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What is an Optical Transceiver?

2017-07-07 19:16:16 | fiber optic transceiver

Optical transceiver, also known as fiber optic transciever, is a device that uses fiber optic technology rather than conventional electrical wire to send and receive data. It is made of optoelectronic devices, functional circuits and optical interfaces. Optoelectronic devices include two parts: transmitter and receiver. To put it simple, a fiber optic transceiver serves as a photoelectric converter. The transmitter converts an electrical signal into a light signal, and then the receiver converts the light signal into an electrical signal after transmission through the optical fiber. Fiber optics is a rapidly growing field and can communicate complex information faster than conventional methods of transferring data.

optical module

How Does It Work?

The optical transceiver module is composed of both a transmitter and a receiver that are arranged in parallel so that they can operate independently. In the fiber optics, the transmission of data is in the form of light, because the transceiver has electronic components to encode or decode data into light pulses and then sends them to the other end as electrical signals in order to be utilized by an electronic device. The transmitter converts an electrical signal into an optical signal, which is connected with a connector and transmitted through a fiber optic cable. The light entering from the end of the cable is connected to a receiver where a semiconductor detector converts the light back into an electrical signal.



According to the package, there are six common types of fiber optic transceivers popular in the market, namely GBIC, XFP, SFP, SFP+, XENPAK, and X2.

1. GBIC (Gigabit Interface Converter). GBIC is designed for hot-plug. It is an interchangeable product meeting international standards. GBIC optical modules are used widely before SFP package.

2. SFP (Small Form-factor Pluggable). SFP is an upgraded version of the early GBIC module. It features smaller volume and higher integration than GBIC fiber module. It is currently the most popular optical module in the market.

3. SFP+. SFP+ optical module has been upgraded based on SFP with a higher transmission rate, usually up to 8.5G or 10G.

4. XFP. XFP transceiver (10 Gigabit Small Form Factor Pluggable) is a hot-swappable, independent of the communication protocol optical transceiver. XFP is usually used for 10Gbps SONET/SDH, Fibre Channel, Gigabit Ethernet and other applications, but also for CWDM DWDM link.

5. XENPAK. XENPAK is a multisource agreement (MSA), instigated by Agilent Technologies and Agere Systems. It’s a 10 Gigabit Ethernet optical transceiver which is independent of transceiver circuits and optical components. It can be plugged into a router or switch. But now XENPAK has been replaced by more compact devices providing the same functionality.

6. X2. X2 transceiver is a 10Gbps modular fiber optic interface intended for use in routers, switches and optical transport platforms. X2 modules are smaller and consume less power than XENPAK modules, but larger and consume more energy than XFP and SFP+ transceivers.

differen types of transceivers

Optical Transceivers are Used in a Variety of Applications

One of the most important attributes of optical transceivers is their ability to be compatible in a variety of communication applications. Most manufacturers choose them because they fit in a small footprint, and they are reliable. Besides, compatibility is one of the most common considerations in fiber optic transceivers. Take SFP fiber optic transceiver as an example, a SFP fiber optic transceiver on a network device (such as a switch, router, media converter, or similar devices) provides the device with a modular interface so that the user can easily adapt to various fiber optic or copper networking standards. They are designed to support SONET (Synchronous Optical Networking), Gigabit Ethernet, Fibre Channel, and other communications standards.


This article briefly tells about what an optical transceiver is, comprising its definition, its working mode, different types according to package and its usage. I hope it may be helpful to you!

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