5 Tips for Choosing a Transceiver
When you’re designing or expanding a fiber optics network, there are many things to consider. The networks grow in complication very quickly, and any miscalculation can prove expensive, if not disastrous.
So, if you’re looking for the right transceivers for your network, you have to consider all of the angles. Thankfully, that’s a lot easier if you have a quick checklist that can keep you honest. Really, you can break all of this down into five categories to remember as you browse transceivers.
1. Pick Your Wavelength
In fiber optics, the wavelength is one of the most limiting factors. The wavelength will heavily impact the speed of the system, the range it can cover, what hardware is compatible and additional aspects of network design.
This decision starts with picking your wavelength; everything else follows after. Generally speaking, shorter wavelengths can hit higher speeds, but longer wavelengths can carry the signal farther. To get you started down that road, you can consider the three most common wavelengths and how they impact range.
- 850nm signals can only go around 500m.
- 1310nm signals can get up to 40km in distance.
- 1550nm signals can exceed 40km.
2. Check on Compatibility
There are a few different aspects of compatibility that you need to think about with your transceiver. The first, and often easiest, is the form factor. How do the cables plug into the transceiver? There are many types of form factors available for different reasons, but the most popular (with variations) still today are:
- GBIC – Gigabit Interface Converter
- SFP – Small Form-factor Pluggable
- SFP+ - Enhanced Small Form-Factor Pluggable
- QSFP+ - Enhanced Quad Small Form-factor Pluggable
- QSFP-DD – Quad Small Form-factor Pluggable Double Density
- SFP-DD – Small Form-factor Pluggable Double Density
There is also the issue of OEM compatibility. Each manufacturer can use its own proprietary signaling system. A Cisco transceiver might not be able to function in an Arista ecosystem. So, ensure that you are getting equipment that is compatible with what you already have.
Other compatibility questions to answer:
- Do you need hot-swappable transceivers?
- Do you need an LC, SC, MPO, RJ-45, or other connection?
- Do you need an Ethernet/Copper transceiver or a Fiber transceiver?
- What is the minimum fiber cable type that you need? OM3, OM4, OS2, MPO, etc?
3. Consider Speeds
Speed is a major concern. When it comes to fiber optics, you can get networks that are incredibly fast, but they are not cheap. Likewise, if you are trying to save money, sacrificing speed is one of the easiest ways to lower costs.
What data rates do you need for your network to function? You have to answer this question first. Then, you want to think about the future and how your data rates might grow over time. When you consider both aspects of data rates, you can pick the right transceiver. Higher data rates do not always mean a better network. Balancing your network performance wants and needs with cost / budget are more important.
While there are a variety of transceivers out there that can handle a wide range of data rates, the most popular used transceivers are usually live in the following data rate categories:
4. Think About Range
How far is the signal traveling? You already considered range a little when you picked your wavelength, but there’s more to the equation. Single-mode (SMF) vs multi-mode fiber (MMF) impacts range considerably. Single-mode fiber has a much larger reach at higher costs, while multimode fiber is advantageous in price with higher data rate capabilities.
Is your cable meters away from the signal source or kilometers away? Also, what max distance is your optic rated for? These are important questions that will dictate much of your decision. Pairing the right optic, with the right cabling to achieve the most efficient and stable throughput for your data is really what matters at the end of the day.
5. Know Your Environment
Fiber networks operate in all kinds of environments. A data center is substantially different from an outdoor monitoring network, and neither has much in common with an industrial production facility.
So, are your fiber cables running through walls? Do they lay under the ground? Or, are they just running from one device to another in the same room? How hot does it get? Are there corrosive elements? Are you worried about dust or water?
There are many environmental concerns, and you need to address them all. The biggest factor being temperature rates, which are subdivided into two working temperature ratings:
- Commercial transceivers – basic operating temp: 0 - 70° C / 32 - 158° F
- Industrial transceivers – basic operating temp: -40 – 85° C / -40 - 185° F
Your transceiver must be rated to work in its environment. If you are working in a harsh environment, there will be upcharges for more durable equipment, but it’s not an area where you can afford to skimp on your investment.
Ultimately, there is a perfect transceiver for every network set up. When you consider the primary aspects of network design and the specific metrics your transceiver needs to meet, you can get equipment that does the job well without overspending.
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