Home > Resources > Technical Resources > Black Box Explains > Networking > What is a Media Converter?

What is a Media Converter?

Black Box Explains: What is a Media Converter?

A media converter is a networking device that transparently converts Ethernet or other communication protocols from one cable type to another type, usually copper CATx/UTP to fibre. Media converters are often used in pairs to insert a fibre segment into copper networks to increase cabling distances and enhance immunity to electromagnetic interference. They can also extend LANs, and convert link speeds and fibre modes.

Benefits of Media Converters

  • Extend LAN Distance with Fibre

    Copper-based Ethernet connections are limited to a data transmission distance of 100 metres when using UTP cable. By using Ethernet to fibre conversion, you can extend link distance up to 80 kilometres or more.

  • Maintain Investments in Existing Equipment

    Media converters enable you to migrate a local network to fibre while protecting your investment in existing copper-based hardware. This means no costly, time-consuming overhaul to your infrastructure.

  • Protect Data from Interference

    Electromagnetic interference, or EMI, can cause corruption of data over copper-based Ethernet links. Data transmitted over fibre optic cable is completely immune to this type of noise, ensuring optimal data transmission and network performance.

  • Speed Conversion

    Media converters allow you to convert link speeds from 10 Mbps to 100 Mbps or from 100 Mbps to 1000 Mbps.

  • Power over Ethernet

    Power over Ethernet, or PoE, simplifies installation of Wi-Fi access point, IP cameras and more by eliminating the need for a local AC power circuit.

Types of Media Converters

Copper-to-Fibre Media Converters

Copper-to-fibre media converters enable connections of copper-based Ethernet equipment over a fibre optic link. This extends links over greater distances with fibre optic cable, protects data from noise and interference, and future-proofs a network with additional bandwidth capacity.

Discover our wide selection of copper-to-fibre media converters.

Fibre-to-Fibre Media Converters

Fibre-to-fibre media converters connect different fibre optic networks and support conversion from one wavelength to another. They provide connectivity between single-mode and multimode fibre, as well as between dual and single fibre.

Discover our fibre-to-fibre media converters.

PoE Media Converters

Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) media converters provide reliable and cost-effective fibre distance extension to PoE-powered devices. PoE media converters can power devices like IP phones, videoconferencing equipment, IP cameras and Wi-Fi devices over copper UTP cabling.

Learn more about our vast selection of PoE media converters.

Stand-Alone vs. Chassis-Based Media Converters

Stand-alone media converters are compact and can be AC or DC powered. They are commonly used to convert one copper link to fibre in point-to-point installs. These converters are easy to deploy and offer a range of useful functionality for your network, such as auto-MDI/MDIX, link fault pass through and more.

Chassis-based media converters are used in high-density locations such as a data centre or equipment room. They mount in racks alongside network switches, enabling the conversion of copper ports on legacy switches to fibre.

Managed vs. Unmanaged Media Converters

Managed media converters give network administrators complete control of data, bandwidth and traffic. This lets admins manage and troubleshoot a network remotely and securely to achieve and maintain optimal performance and reliability. Thus, these converters are most suitable for environments requiring a medium- to large-scale deployment of media converters.

Shop our selection of managed media converters now.

Unmanaged media converters are "plug-and-play" converters which are easy to install and troubleshoot. Unlike managed converters, these do not provide the same level of monitoring, fault detection and configuration.

Commercial vs. Industrial Media Converters

Commercial media converters are designed for typical office and data centre environments where ambient temperature is controlled. These converters provide a cost-effective way to extend the distance of your network and improve the life of copper-based equipment. They are perfect for commercial applications that do not deal with extreme environmental issues.

Industrial media converters convert data between twisted pair cabling and multimode or single-mode fibre optic cabling, extending the distance of a network. They are able to withstand extreme temperatures (-40°C to 75°C) and harsh conditions, feature redundant power design and are designed for high shock and vibration locations. This makes them a perfect fit for industrial networks. Industrial media converters are commonly used in applications such as building automation, oil and gas drilling and mining.

Learn more about our commercial media converters and industrial media converters.


Media converters for every application from the desktop to industrial environments »

Applications and Use Cases for Media Converters

  • Overcoming Copper's Limits

    Media converters extend LAN reach far beyond the 100 metre limit of copper CATx cabling by converting links to fibre. Fibre links enable link distances of up to 80 kilometres.

  • Enterprise

    PoE media converters backhaul Wi-Fi data and power access points, improving network functionality and reliability in commercial applications.

  • Security and Surveillance

    PoE+ simplifies installation of IP security cameras by eliminating the need for a power circuit near the installed device. PoE+ media converters power these devices and backhaul signals to remote data centres or operations centres.

  • Government and Defense

    Media converters provide secure, high-performance LAN connections from the data centre to desktops with fibre. Highly reliable with unsurpassed bandwidth, speed and security, fibre-to-the-desktop is a perfect fit for government and defense applications.

  • Fibre Mode Conversion

    Never worry about varying fibre types in your application again. Convert fibre links from multimode to single-mode and vice versa with media converters.

Which Media Converter Should You Choose?

Before you select a media converter, you must consider your current and future network requirements.

Find out how to pick the best media converter for your application by downloading our white paper How Media Converters Deliver Cost-Effective Fibre Connectivity.