the other hand, the fiber-to-fiber media converter provides conversion for single-mode and multi-mode fibers, single and dual fibers, etc.

Network protocols: Depending on different manufacturers, media converters are designed to support different network protocols, such as Ethernet (10 Mbps), Fast Ethernet (100 Mbps), Gigabit Ethernet (1000 Mbps) and 10Base (10 Gbps). You need to choose one according to the bandwidth requirements of your applications and network setups. To set up a 4K camera, Fast Ethernet is required for live streaming with H.264, and to live stream on YouTube, you’ll need at least 50Mbps for each camera. Apart from the Ethernet protocols, media converters also support other network protocols like 10G OTN, Serial RS-232/422/530, etc.

Cable and connector types: Cable and connector types: Since fiber optic cables come in different forms such as single-mode and multi-mode fiber cables, dual and single fibers, and different types of cables are terminated with different types of connectors such as ST, SC, LC, and Mt-RJ, depending on which types of cable you’re using, choose a media converter that corresponds to that specific type and make sure it is compatible with the transceivers (SFP, SFP+ or standard wavelengths) to be deployed. And the copper cable and connector types supported by the media converters are RJ45, BVC and mini-BNC, Coax, UTP Cat4, 5, and 6, etc.

How to Use Copper-to-Fiber Media Converters?

Copper-to-fiber media converters are widely deployed in a variety of industries and sectors like IP security systems. However, to use the converter, you’ll also need help from SFP modules and fiber optic cables. The SFP module is a modular transceiver that plugs into the SFP port on the converter to facilitate the media conversion. The SFP modules are mainly classified based on their speed capabilities. The transmission speed of most SFP modules is 1 Gigabit, but the newer versions such as SPF+ have a higher speed of transmission, from 10 to 25 Gigabit, to support high-speed network communication with compatible media converters.

Fiber media converters can be connected to any compatible Ethernet fiber port, directly to a PoE switch, so sometimes only one unit is needed. For example, to deploy a PoE camera 500 meters away, you’ll need a PoE switch that is built with SFP interfaces, a media converter, 2 SFP modules, a fiber optic cable and an Ethernet cable. First, you need to plug an SFP module into the SFP slot on the media converter, plug another module into the switch, and then connect the converter to the PoE switch with the fiber optic cable. Use the Ethernet cable to connect the IP camera and the media converter. Power up the media converter, and then data and power will simultaneously flow into the end device. But if your Ethernet switch doesn’t have an SFP interface, then 2 media converters will be needed to extend the 100m limit of the Ethernet cable in the copper cabling system. They are normally used to connect two Ethernet switches via fiber, especially in the point-to-point network. Please continue to read How to Set up a Point-to-Point Fiber Optic System? for fiber cabling setups.

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