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An Overview of Media Conversion Between Copper and Fiber

In networking systems, apart from the traditional and widely used copper-based Ethernet network, fiber optic network has gradually been seen and employed by home and business owners to achieve long-distance networks along with high bandwidth. Since the fiber optic network still can’t be directly received by the main router and the edge network devices as most of them lack of fiber optic port, thus media conversion between copper and fiber is a necessity in most situations. However, many are not so familiar with media conversion or fiber optic networks, in this post, we’ll give an overview of fiber-to-copper media conversion, aiming at explaining what is a fiber media converter, how to use it, and brief suggestions for the selection.

What is Media Conversion Between Copper and Fiber?



For starters, let’s walk through the basics of networking. It is essential to learn about copper-based Ethernet networks and fiber optic networks so that we can go further in media conversion between these two dissimilar media. Simply put, it is not difficult to understand that copper and fiber are only two different data transmitting media, the former relies on Cat5e/Cat6 or high categories UTP cables to deliver data or PoE, while the latter makes use of fiber optic cable to transmit data.

What is the Difference Between Copper Ethernet Networks and Fiber Optic Networks?

From other aspects, transmission distance is the most obvious and significant difference between copper and fiber networks. Copper Ethernet cable can only reach a maximum of 100 meters(328ft.) for continuous data or PoE transmission, whereas fiber optic cable can run up to 80km when utilizing single-mode fiber, meeting IP surveillance in remote and low-traffic places. In addition, you are able to reap plentiful benefits from fiber optic networks, such as larger bandwidth, high network speed, lower latency, EMI immunity, better security, and so on.

Why Copper-to-Fiber Media Conversion is Needed? And How to Achieve?

When determining to use a fiber optic network for high-performance data transmission or meet long-distance deployments, that said, add fiber to the exiting Ethernet network system, then media conversion is supposed to function, converting copper to fiber, or vice versa.

As mentioned above, we know that the majority of network devices available in the market don’t equip with built-in fiber optic ports, or so-called SFP slots, which is the reason why media conversion is needed, or the fiber optic network between the main network(router or network switch) and edge network devices, or powered devices(PDs) won’t make sense.

Saying so much, the core is to grasp how to make the media conversion accomplished or what equipment is the key to making the work. Actually, media conversion between copper and fiber mainly depends on fiber media converters to realize the goal.

What is a Fiber Media Converter?



A fiber media converter is what devices and how it functions in the conversion of fiber and copper. You can find the answers from the following content, including the overview of fiber media converters, the types of fiber media converters, and some comparisons of different fiber media converters being used.

Fiber Media Converter Overview

Here we go deep into the point, to learn the overview of fiber media converter, involving its definition, functions, and benefits.

A fiber media converter or fiber to Ethernet media converter is a passive networking device designed to get dissimilar data transmitting media to work together within one network. It is typically used to get signal converted, from copper to fiber or vice versa, for matched data communications among remote end network devices and main network devices.

From what we talked about at the beginning, people tend to use fiber optic networks to achieve high-performance data communication, or long-distance IP network deployments in remote places because of the limitations of Ethernet cabling. Fiber media converters offer an economic and quick solution to make the requirements come true. Therefore, fiber media converters certainly leverage the benefits of fiber optic networks, for instance, using fiber to extend the range of LAN, and installing new network devices with increased network speed and quality. Moreover, one worth-including benefit of fiber media converter is that it can maintain the existing investment by reusing the current Ethernet cabling without high expense on new infrastructure deployment, as a result, the media converter of fiber and copper can be accomplished with reduced cost. Besides, basically, fiber media converters are easy to use.

Fiber Media Converters VS. Ethernet Extenders

With regard to Ethernet distance extension, there is another commonly used equipment, namely an Ethernet extender. Some are confused about which to choose and when to confront the selection between fiber media converter and Ethernet extender.

Indeed, both of them can be applied to extend the distance to IP devices in remote locations. And actually, the essential difference between them is the cable that they use for transmitting data, which is simply indicated by their names. Fiber media converter, apparently adopts fiber optic cable, while Ethernet extenders use Ethernet cable. As a result, it is simple to know which to choose from, basically tell from your actual requirements, in other words, you are supposed to make clear whether long distance or high bandwidth is required or not.

Types of Fiber Media Converters

In virtue fiber media converters refer to as fiber to Ethernet or Ethernet to fiber converters specifically, they can roughly be divided into two types, one is common fiber media converters, and the other is PoE fiber media converters.

The major difference is whether they come with PoE capability or not. And this impact the way of the edge network devices are powered. PoE fiber media converters, thanks to the PoE function, they can send power over the same Ethernet cable to connected IP devices, eliminating the nearby AC outlets of edge IP devices, and making flexible deployments. This type is more suitable for IP devices installed at places where is hard to access AC wall outlets.

One thing to note, the PoE capability only works between the fiber media converters and PoE-powered devices, and the power issue pertaining to the media converters still needs to address separately for the reason that fiber optic cables don’t process power(electricity) in line.

Comparison of Different Fiber Media Converters

What’s more, in fact, fiber media converters vary in form, capability, and deployment environment. We’ll get you covered with the comparison of these different fiber media converters below.

  • Stand-Alone VS. Chassis-Based Media Converters

According to different platforms of fiber media converters, you will find the stand-alone type and chassis-based type fiber media converters available. Stand-alone fiber media converters are compact, and generally fit space-constrained places for point-to-point fiber optic links with wall or din-rail mounted. They usually come with their own power supply, supporting both AC and DC power methods. They are suitable for small systems that only require one or limited connections over long distances via simple and quick installation.

While chassis-based fiber media converters are more suitable for high-density applications that need to install multiple units along with neat cable management. And it features a shared power supply or dual redundant power system for easier installation and safer management. Chassis-based fiber media converters are commonly made in 19-inch size rack mounted type that equipped with 14 slots or 16 slots capable of housing standalone converters or converter cards, you are able to place them alongside the Ethernet switches conveniently, ideal for data centers, switching rooms, or LAN cabling closets where greater distances are needed and solved by fiber optic cabling.


  • Managed VS. Unmanaged Media Converters

From the aspect of the network to the point, there are managed fiber media converters and unmanaged fiber media converters. The managed type provides advanced capabilities and enables administrators to have overall control of data, traffic, and bandwidth, that being said they are opted to manage and troubleshoot from the remote control room efficiently because managed converters support remote monitoring and management and fault detection functions, ideal for medium-to-large scale network systems with demanding requirements.

On the contrary, the unmanaged converters are more straightforward, they don’t call for any configurations, which is a perfect integration solution of copper and fiber for newbies who desire an easy plug-and-play fiber optic network setup, and certainly, the unmanaged type is a more economic option.

  • Commercial VS. Industrial Media Converters

Considering the environment where the media converters are ready to be placed, or the crucial factor temperature, fiber media converters can be divided into commercial media converters and industrial media converters. Commercial media converters actually as their name suggests, they are a nice fit for commercial network applications, such as offices, where can offer controlled ambient temperature for common LAN extension with fiber, so generally, they don’t adapt to environments that might suffer from extreme temperatures.

However, industrial media converters equipped with a rugged housing, support a wide operating temperature range from -40℃to 85℃ and enhanced surge protection, and come with a wide input voltage range of 12-48 VDC. They are specially designed to withstand extreme temperatures and weather, offering superior reliability, and an ideal choice to meet outdoor harsh network applications like oiling and mining sites.

How Does a Fiber Media Converter Work? 



Known that the core of media conversion is a mutual conversion between fiber and copper, and the role of fiber media converters is to give a quick and economic way to get a high-performance mutual signal conversion.

The process of media conversion can simply be put in words like this: The converter receives coded information that needs to send from the networking device through its Ethernet port(RJ45 interface), and turn the electronic signal into an optical signal, outputting via the fiber optic port, then transmit the coded information down the fiber cable, and finally, the optical signal is converted back to the original signal and received by the network devices.

In short, the electronic signal will be changed to an optic signal for transmission down the fiber cable, and then the optical signal will be converted to an electronic signal for sending to the receiving network devices, such as routers, network switches, IP cameras, and wireless access points.

Fiber media converters generally work in pairs, one is near the main network devices, and the other is placed at the remote point that needs network coverage.

As shown in the below figure, the fiber optic port, or SFP slot of the fiber media converter is empty, and fiber optic transceivers, aka SFP modules, is the component needed to fill in the slot and the media conversion can be complete. You can use single mode or multimode SFP modules to get different transmission distances and data rates, so as to best satisfy specific requirements.

Applications of Fiber Media Converters



As stated previously, fiber media converters are an effective and easy-use solution to realize integrate fiber into copper-based Ethernet networks. In fact, fiber media converters come with a variety of applications in practical scenarios, and here we’ll list some common applications of fiber to copper media converters below:

  • Extend the distance of Ethernet cabling with fiber for up to 500m to 80km on single mode or multimode fiber.
  • Extend the life of existing legacy network equipment without new and costly cabling to embrace new technology.
  • Meet long-range IP surveillance deployment in remote areas where copper-based Ethernet network is impossible or hard to obtain.
  • Increase the network performance to build WiFi coverage from point A to point B using wireless access points(WAPs).
  • High-density distributed fiber optic network for large-scale network applications, such as campus LAN.

How to Use Fiber Media Converters for Copper and Fiber Switching?



Fiber media converters, small in size but big in use, how exactly such compact fiber networking devices are being used to switch electronic signals and light signals is a typical question flow in most users’ minds. Now, we are going to dispel doubts.

1. A Pair of Fiber Media Converters for Point-to-Point Fiber Network

Using a pair of fiber media converters is the most common use in small-size network setups with fiber optic transmission. It is a straightforward and simplest solution to integrate copper and fiber from point A to point B over a fiber optic link, so to speak, it is an ideal choice for network applications aiming at fast network speed over long distance run with ultra simplicity. The remote end fiber media converter can be used for connecting another network switch, or directly linking to the edge IP devices, such as IP cameras, and wireless access points.

The main steps to use a pair fiber media converter are shown below, which is plug and play setup.

(1) Insert compatible SFP transceivers to the SFP slots of both fiber media converters;

(2) Connect the RJ45 Ethernet port of the first media converter to one of the RJ45 Ethernet ports of the main networking devices(router/network switch) with a UTP network cable(Cat5e or above);

(3) Connect the SFP slots of the first and the second media converters with fiber optic cable;

(4) Use a UTP cable to connect the RJ45 port of the second media converter and the RJ45 port of edge network devices;

(5) Power the two fiber media converters with AC or DC power supply.

2. Single Fiber Media Converter for Extending Distance to IP Device

Although using one pair of media converters is commonplace, a single fiber media converter also can be utilized for actual deployment if fiber network switches have existed. Some novel network switches have been equipped with one or two built-in fiber media converters, which are the so-called SFP slots of the switches. In this case, only a single fiber media converter is needed to employ fiber optic cabling for extending the distance to remote network devices. It presents an economic and convenient way to make use of optic fiber.

Follow these steps to learn how to use a single fiber media converter to get long-distance Ethernet extension:

(1) Insert a suitable SFP module to one of the fiber optic ports of the existing fiber network switch, and the same to the fiber media converter;

(2) Connect the fiber optic port of the switch and the SFP slot of the converter with fiber optic cable;

(3) Source UTP network cable to connect the RJ45 port of the media converter to the RJ45 Ethernet port of the edge network device;

(4) Power the converter with AC or DC power method, and the existing fiber network switch if needed.

3. High-Density Fiber Optic Network for Large Scale Applications

When coupling a chassis fiber media converter or a fiber network switch(differ from the above-mentioned one) with multiple stand-alone fiber media converters, it is effective to build a high-density fiber optic network along with custom distribution to fit large-scale network applications that demand multiple fiber optic links over a long distance, especially those have multiple buildings or properties containing quite a few network devices, including campus, holes, and hospitals, etc. This use tends to serve central management, easy installation, and great scalability, saving hassle and time. If you desire more control on the system, you can use the managed type.

Making high density distributed fiber optic network using fiber media converters can implement like this:

(1) Get adequate fiber media converters, and insert corresponding SFP transceivers, so as the chassis fiber media converter or fiber network switch;

(2) Connect the RJ45 ports of the chassis fiber media converter or RJ45 uplink port of the fiber network switch to the RJ45 Ethernet port of the main network switch with UTP network cables;

(3) Connect the SFP slots of fiber media converters to the SFP slots of  the chassis fiber media converter or fiber network switch with fiber cable respectively;

(4) Employ UTP cables to connect the RJ45 ports of each fiber media converter to the RJ45 uplink port of each network switch;

(5) Power all the fiber media converters and network switches.

4. PoE over Fiber with Central Power and Distributed Fiber Management

The fiber media converter can be used for creating PoE over fiber network system featuring a central power system and distributed fiber optic management, which is an advanced and novel solution to utilize optical fiber for long-range LAN applications. To realize this usage, the setup involves components like a pair of fiber media converters, one pair of fiber termination boxes, pre-terminated fiber optic cables, and power supplies.

Central power can be sent remotely from the main point with no need to deal with local AC power thanks to the capability of receiving high voltage and output regulated stable voltage to compensate for the power loss in the line. What’s more, PoE connection is provided for the edge powered devices, giving the most flexibility in the placement and convenience of the installation and management. With the help of the fiber termination box, you can take it as a backup link streaming high-performance fiber to best fit future growth, just need to plug a fiber patch into the termination box, then it is able to take advantage of fiber.

If you are of interest this fiber optic networking solution, read this post or contact us to get further information.

Essential Principles for Fiber Media Converters Selection

Fiber media converters literally are various options provided in the market, and as to the majority might be lost in confusion, and here we give some informative principles attempting to help pick up the best-suited ones in the actual purchasing.

  • Network speed is a crucial factor to be concerned about. Since fast network speed and low latency are the key benefits, diverse applications generally come with different network speed requirements. Fiber media converters are able to supply 10/100/1000Mpbs data rate, you can select the proper type according to the network requirements and connected network devices. Typically, WiFi network device setup consumes larger bandwidth and demands faster network speed to ensure efficiency and a pleasing experience.
  • Recognize the distance and bandwidth requirements. This basically determines the answer to choosing the single mode or multimode fiber media converter. Single-mode fiber tends to serve farther distances up to 120km along with high bandwidth, while multimode fiber is much shorter for up to 500m, and the bandwidth is also relatively limited, which is more suitable for data centers or other small-scale network applications with the demand of fiber optic cabling.
  • To main the performance, it is necessary to confirm the wavelengths of both fiber media converters. Wavelength is defined the light, and 850 nm, 1300 nm, and 1550 nm are the most commonly used for optical fiber. The two fiber devices should remain the same wavelength to reduce packet loss. And fiber optic transmission is the pass through two fibers, namely TX and RX.
  • Focus on fiber media converters supports full duplex and half duplex if possible. If only full duplex is supported or half duplex is supported, when different media converters from different brands are applied at the same time, it might cause problems like collision and packet loss. Because if the media converter will be connected to a switch or HUB that only supports half duplex, and the converter doesn’t support half duplex might trigger damages or discount the performance of the fiber network.
  • Think of the PoE function to achieve flexible deployments, especially when present power is difficult to access or manage. PoE fiber media converters, as talked about earlier, it is capable of sending power over the same Ethernet and eliminating nearby AC outlets of edge network devices. IEEE802.3 PoE standard is one key thing to consider, which impacts the amount of output power of the fiber media converters, and the compatibility with the connected PoE devices. What PoE standard is suitable mainly depends on the power consumption of the PoE device that is ready to install.
  • Dont forget to look into the capabilities to adapt to harsh deployment environments. Make clear whether the fiber media converters need to be placed outdoors or in industrial fields or other locations that might experience extreme temperatures, bad weather like storms, and lightning. If the listed situations might be a problem, it is advisable to purchase fiber media converters designed for outdoor or industrial uses, which can offer high reliability and long use life to some extent.

Final Words



Fiber media converters indeed pave a most economic and handy approach to fulfill media conversion between fiber and copper. Learning the basis of fiber media converters can facilitate the installation and use of fiber optic networks to overcome distance limitations or gain improved network performance. FASTCABLING offers a wide range of fiber network devices and components for different applications. Still have numerous questions and doubts, speak to our professional experts now.

1 thought on “An Overview of Media Conversion Between Copper and Fiber

  1. This is Such a nice Article

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