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What is a Fiber-Optic Media Converter?

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  • Written By: Solomon Branch
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 02 November 2016
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A fiber-optic media converter, more commonly referred to as a fiber media converter, is a device used in computer networking that allows a different networking media to connect with a fiber-optic cabling network. It is primarily used in connecting older copper-based cabling systems, such as twisted pair, to the faster fiber-optic networks. The converters are commonly used in the large metropolitan area networks (MANs), as well as large business networks, referred to as enterprise networks.

Many different networking protocols can be utilized with a fiber-optic media converter. Ethernet, fast ethernet, and gigabit ethernet are examples found in small home networks. The faster data protocols, such as T1 and T3, also called DS3/E3, can also be utilized. Fiber-optic media converters will also support multiple types of cable, such as coaxial cable and twisted pair, commonly referred to as Cat-5 or Cat-6. They can also include the different types of fiber-optics, like multi-mode and single-mode.

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Another advantage of a fiber-optic media converter is that it can connect different local area network (LAN) types. It can also modify speed and duplex settings. For example, a fiber-optic converter that has switching capability can connect a network segment that utilizes half duplex, a system that allows two-way communication but only one way at a time, to a faster, full-duplex system. A full-duplex system allows for simultaneous two-way traffic. The half-duplex could be a legacy 10baseT system, and the newer system could be 100baseT, and the converter would allow them to communicate over a fiber connection.

In the case of larger LANs, fiber-optic media converters are helpful in connecting separate networks that cover a large area. It can make separate LANs operate as one large LAN. For example, if you had a college campus that had a network for each department, connecting them with a fiber-optic media converter would allow for a faster and nearly seamless connection. This is particularly helpful because most LANs are still based on the slower, copper-based wiring. The fiber-optic media converter can also extend up to 80 miles using a single-mode fiber, a much greater distance than the older copper-based systems.

Another benefit of a fiber-optic media converter is price, as having a network that is totally fiber-optic can be expensive. They allow for a gradual upgrade to a fiber-optic network from the older, copper-based network types. Fiber-optic networks have several advantages over copper networks, including a higher speed of delivery, more reliable data delivery, and less interference from external sources. The converter types also are available in a broad range of sizes and functionality. They range from smaller, simple devices to high-end systems that have a multitude of functions.

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