What is a media converter?
As its name implies, a media converter makes the conversion from one network media type (defined by cable and connector types and bandwidth) to another media type.
By making this transition, media converters allow organizations to extend old legacy networks with the latest technology, instead of being tied to what the network was started with. Or even worse, throwing out the old network and starting from scratch. For example, fiber optic media converters allow standard copper based Cat5 and Cat6 LAN networks to work with a fiber optic back bone which provides much higher bandwidth.
What is inside a media converter?
A media converter is composed of two transceivers or MAU (Media Attachment Units) that can transmit data to and receive data from each other, and a power supply.
Each of the transceiver (MAU) has a different industry standard connector to join the different media. One media type goes in and other media type comes out. The connectors comply with IEEE standard specifications and use standard data encodings and link tests.
Media converters can connect to network switches, hubs, routers and even direct to computer servers.
The applications of media converters
Media converters can be used anywhere in the network from computer servers to workstations. Media converters make the configuration of computer network very flexible. They enable upgrading the network to better and faster technology, such as fiber optic cabling, without requiring a full network retrofit.
Media converters are used to extend the network. Fiber optic media converters integrate optical fiber which support much longer cable than with standard twisted pair copper cables. For example, 10M and 100M copper cabling networks have a limit of 110 meters versus 2000 meters of optical fibers.
For Gigabit Ethernet, multimode fibers support up to 2000 meters and single mode fibers support up to 3000 meters.
The most commonly used media converters are twisted pair to fiber media converters. The standard fiber connectors on these media converters are commonly ST or SC connectors. Here are their applications.
- 10-Mbps twisted-pair to 10-Mbps fiber optic single mode or multimode. This is often called 10BastT to 10BaseFL
- 100-Mbps twisted-pair to 1000-Mbps fiber optic single mode or multimode. This is often called 100BaseTX to 100BaseFX.
Newer types of fiber media converters
Newer fiber optic connectors are available in smaller form factors and they are MTRJ, LC and VF-45 connectors. These small form factor fiber connectors are used on newer types of switches, hubs and even servers.
Small form factor fiber connectors occupies only half the size of their traditional par such as SC and ST connectors. This fact enables more ports to be placed in a given device. A stackable 12 port Ethernet switch can now accommodates 24 ports without increasing the size of the switch.
The higher port density results in lower network costs. Fiber media converters are available for all MTRJ, LC and VF-45 connectors. This gives organizations even more flexibility in designing and expanding their network.