Media converters extend network reach

If you are one of the many corporations that has existing legacy copper infrastructure, but wish you had the density and the speed of fibre, there may be an alternative to ripping up the floors and rewiring your office. Allied Telesyn has developed a pair of media converters that do just that – convert legacy copper to fibre to extend network reach.

According to the Bothell, Wash.-based company, the AT-MC1400 (multimode fibre) and AT-MC1500 (singlemode fibre) convert 1000Base-T copper connection to 1000Base-SX or LX fibre connections and stretch the reach of gigabit Ethernet segments up to 10Km.

“If you are running gigabit Ethernet over copper cable, you are physically restricted to the distance you are allowed to travel,” said James Mustarde, director of marketing for Allied Telesyn. “The alternative you have is fibre-optic cable. Fibre-optic cable has a lot less interference because the transmission is light rather than electromagnetic waves. Therefore you can transmit Ethernet an awful lot further with fibre than copper.”

Mustarde noted that as Ethernet speeds have increased, companies have found it necessary to review how they physically architect their networks. He said that adding a switch adds a lot of cost to increasing the reach of the network, which is where the media converters essentially come in.

“A media converter is a little box and on the one side is a power supply and on the other are two ports,” he explained. “The joy of media converters is that you can choose what you want to convert between. Gigabit Ethernet – because it is transmitting at 1000Mbps – the physical distances over copper are fairly short. Fibre offers the distance that you might wish to transmit. What you have seen in the last four to six months is the emergence of gigabit Ethernet and there are more people using 100Base-T Ethernet within the enterprise. What they want to be able to do is plug 1000Base-T copper and convert it to fibre. Media converters are an extremely simple way to allow people to achieve what they need to achieve be it an end solution or an interim solution.”

Laurie Vickers agreed, calling media converters a patch or fix technology. Vickers, a senior analyst with the voice and data networking group with Cahners In-Stat Group in Scottsdale, Ariz. said that media converters are essentially a way to get from point A to point B without having to buy all new equipment.

“For companies that are using a lot of fibre or want to upgrade their backbone to gigabit, (media converters) would be a cheaper way to get into it with the rapidly dropping costs of gigabit Ethernet copper,” she said. “The real situations for the media converters is where you’ve installed something you wished you hadn’t and you are trying to find a way to get more use out of it. Cabling is the last thing to turn over. It has the longest life cycle, so these media converters can be a total life saver in those instances like when you are talking about a university that has no budget and already ran copper between their buildings, and are trying to eke some more distance out of it.”

That is precisely what the media converters from Allied Telesyn aim to offer, Mustarde said. He explained that for people running a network who want to connect more than seven units to an outside location back to the same point, it likely makes more sense to purchase a 24-port switch with fibre, rather than having a multitude of media converters.

“When you face the limitation of connecting one point or one device to another and you come across a restriction in that physical distance, then that is when you are going to deploy a media converter to insert a segment of fibre to carry you that extra distance,” he said. “It really is as simple as that. It is a marvellous way of broaching that distance limitation of high-speed.”

The AT-MC 1400 and 1500 gigabit Ethernet media converters are available now and are priced at US$695, and US$1,495 respectively. Details can be found at