Understanding Copper/Fiber Media Converters

August 28, 2013 at 10:00 AM

What is a Media Converter?

 

Diagram of fiber optic premise wiring converted to copper with media converters

A media converter is used to extend Cat 5e/6 Ethernet cabling to distances beyond the 100 meter maximum for Ethernet by converting IP voice/video/data signals to fiber optic cabling.

 

Where are Media Converters used?

 

Media converters are used in environments where EMI/RFI is present, such as manufacturing facilities and other industrial environments. Other applications include campus networks where many buildings need to be connected via fiber. Also, high-rise buildings typically use a fiber backbone, which is laid vertically and taps into copper (UTP) networks on each floor via a media converter.

 

L-com's Media Converter offering

 

L-com offers media converters designed for both commercial and industrial use.

 

Commercial-grade fiber-to-copper media converters from L-com

 

L-com Ethernet Media Converter 10/100TX to 100FX MM SC 2km

- Plug-and-play installation
- Rugged metal case ensure longevity
- Multimode and Single-mode versions available
- Easy-to-read LEDs provide at-a-glance system status information
- Operating temp: 0°C to +70°C 

 

Industrial DIN Rail Media Converters from L-com

 

LCMC Media Converters

- 35mm DIN rail mounting
- Rugged aluminum case
- 24V DC power input
- Plug and play
- Operating temp: -40°C to +70°C

 

Tutorial on Coaxial Cabling

July 3, 2013 at 10:00 AM

 

 

 

Coax is one of the most venerable cabling standards having been developed for the US military over 50 years ago. Unlike some standards that were popular for a while and eventually became legacy, coaxial cabling is still very relevant and used in a lot of common applications. It is a robust and reliable cable type with no sign of going away any time soon.

 

 

 Types of Coax Cabling

 

As you can imagine, over the years that coax has been around, many variations have been designed for specific applications. We will talk about the Radio Guide (RG) styles and the low-loss styles that were made popular by Times Microwave's LMR® standard. Though there are many other coax options like mini coax, twinaxial and tri-axial, the applications for those have dwindled in recent years.

 

 

RG-style Coaxial Cable

 

The original Radio Guide standard called for a number followed by codes to determine specific aspects of the cable (such as jacket type, center conductor material, etc.). However, today many of the standards have become "soft" meaning that RG58B/U, for instance, may have very different characteristics from manufacturer to manufacturer.

 

Exposed view of a coaxial cable

Most RG numbers refer to cables made with specific diameters (as thicker diameters typically have lower attenuation over long lengths), shielding, jacket type, and dielectric type. The dielectric is important as it can control the "characteristic impedance" of the cable. In general, cables with a characteristic impedance of 50 Ohms are used in data and wireless network applications, and cables with a characteristic impedance of 75 Ohms are used in higher bandwidth audio/video applications.

 

The bottom line about RG-style coax cable: if you need to get a specific type for your application, you should include the characteristics of the cable with your request. The actual standard may have some variations that would make the off-the-shelf product unsuitable for some circumstances.

 

 

Low-loss Coaxial Cable

 

Low-loss cable is almost exclusively used in wireless applications. It is ideal for any antenna-to-radio setup, and is often used extensively in wireless system installations. Low loss cable is often referred to by its series number, such as 200-Series cable, which is usually a rough approximation of the diameter of the cable. The higher the number (ie, 400, 800, etc), the thicker and heavier the cable, and the less attenuation over the length. Because of this, higher series numbers are typically used in cases where the antenna is permanently installed at some distance from the radio. Lower series numbers are used in cases where the antenna is closer, especially in portable setups where the weight of the cable is important.

 

 

Connectors

 

There are a large variety of coaxial connectors, usually designated by a letter or combination of letters. Most coaxial connectors are round or hex shaped, and can come in screw-on, push-on, or twist-lock designs. Be extra careful if you need a connector that is called "reverse polarized" or preceded with the letters "RP". These connectors are similar to the regular polarity versions except that the gender of the connector is reversed, making it unable to mate unless it is with another RP style connector. For a complete list of coaxial connectors with large images, try this coaxial connector chart.

 
If you are in need of coax: L-com has carried RG style coax cable and assemblies for decades, and together with our vast collection of low-loss coax cables it is one of the most comprehensive in the industry.
 

Low Loss Coaxial Cable for Wireless Applications

June 26, 2013 at 10:00 AM

 

Closeup of Low Loss Coaxial Cable Stripped to Show Components

Even in a wireless network, cables and wires are still used to connect components together (access points to amplifiers, amplifiers to antennas, etc). Each component needs cabling to interact.

 

If you are a wireless engineer and need to interconnect components, chances are you are using low loss coaxial cabling. While 50 Ohm RG-style coax is sometimes used, the attenuation is usually too much for any length over just a few feet. This is where low loss coaxial cable comes in.

 

 

Coaxial Cable and RG-Style Coax

 

All coaxial cable works the same way: the signal is run over two "axes" (thus the name). Coaxial technology is one of the oldest signal cabling types, and is still used today for a specific reason: it is robust and can carry a signal very well over a long distance. In general, the thicker the cable, the less "loss" or attenuation of signal there is over the length of the cable.

 

The original standards for coaxial cable were set forth by the US military. These cables used the term "RG" (for "Radio Guide" or "Radio Government") followed by a number to designate the standard. This worked well at the time, but as technology became more and more utilized in commercial and non-military applications, the restrictions of the standard became less rigid (to the point where RG316, for instance, may have very different properties today depending on who manufactures it).

 

 

Times Microwave LMR® Cables

 

No matter who makes the RG-style cables, they have one fundamental problem: the signal degrades over the length of the cable until it is no longer useable. For shorter use in labs or machine-to-machine applications, this is not a problem. But in wireless applications, the signal integrity up until it is broadcast through the antenna is critical.

 

For that reason, Times Microwave Systems developed a low loss version of coax that it branded as its LMR® series coax. The newly-engineered solution offered far lower loss and better RF shielding, making them a much better choice for wireless systems than the RG styles.

 

Outside of Times Microwave Systems' product (the term LMR® refers specifically to Times Microwave Systems product and is trademarked for their use), several other companies now offer low-loss coaxial cables. These generally follow a similar naming convention as what Times Microwave Systems uses: a three-digit "series" number that refers to both the thickness of the cable and the low loss properties.

 

For instance, 100-series low loss coax is thinner and has greater loss than 200-series, which is thinner and has greater loss than 400-series, etc.

Diagram of most common low-loss coaxial cables

Note that with thicker cable factors such as cable weight and flexibility must be considered. However, there are now ultra-flex versions of thicker series like the 400-series that offer similar loss characteristics but are far more flexible.

 

Quick note: L-com has been manufacturing high-quality coaxial cables and components for over thirty years.
 

DB9 D-Subminiature Connectors : Advantages and Disadvantages

June 19, 2013 at 10:00 AM

9-pin D-Sub connectors (DB9 or DE-9)

 

DB9 Connector on Cable

For many years, serial communication was one of the chief methods of connecting peripherals (such as joysticks, printers, and scanners) to PCs. The most common connector type for serial communication was the 9-pin D-Subminiature connector, or sometimes called a DB9 or a DE-9.

 

Nine pins were plenty to carry the data in series, and though there were many drawbacks to DB9 connectors which eventually lead to them becoming legacy in favor of standards like USB, there are still many devices with DB9 ports or cables on them today.

 

 

What are the disadvantages?

 

The connectors themselves are large, making them difficult to connect and disconnect in tight spaces. Also, the pins are exposed in the shell, so they can be easily bent or broken off. Though the connector can be mated without using the thumbscrew hardware, it does not tend to hold as well using just friction-fitting. If you do use the thumbscrews, the connector takes much longer to plug in and unplug.

 

Finally, serial communication tends to be slow, especially over longer lengths, and unexpected breaks in communication could cause software on the PC to freeze. All of these problems led to other standards becoming more popular for the same applications.

 

However, this does not mean that the DB9 connector is a lost cause. There are actually solutions available for many of the problems mentioned above. For instance, right angle adapters solve the tight-space problem by allowing a tight angle without damaging the connector. Widely available D-Subminiature plug and jack covers can protect pins from damage when not mated, and adapters like gender changers and socket savers can reduce the stress caused by repeated mating cycles.

 

 

On the other hand...

 

ES4-232 4-Port Ethernet to DB9 Adapter and Device Server

DB9 connectors have advantages too. In general they are far easier to customize, with at least 9 individual pins to carry serial data. Though the speed is slower than other standards, the length of the cable can be much longer. USB, for instance, has a five-meter length limit, but RS-232 (the most common standard for serial data) has no defined length limit, and RS-422 has been used at lengths hundreds of meters long with special equipment.

 

Also- Don't worry if you have an old device that only has DB9 connectors on it. Even with D-Subminiature being mostly legacy, there are plenty of options for conversion. Converters to and from USB, Ethernet, and other standards are common and can allow you to use your device on any computer today.

 

Examples of Applications for Serial Converters

If you're looking to find DB9 Connectors: L-com carries products ranging from economical serial cables with many off-the-shelf lengths to high-quality premium cables for demanding applications. Also check out L-com's D-Subminiature adapters for innovative solutions to common problems, and L-com's bulk cable, connectors, adapter kits and tools for do-it-yourself components.
 

Cat 6 Shielded vs. Unshielded

June 5, 2013 at 10:00 AM


Category 6 cable with drain wire

Category 6 or Cat6 Ethernet cable is designed to provide up to 1 Gbps Ethernet transmission, and is required for 1000 Base-T style networks. However, the choice to use unshielded twisted pairs (UTP) or shielded (or screened) twisted pairs (STP or ScTP) depends on the location of the installation.

 

Typically, the shield is only required in cases where the cable is run through an area of high electro-magnetic interference or radio frequency interference (EMI/RFI), such as output by strong power lines, motors, magnets, and radio antennas. Outside of these situations, the shield does not help provide a faster or clearer signal, and can add more problems than it solves.

 

Pros and cons 

 

Without a shield, Cat 6 UTP cable is already resistant to minor and typical forms of EMI/RFI, such as having a fluorescent light or small motor nearby. In these cases, you should always run the cable at a 90° angle to the source of the interference in order to minimize exposure. Otherwise UTP is cheaper, lighter, and just as effective as STP.

 

If you need STP cable, you have to remember that the shield itself must drain, otherwise EMI/RFI can build up on it and degrade the signal inside. Drainage is typically done at the connection site by using a shielded coupler or jack that is connected to ground.

 

Also note that the weight of shielded cable, while not very heavy, can be significant if you are running multiple cables in an area. In some cases, heavy cabling run above a ceiling or behind a wall has caused collapses and structural damage over time.

 

Quick note: Visit L-com's Ethernet Product Center for a huge selection of common and hard-to-find Ethernet cabling solutions, including shielded, harsh-environment, special jacketed and more.
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