Differences Between SFP Module and Media Converter

Posted on Dec 16, 2023 by

SFP optical transceivers and media converters are the equipment for photoelectric conversion. Are they interchangeable? What are the differences? Learn here.

SFP Module vs Media Converter: What are They?

The SFP module is a hot-pluggable optical transceiver used for connecting network switches. It converts electrical signals to optical signals and vice versa. For 1G SFP modules, there are fiber SFP and RJ45 transceivers. The fiber SFP module can support SONET, Gigabit Ethernet, Fiber Channel, and other communication standards. This SFP type uses fiber patch cables to transmit and receive data, while RJ45 transceiver transmits via Ethernet cables like Cat5e, Cat6 cables.

Media converters receive data signals from one media and transmit them to another. There are two kinds of conversion: copper-to-fiber and fiber-to-fiber. Copper-to-fiber media converters are used when the transmission distance of copper ports needs to be extended via fiber optic cabling. For the fiber-to-fiber media converter, they support conversion not only between multimode fiber and single mode fiber but also a dual fiber link and single fiber using Bi-directional (BIDI) flow. Conversions between different wavelengths can also be achieved by some fiber-to-fiber media converters.

module vs converter

SFP Module vs Media Converter: What are the Differences?

Working principle

Clearly, SFP modules are functional modules or accessories. They act as passive devices that can not be used alone. SFP modules are usually deployed in network switches or other devices with SFP slots, and powered by matching equipment. Then, these SFP modules perform the conversion between electric and fiber by fiber patch cables, and sometimes use Ethernet cable if RJ45 transceivers are deployed. While media converters are separate active devices, and can be used alone. They use individual power supply.


SFP modules usually are used in optical network communication equipment like network switches, core routers, or servers. As Figure 1 shows, two 1G SFP LX modules are deployed separately on two 1G network switches. One OS2 fiber cable connects the two SFP modules to achieve this 1G link.

SFP module application

Media converters are a suitable choice when Ethernet cable can not be covered and optical fiber must be used to extend the transmission distance. As Figure 2 shows, each Gigabit Ethernet media converter is deployed on both side A and side B. Side A switch delivers data via Ethernet cable to the media converter A. This media converter converts copper to fiber and uses a 1G SFP fiber module and OS2 fiber to transmit data to converter B. Media converter B receives the data by another 1G SFP module and sends data to Side B network switch also via Ethernet cable.

media converter application


Can SFP module be used in conjunction with the media converter?

They can work together. But note that, the speed of SFP module and media converter should be the same, 1 gigabyte connects 1 gigabyte, and 10 gigabytes connects 10 gigabytes.

SFP Module vs Media Converter, are they interchangeable?

Commonly they can not. They are different devices and are used in different scenarios. SFPs in the network switch can offer alarming and failure reporting (DOM) so that technicians can check the network failure by the information. Media converters are a solution where a switch or connected device does not support optical or needs to extend the transmission distance.

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