Tips on Selecting an Ethernet Media Converter

January 9, 2014 at 10:00 AM


L-com Industrial Ethernet Media Converter (DIN Rail mounting)

Fiber optic technology is taking the Ethernet networking world by storm. It is faster, completely resistant to EMI/RFI, and offers incredible distances between nodes.

 

But fiber is not quite ready for all LAN applications. In many cases it makes sense to keep a copper network intact and lay a fiber network over it. So, here we find a need in our industry for a device that will convert seamlessly between the fiber optic network and the copper network without loss of speed.

 

We call these devices Ethernet media converters.

 

 

Industrial vs. Commercial

 

Commercial Media Converters

The first consideration in finding the proper converter for your application is whether your Ethernet media converter will be installed in a commercial or industrial environment. A commercial environment would include a typical office or clean room, and an industrial environment includes places with dust, moisture, temperature variations, vibrations, and other complications.

 

We've gone over the differences between the two in regards to switches before, but the same rules apply for media converters. It is very important not to confuse industrial versus commercial converters. While an industrial Ethernet media converter can operate in a commercial environment, it costs more and generally supports features not commonly found in a commercial environment such as DC power. On the other hand, a commercial Ethernet media converter should not be used in an industrial environment as network downtime and system failure can occur.

 


Single mode vs. Multimode

 

Fiber Glass Types

There are two main "modes" for fiber optic cabling: single mode and multimode. L-com has a great tutorial and video with in-depth explanation. In general, a single mode system is more expensive, but also provides better signal strength over large distances (up to 100km or more).

 

Multimode is much more affordable and can be used in distances of up to 2km, depending on network speed and bandwidth. Again, don't confuse the two! If you are running multimode cable, you need a multimode Ethernet media converter; a single mode version will not work.

 


Fiber Optic Connector Types

 

 

Fiber optic cables have their own unique connector types. There's a good video explaining fiber connectors here. Unlike copper, fiber connectors are very difficult to install properly in the field, and there aren't many options for converting a connector type with a passive adapter (although L-com does carry ST-SC, ST-FC and LC-SC adapters, among others, on its fiber optic adapters page). It is best to match the connector type with the device so they can be easily connected and no extra loss is incurred.

 

Remember, L-com stocks hundreds of factory terminated fiber optic cables off-the-shelf. We can custom manufacture fiber cables without minimum order quantities and with very short lead times, so you don't need to re-terminate or adapt a mismatched cable.

 

 

Other Features

 

Before ordering your media converter, also consider things like mounting method (DIN rails, 19" racks or chassis, or just placed on a shelf), network speed (10/100/1000 Mbps), and how you will get power to the unit. A properly installed media converter can both future-proof and provide redundancy for your network for years to come!

 

Quick note: Installing Ethernet media converters may require other components as well, such as fiber optic cables, Ethernet cables, and racks and accessories.
 
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