Media converter is a bit of a catch-all term by itself. It refers to any device that can convert one type of signal into another type. A fiber media converter specifically refers to a media converter used to convert fiber cable to another format. Fiber media converters are sometimes just called fiber converters while general media converters are simply called converters. The phrase “fiber converters” is also typically used to describe fiber to copper (Ethernet) converters. Although other types of fiber converters do exist, they are much less common.

What are Fiber Media Converters?

Simply put, a fiber media converter is able to take fiber signals and translate them into Ethernet signals, or vice versa. Fiber transmissions are broadcast using light (lasers) signals, giving them a leg up over older cables with increased speed, less attenuation (signal loss), and greater maximum distance per cable. Ethernet signals are transmitted via electrical signals running through copper lines. On their own, these two types of signals are too different to be compatible. But with a fiber media converter, they are able to work together.

Both fiber and Ethernet signals use the same methodology for signal transmission. A series of light or electrical pulses are sent down the cables. These pulses flicker on and off very quickly, 1000s of times per second. When a pulse is on, a computer registers it as a “1”. When it is off, the machine picks up a “0”. These numbers are used to make up binary code that is translated into web pages, photos, videos, and more.

Types of Fiber Media Converters

Not all fiber media converters are made the same. Like most other electronics, some are made with different specs than others. While many of these factors have to do with performance rating, one variable concerns compatibility. Namely, media converters are all built for specific types of fiber optic connectors. This should be the first thing you look at when choosing a fiber converter. If the cables being used cannot plug into the converter, none of the other specs are going to matter.

With that first step taken care of, the next question is a relatively simple one: single mode or multimode? Like the fiber optic cables themselves, fiber converters will be rated for converters will usually be rated for one or the other. The exception to this is a fiber to fiber converter. This type of fiber converter is designed to go between single mode and multimode fiber instead of Ethernet and fiber.

The end of a fiber to fiber converter built for SC and ST connections

Speed is the next factor to take into account. Most fiber converters are built to handle either 100Mbps (short-handed as Megabit) or 1G (short-handed as Gigabit). While the word “Megabit” technically refers to an individual unit of data measurement, in this context it refers to 100 Megabits per second. These are going to be the run-of-the-mill average units used by schools, business offices, and similarly sized facilities. Gigabit connections are capable of data speeds 10x faster than that and are commonly used by the telecom industry, data centers, and other organizations that expect to move a lot of data fast on a regular basis.

The final key factor with fiber converters is the distance limit of the unit. While fiber signals are capable of traveling for many miles, whether they are able to do so is largely dependent on the equipment being used in conjunction with the cables. While one fiber converter often looks like any other fiber converter on the outside, they can be very different on the inside. One converter might handle signals for up to 2 kilometers while a near-identical unit is built to handle 20 kilometers. If a converter is being used for a network in a small building, more or less any unit will do. If the opposite end of the cable is located in a different zip code, make sure to select a unit capable of handling that distance.

When Should I Use a Fiber Media Converter?

The key function of any fiber media converter is to get over Ethernet’s limits, one of which is distance. A single Ethernet cable, regardless of which type of Ethernet is being used, can go a maximum of 328 feet (100 meters) by itself. With the right support equipment, this limit can extend up to 1.76 miles. By contrast, the weakest version of fiber optic cable has a maximum distance of 984 feet (300 meters) and can extend to over 24 miles with supporting equipment. More powerful forms of fiber go even further and hold more than triple that number with a maximum distance of up to 74 miles.

Fiber also provides much faster data speeds compared to Ethernet simply because light moves faster than electricity. Even slower fiber optic connections are more than capable of outpacing Ethernet. The exact specifications needed will vary from user to user, but fiber converters are used in data centers, the telecom industry, hospitals, manufacturing plants, schools, government offices, and even homes. As fiber networks continue to grow, fiber media converters will become increasingly essential to adapt this new technology to computers, printers, and other networked devices originally designed for Ethernet connections.

Have questions about fiber media converters, fiber optics in general, or any of our other products? You can reach our Sales team at 1-888-519-9505 or