What are Copper Transceivers?

What Are Copper Transceivers?

In data centers and other high-speed networks, you often rely on fiber optics to supply enough bandwidth. Despite that, even the most advanced networks still benefit from enabling Ethernet devices. How do you reconcile the two?

In many cases, copper transceivers provide the answer.

What Is a Copper Transceiver?

To put it in simple terms, it’s a transceiver that enables communication over copper wires. In other words, it utilizes Ethernet communications. In most cases, copper transceivers work with Gigabit Ethernet, and you can find transceivers that work with anything from Cat5 to Cat8.

Primarily, these transceivers allow Ethernet devices to connect to high-end switches and infrastructure points utilizing the more affordable, universal communication type that is Ethernet.

What Is a Transceiver?

Then again, that description skips over something important. What is a transceiver in the first place?

Traditionally, these are devices used with fiber optics. The transceiver is an interconnection device that can send and receive data. It is necessary for the connection of fiber optic lines to the networking devices that manage the signals running through them.

As an example, if you have an SFP switch in a data center, you need a transceiver to connect the fiber optic line to the switch. Then, at the other end of the line, whatever device is connected there will also need a transceiver.

This necessity stems from the fact that transceivers are the specific devices that turn digital signals into optical signals and back again. Since computers and computerized devices use digital signals but fiber optic lines use optical signals, you need conversion devices to bridge the communication gaps between the signal types. That role is filled by transceivers.

Copper vs Fiber

But, wait. If transceivers are for fiber optics, why would you need copper transceivers? Copper transceivers allow Ethernet devices to work nicely with switches and hardware designed specifically for fiber optics.

Specifically, SFP switches are common for high speed and long distance communications. If you need to plug a copper device into an SFP port, it might not be preconfigured for Ethernet. A copper transceiver fixes the problem.

The copper transceiver will work in much the same way as any other transceiver and convert signals as necessary so that the switch can handle Ethernet communications.

In short, copper transceivers allow you to mix Ethernet with SFP fiber optics for a more adaptable network infrastructure.

All of that said, copper connections are not as fast as fiber optics, so when you use copper transceivers there is a performance trade-off. For more details, you can view the basic specs of copper and SFP connections in the table below.

Media Type Data Speeds Cable Range
Copper 10/100/1000 Mbps/10G 100/100/100m/30m
Multimode 1G/10G/25G/40G/100G 550m/400m
Single-mode 100Mbps/1G/10G 200m/5km/10km

For specific models to compare, try Cisco GLC-T, GLC-TE, and SFP-10G-T.

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