The lowly media converter, the mainstream definition, was always an electrical to optical Ethernet transmission device. Traditionally it was considered to be a device to convert from copper media to optical fiber media and then back to copper, usually to send the data longer distances than the standard copper cabling can handle.

In today’s IP-centric world, media converters work with many different types of media and ComNet makes one for each.

A Note About Environmental Considerations

This article is to help you in selecting media converters, but there are some environmental factors to consider as you choose the right converter for your application.

Many applications are outdoors and not in climate-controlled environments. Electronics don’t like to be cold or wet so a harsh environment requires a hardened product that can withstand extreme temperatures, condensation, transient voltages, and other environmental factors.

You must work with a good partner who will help you pick an appropriate product.
ComNet offers technical support and a lifetime warranty on all hardened products, so you know you are getting performance and reliability.

Types of Media Converters

The three types of media converters include fiber optic, extended distance, and wireless. Since they all transmit Ethernet, they are all converting from a standard copper CAT5 or 6 cable, which has a limitation of 100 meters, or 328 feet.

An optical fiber media converter converts to a fiber optic cable and then back. Although an extended distance Ethernet media converter stays on copper cabling, it’s converting from a standard CAT5 or 6 to a non-standard copper cable, such as a coaxial cable or an unshielded twisted pair cable, or extending the distance significantly over a CAT5 or 6 cable, and then back to a standard cable.

A wireless Ethernet media converter works the same way as the above types but it’s converting the Ethernet to a radio frequency to be transmitted through the air.


Fiber Optic Media Converters

The number one benefit of using fiber optic media converters is the long distances they can carry an Ethernet signal. Standard copper Cat6 cables only carry the signal 100m, but a fiber optic media converter can extend that out over 100km or more!

The second most common reason for using a fiber optic media converter is to isolate the devices in an outside location from lightning or other electromagnetic interference. Optical fiber does not conduct electricity so any lightning strike or EMI will be isolated to that location and not carry back to the headend. These are even often used for very short runs in lightning-prone regions or industrial locations.

How do you choose the right fiber optic media converter? There are several features and specifications you will need to keep in mind.

Fixed optic or small form-factor pluggable

The first question is whether you need a fixed optic version or a unit that uses a small form factor pluggable, or SFP, that slides into the electronic unit and acts as your fiber optic transmission and receiving piece.

Fiber type

There are multi-mode or single-mode fiber types as well as determining whether it will use one or two fibers to make the connection.

Many systems used two fibers so that you can send data one way on the first fiber and then in the opposite direction on the second fiber. Also related to the physical cable that will be used is the type of connector on that fiber. There are ST, SC, and LC connectors.


Ethernet runs at different speeds, so you also have to decide what data speed you want running over that fiber. There is 100 Mb per second, 1000 Mb per second, also called gigabit, or multi-rate media converters that allow you to slide in either a 100 or a 1000 Mb per second SFP for flexibility.

Form factor

Form factor for the media converter comes in a mini size, a medium mini size, and a full size that would fit in a standard 19-inch electronics rack. These smaller units are good for fitting in small locations like enclosures or the mounting arms/back boxes of IP cameras. The full-size variants can be shelf or wall-mounted or slid into a 14 slot card cage with no modifications.

Pairing units

Another specification to note with fiber optic media converters is pairing appropriate units.

When using just one fiber between the transmitter and the receiver you should pair an A unit with a B unit. The model number will tell you which it is. When you are using a duplex (two) fiber optic cable between the transmitter and receiver, both units have the same model number.

Power supply

The last option to consider is whether you need power over Ethernet at the remote location for your camera or other IP devices.

ComNet has options for 15 Watts, 30 W, or even 60 W for the outdoor-rated IP PTZ cameras. And of course, all units can ship with the correct power supply.


Extended Distance Media Converters

The main reason installations use extended distance Ethernet media converters is a retrofit application where you are moving from an analog camera infrastructure to an IP camera infrastructure.

Copperline Ethernet converterThese media converters allow you to use the existing coax cable or UTP cable and run Ethernet on it instead of the analog signal. This can equate to cost savings versus pulling out the existing cabling and running new Cat6.

The second most common benefit of extended distance media converters is sending an IP signal much farther than the standard hundred meters over Cat6 without having to switch to more expensive optical fiber cabling and optical fiber media converters. Many extended distance Ethernet media converters can transmit an IP signal over 2000 feet.

Installers choose extended distance Ethernet vs. fiber optic because the pass-through PoE allows one power source, like a PoE switch, to power all devices on the line. Power is transmitted from the PoE switch, powering both of the media converters while passing power up to the camera at the end of the line.

This makes for a much quicker installation and also means you don’t need to worry about finding power at the camera location. ComNet makes versions for up to 15 Watts or 30 Watts.

Please note that the amount of POE you need at the end of the line will affect the distances you can successfully travel over any copper cable, so please consult our datasheets for specific limitations.

Although ComNet has several product lines that perform this media conversion, our most comprehensive and popular segment is Copperline® distance extending media converters. It comes in 15- and 30-Watt models, various useful form factors, five different ways to power the modules, and 1 to 16 channel units.


Wireless Ethernet Media Converters

Last in the series are wireless Ethernet media converters. This is a little different in that we are converting the binary code of Ethernet from an electronic signal to a radio frequency signal and then back again.

NetWave NWK 11/MThe number one reason people use wireless Ethernet vs. fiber optic and extended distance is because the cabling infrastructure necessary to carry the signal is not required. Trenching for new cabling is very expensive, complicated, and difficult to accomplish in many environments. This represents huge cost savings by using wireless transmission methods.

The second big benefit is the speed of deployment. If you have power on-site, the installation of a wireless Ethernet media converter can be very quick and effective.

There are many different models available, ones that offer high throughput, up to 500 Mbps, but the one that is easy to use, easy to install, and acts as a true wireless media converter is called the NetWave® NWK11/m and NWK1 kits from ComNet.

This application is a simple point-to-point solution. The NetWave® NWK 11/M and NWK1 kits include everything needed to set up a wireless link. The kits are preconfigured in the factory and MAC locked so that installation on the bench or in the field is simple, quick, and reliable. These have allowed installers with no previous experience using radiofrequency products to successfully implement a wireless Ethernet media converter solution.


Talk To Our Ethernet Media Conversion Experts

Now that you know a little bit more about the features and specifications of the various types of media converters, ComNet can help you get started by choosing the right component(s) for your network.

Our team has expertise in all areas of Ethernet media conversion and will work with you to determine which solutions are best suited for your application.

Need help deciding on different components of your network?