Copper to Fiber Media Converter Application Guide

Posted on Sep 22, 2021 by

In network systems, in addition to the traditional widely used copper Ethernet networks, fiber optic networks are gradually being adopted by home and business owners for long distance networking and high bandwidth. However, since most primary routers and edge network devices lack fiber ports, copper to fiber media converters become necessary in most cases.

Table of Contents

Ethernet Copper to Fiber Media Converter Applications

TDM Copper to Fiber Media Converter Applications

Serial to Fiber Media Converter Applications

Ethernet Copper to Fiber Media Converter Applications

Copper to fiber media converter is an important branch of media converter or fiber media converter. It is widely deployed to achieve seamless conversion of copper and fiber cables, largely extending the transmission distances and improving efficiency. In fact, fiber optic media converters have a wide variety of applications in practical scenarios. To be specific, copper to fiber media converters can be roughly divided into four types, including Ethernet copper to fiber media converters, TDM (Time Division Multiplexing) copper to fiber media converters, serial-to-fiber media converters and specialized fiber media converters. Here we’ll list some common applications of copper to fiber media converters respectively.

Ethernet copper to fiber media converters serve as the most basic type supporting 10/100/1000Mbps or 10Gbps, which are applied to a variety of common scenarios, including point-to-point, high-density fiber distribution and redundant fiber/copper applications.

Point-to-Point Application

Point-to-point connection is a data link between two communication endpoints or nodes. This is the most basic and direct usage. For example, a pair of media converters can be used in point-to-point connections that connect two Ethernet switches (or routers, servers, hubs) via a fiber cable, or to connect switches to the workstation and file server.

It should be noted that the maximum transmission distance for copper to fiber media converters depends on the type of copper cable and the fiber media type. Standard Ethernet copper cables like Cat 5e have a 100-meter limit, while 10GBASE-T over Cat 6a spans 55 to 100 meters. Multimode fiber is used for shorter distances (e.g., 550m for 1000BASE-SX). Single-mode fiber is for longer ranges, up to 5km for 1000BASE-LX. Actual distances can also vary based on factors such as cable quality.


Figure 1: Point-to-Point Application.

High-Density Fiber Distribution Application

High-density fiber distribution is needed in large data centers, enterprise and campus networks. In these cases, a number of fiber media converters are deployed. For better management and space saving, they are usually installed in a redundant power chassis.

Below is a demonstration of a typical application scenario, and some media converters are installed in a redundant power supply chassis and are used to distribute high-density fiber from the UTP switch device (A) at the core of the network. An Ethernet switch (B) is connected to the network core with a standalone media converter via a fiber. Another media converter connects a PC RJ45 port in a fiber-to-desktop (FTTD) application (C). An Ethernet switch (D) is connected directly via fiber to the media converter linked with the core switch.


Figure 2: High-Density Fiber Distribution Application.

Redundant Fiber/Copper Application

Redundant Ethernet media converters are designed with three ports to offer link redundancy through either fiber or copper connections. Via the built-in DIP (dual in-line package) switches, the converter can be configured as 2-port redundant mode, which supports auto-recover function. Provided that one cable link is broken, the redundant link is enabled to ensure 100% uptime. They are designed for mission-critical network applications that require fibers or copper links to automatically recover less than 10ms (millisecond), such as ISPs (Internet Service Provider), telecom, hospitals, banks and enterprises.

Furthermore, the redundant links can be established over multiple paths, which can be either parallel—providing redundancy within the same geographical area—or distributed across different locations, enhancing network resilience against physical and localized disruptions.


Figure 3:Redundant Application.

TDM Copper to Fiber Media Converter Applications

TDM copper to fiber media converters enable TDM data transmission over fiber optics by converting electrical signals from copper cables to optical signals. Essential for extending traditional TDM-based telecom networks, they allow legacy TDM systems to take advantage of the benefits of fiber optic technology, such as increased bandwidth, immunity to electromagnetic interference, and vastly improved data integrity over long distances. T1/E1 and T3/E3 converters are two common types. The application is often within a building, building complex or campus.

- T1 interfaces are typically used in North America and provide a transmission rate of 1.544 Mbps, encapsulating 24 individual channels, while E1 interfaces are common in Europe and other regions and have a higher capacity of 2.048 Mbps, accommodating 30 channels.

- T3 (44.736 Mbps) and E3 (34.368 Mbps) are higher-order versions of T1/E1 that provide higher bandwidth and are therefore particularly useful in high-volume data transfer scenarios.

T1/E1 Application

T1/E1 copper to fiber media converters often provide diagnostic features to support the installation and maintenance of T1 or E1 connections. They enable the deployment of fiber into campus or industrial environments where fiber is free from electrostatic interference noises, making these converters especially important.

In this application, a pair of T1/E1 media converters are used to extend the demarcation point (hand-off from the Service Provider) to another tenant building with fiber. They operate in pairs extending distances of TDM circuits over fiber.


Figure 4: T1/E1 Application.

T3/E3 Application

T3/E3 copper to fiber converters provide coax-to-fiber conversion and can be framing independent to operate with framed or unframed, channelized or fractional unchannelized data streams. They can be used to connect to devices such as PBXs (private branch exchange), multiplexers, routers and video servers via fiber (Seen in Figure 5). T3/E3 media converters also provide a cost-effective solution for extending telecom demarcation points.


Figure 5: T3/E3 Application.

Serial to Fiber Media Converter Applications

Serial to fiber media converters are devices that bridge the gap between serial communication protocols (such as RS-232, RS-485, or RS-422) and fiber optic networking. These converters enable the extension of serial communications over greater distances using the advantages of fiber optic technology. These converters can identify the signal baud rate of connected full-duplex serial devices automatically, supporting both point-to-point and multipoint configurations.

RS-232 Application

RS-232 fiber media converters facilitate reliable connections with a wide array of serial devices by supporting essential hardware flow control signals and operating asynchronously. While RS-232's accessibility contributes to its popularity, it is limited by short transmission range and vulnerability to noise interference. One significant limitation of RS-232 is its point-to-point communication protocol, which restricts its ability to support a multi-drop configuration. In this setup, each device must manage permissions to transmit, and RS-232's single-ended signaling isn't designed for such complex device communication.

In this application, a PC gets access to a terminal server via a serial connection in which two RS-232 fiber media converters are used to achieve the integration of fiber and copper cables.


Figure 6: RS-232 Application.

RS-422 Application

RS-422 fiber media converters offer significantly enhanced features over RS-232 converters. They are capable of transmitting data over much longer distances, support multi-drop network configurations, and exhibit superior resistance to electromagnetic interference, resulting in improved noise immunity.

In this application, RS-422 converters are deployed in a bookend configuration to enable serial network distance extension over fiber. They are installed at each end of the fiber link and provide media conversion for connectivity between a serial host/controller and multi-drop serial devices.


Figure 7: RS-422 Application.

RS-485 Application

RS-485 fiber media converters are widely utilized in various multi-point systems where a single computer orchestrates the operation of numerous devices. Boasting a multi-drop capability and long-distance data transmission efficacy comparable to RS-422, RS-485 converters excel with enhanced control and receive functions, enabling more reliable and efficient device management and communication.

In this application, a pair of RS-485 converters provide the multi-drop connection between the host equipment and connected multi-drop devices via fiber cable.


Figure 8: RS-485 Application.


Copper to fiber media converters will continue to be in great demand for a long time due to ever-growing requirements for transmission distance and smooth network upgrade. As an essential bridge in contemporary networking, they enable compatibility between legacy copper infrastructures and advanced fiber optics, and facilitates extended reach and bandwidth without the need for immediate, large-scale overhauls, these converters economically optimize existing systems. Ethernet, TDM, and serial applications each benefit from tailored converters that enhance connection quality, resistance to interference, and network expansion capabilities. Within data centers, industrial settings, and telecommunications, the deployment of such media converters ensures that data networks remain robust, adaptable, and future-proof. Consequently, copper to fiber media converters are a critical investment for any organization striving to merge traditional connectivity with the high-speed, resilient demands of modern data communications.

Related Article:

What Is Media Converter and How to Choose It?

How to Use Fiber Media Converter in Your Network?

Fiber to Fiber Media Converter Application Guide

Single-Mode vs. Multimode Media Converters: Differences Explained

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