GBIC Transceiver or SFP Transceiver, Which One Is Better?

Photograph of fiber optics.
Lighting the way for data?

Gigabit Interface Converter (GBIC) and Small Form-factor Pluggable (SFP) transceivers are two ways you can connect your network devices on your network. As you know, an unshielded twisted pair (UTP) cable has a maximum working distance of 100M. This is due to signal degradation over the wire’s distance. A GBIC transceiver or its SFP alternative can help your network work past these distances. Generally, they connect fiber optic cable to a copper wire network.

These devices send and receive data between fiber and wire, so they’re called ‘trans-cievers’. The end of a fiber connection, usually two for two-way traffic, fits in the front of these transceivers. Then, the signal transforms into a signal transmitted down copper wires. Without these modules, you won’t be able to convert the signal. That means a GBIC transceiver or an SFP are necessary when using fiber optics. Here, we’ll look at the differences between a GBIC transceiver and its SFP counterpart. Then, we’ll see which you’ll likely use.

First, let’s take a look at what GBIC and SFP transceivers are.

GBIC and SFP Transceivers

Larger organizations may generally need to cover larger distances. As a result, they use fiber, because it can cover large distances at high data rates. To do this, you can use media converters. These convert copper wire connections to fiber. In turn, they can span the distances you need to cover. You can also link multiple media converters in series to meet your needs. These nodes effectively boost and filter the signal in these handy devices. 

Media converters come in a few different flavors that extend the transmission range. Notably, we can cite these 2 converters:

  1. Multi Media Converters have a range of 300m to 2000m depending on transmitting rate
  2. Single Mode Fibers have a range of 5000 to 10000 meters depending on transmitting rate

Others also use the ethernet port for similar purposes. But some devices also have deep rectangular holes. So how would you connect fiber to those? Simply add a GBIC transceiver! You could also add its SFP counterpart. Both are designed to transmit and receive, or transceive data between copper and fiber connections; hence the name.

Let’s consider the GBIC transceiver in more detail first.

What Is a GBIC Transceiver? 

GBIC transceivers provide a modular interface designed for Gigabit Ethernet to fiber connectivity. Transceivers enable you to plug them into media converters. Each signal as input is converted to either a fiber or copper equivalent signal. 

Here are some of the main attributes of a GBIC transceiver

  • Lets you connect network devices like remote switches and routers to your mainframe
  • Has a slightly larger footprint that makes it undesirable
  • Uses the popular standard connector (SC), a popular connection type
  • Has effectively been replaced by SFP and SFP+ transceivers that can work in the 4.25 GB/s to 10GB/s range respectively

Speaking of SFP, let’s consider this device in more detail.

What Is an SFP Transceiver? 

SFP is also known as a mini-GBIC. It looks and works almost identical to a GBIC transceiver. They’re also smaller and faster than GBICs. This is why they effectively devalued GBICs.

Now, let’s see some SFP features:

  • Offers faster connection, up to 10GB/s 
  • Adheres to the small form factor (SFF)
  • Takes up less space than a traditional GBIC transceiver, so it also uses MT-RJ and little connector (LC) 
Which transceiver is which?

GBIC vs SFP – What Are the Differences?

Below are some key features for you to easily see the common differences between GBIC and SFP. Here, you can see that the data rates possible for SFP far exceed GBIC. 

StandardData RateWavelengthMax DistanceConnector
GBIC TransceiverGBIC MSA155 Mbps
622 Mbps
1.25 Gbps
850 nm
1310 nm
1550 nm
CWDM
DWDMBIDI
120 kmSC, RJ-45
SFP TransceiverSFP MSA155 Mbps
622 Mbps
1.25 Gbps
2.125 Gbps
3 Gbps
4.25 Gbps
850 nm
1310 nm
CWDM
DWDMBIDI
160 kmLC, SC, RJ-45
An SFP transceiver is clearly more useful than a GBIC transceiver!

Final Thoughts

In this article, we’ve looked at GBIC transceivers and their SFP newer alternatives. You can see they’re a necessary component when connecting your intermediate distributed frames. They’re also essential to connect network devices over distances greater than 100 meters using fiber optics. 

Although both transceivers work in the same way, SFP provides you with much better performance. They also have a smaller footprint. That allows you to get smaller hardware devices with no negative performance characteristics. In essence, a GBIC transceiver is now outdated technology. 

If you’re a new administrator to a business, you may have to deal with both. It all depends on how new the infrastructure is. Alternatively, if you’re starting from scratch, it makes sense to choose an SFP for its speed and smaller form factor. 

Do you have more questions about GBIC and SFP? Check out the FAQ and Resources sections below!

FAQs

What is a GBIC transceiver?

Gigabit Interface Converter (GBIC) transceivers are a gigabit copper wire to fiber connector. They’re often installed into media converters. GBICs extend the maximum distance network devices can be connected through fiber technology. GBICs have been effectively replaced by Small Form-factor Pluggable (SFP) transceivers, which are smaller and faster. 

What is an SFP transceiver?

Small Form-factor Pluggable (SFP) transceivers have a smaller form factor when compared to Gigabit Interface Converter (GBIC) transceivers. SFPs are also called mini-GBICs. SFP and SFP+ transceivers can transmit or receive data between a copper and fiber interface at a faster rate than GBICs, working in the 10GB/s range. This helps improve your network’s performance.

How do I install an SFP transceiver?

Small Form-factor Pluggable (SFP) transceivers can be simply pushed into the rectangular socket of a media converter. The dust cover is removed from the sockets in the front of the transceiver. Then, fiber cables get pushed into place. Use these for local networks over areas spanning more than 100 meters.

Is installing a GBIC any different from an SFP?

The process is the same. Push the GBIC into the rectangular socket of the media converter. Remove the dust cap and push the fiber cables to the GBIC transceiver. The fiber connections will be different for GBIC transceivers. SFP uses smaller profile fiber connectors making it easier to manage your cables. That also reduces the amount of space needed in cabinets. 

Up to 100 meters depending on the data transfer rate. If you need to connect devices further than this, you may wish to use a fiber connection. Single fiber mode can cover a distance of up to 5000 to 10000 meters depending on transmitting rate. The benefit of using fiber includes less electromagnetic interference compared to UTP. 

Resources

TechGenix: Article on NICs

Discover how end users can benefit from a network interface card (NIC).

TechGenix: Article on Air-Gapping Security

Learn why air-gapping was one of the best security measures for a network.

TechGenix: Article on Automatic Configuration of NICs

Get up to speed on auto-configuring NIC cards.

TechGenix: Article on iSCSI or Fiber in a Virtual Environment

Find out what is better iSCSI or fiber in virtualization.

TechGenix: Article on Fiber Optics

Discover what fiber optics is and how you can use it effectively.

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