Copper SFP vs Optical SFP: Which One Is the Best to Use?

The war of copper vs fiber has raged for years. Fiber seems to operate as a rival to copper rather than a replacement until now, it has already established a niche in the industry. However, with recent advances in copper technology, the copper presents the same step-ladder upgrade path. The speed difference between the two media is considerably smaller. In some ways, the copper matters most to IT experts and data center decision makers. But many end-user organizations still face tough decision about which type is the best overall value for their current and future projected needs. This battle is also being waged in SFP transceivers, there is a measurable difference in the copper SFP vs optical SFP. This article will explore their respective strengths and weaknesses and reveal insights into how IT experts are to proceed.

Copper SFP vs Optical SFP banner

Copper SFP vs Optical SFP: Copper SFP Is a Balanced Choice in Environment Restrictions

The Gigabit RJ45 copper SFP transceiver supports 1000Mbps over Cat5 cables with RJ45 connector interface, which operates on standard Cat5 unshielded twisted-pair copper cabling of link lengths up to 100 m (328 ft). GLC-T is a typical Cisco 1000BASE-T SFP copper RJ-45 transceiver. For short-distance links on a Gigabit switch, it makes no difference if you use SFP ports or RJ45 ports to interconnect switches. Copper SFP is popular to be used for short range uplinks, as it’s easier and cheaper to use 1G copper SFPs and patch cables. And SFP ports are primarily for allowing fiber connections over longer distances. Especially in some case, Copper SFP will make sense if the switch on one side does not have copper ports but SFP slots and the switch on the other side only has copper and can’t be fitted with fiber ports. Or if you don’t need the distance of fiber, you can consider converting SFP to RJ45, which will depend on the switch to determine what copper speeds (10/100/1000) are supported on a copper SFP. Moreover, using copper SFPs to connect the regular copper Gigabit ports is a wise choice to make the best use of the corresponding number of SFPs on existing connected switches.

Copper SFP

Copper SFP vs Optical SFP: Fiber SFP Is More Flexible in Long Distance

The optical fiber SFP modules with LC or SC optical connectors are available in Fast Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet. And these SFP modules are industrially rated to perform in the most difficult operating environments. The SFP fiber module offers different wavelengths and optical power budget to allow distances from 550m to 120km. A variety of 1Gbps SFP modules in different distance can be found in FS.COM. Some statics also shows that the legacy SFP can hit 4.25Gb/s at 150m, or up to 1.25Gb/s for 160km runs and a variety of ranges/speeds in between depending on type of fibre. Generally, when the distance of the run is over 328 ft/100 m, fiber SFP module must be considered instead of copper SFP RJ45 module, since 1000Mbps could only go as far as 100m over copper cabling. In that sense, optical fiber SFP offers the substantial advantage over copper SFP.

Fiber SFP

Copper SFP vs Optical SFP

  • Operating Temperature

For the standard fiber SFP and copper SFP, there is no difference for the operating temperature – they support 0 to 70°C (32 to 158°F) case temperature as default. In fact, there is more heat dissipated for optical or electrical transmission in the specific applications. Generally, the copper SFPs run much hotter than the fiber SFPs. There are two factors that affect the temperature: power consumption and the case surface. The typical power consumption of fiber SFPs is 0.8W, the copper SFP is 1.05w, that’s why copper SFP have a higher case temperature. In the same environment, the fiber SFP runs at 40°C (104°F) while the copper SFP should run around 52°C (126°F).

  • Distance

As mentioned above, copper SFP supports the max cable distance is 100m, so it is commonly used to interconnect between switches and servers in horizontal and shorter-length backbone applications. While the fiber SFP allows the transmission distance up to 120km, which demonstrate the high performance over longer distances.

  • Security

When security could be considered as a problem in the connection, using fiber SFP module is better than RJ45 copper SFP module. Because fiber doesn’t conduct electricity that makes it resistant to lightning strikes.

  • Cost

Copper SFP transceiver might be more expensive than fiber SFP module in the same short distance. In Gigabit Ethernet applications, when copper SFP is used in combination with cooper cables in short runs, it is more cost effective as the copper cables are more cheaper than fiber cables. Besides, with the boom of third-party vendors, their full-compatible and trustworthy fiber SFP modules are developed to support lower cost fiber runs. The price gap between 100m copper transceiver and 40km 1000BASE-EX SFP fiber transceiver is reduced. More choices are provided for customers to meet their specific demands.

FS P/N Description FS.COM Price
SFP-GB-GE-T Cisco GLC-T Compatible 1000BASE-T SFP Copper RJ-45 100m Transceiver $ 21.00
SFP1G-SX-85 Generic Compatible 1000BASE-SX SFP 850nm 550m DOM Transceiver $ 6.00
SFP1G-EX-55 Cisco GLC-EX-SM1550-40 Compatible 1000BASE-EX SFP 1550nm 40km DOM Transceiver $ 24.00

Conclusion

Through copper SFP vs optical SFP, we can see that each technology has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Optical fibre SFP is not necessarily better than copper SFP. In fact, mixing copper and fiber solutions is the best practice for data center, as a versatile solution is critical to ensuring the data center remains both manageable and scalable when performance demands skyrocket. Network industry is unpredictable, and the demands of tomorrow may require facilities to investigate solutions they may have scoffed at a year ago.

Related Article: A Quick Overview of Cisco 1000BASE-T GLC-T SFP Copper Module

Choose 10GBASE-T Copper Over SFP+ for 10G Ethernet

Where to Buy Reliable Low Cost 1000BASE-T SFP Modules?

Gigabit Ethernet, as a part of the Ethernet family of computer networking and communication standards, has been in the market for more than 15 years. 1000BASE-T Gigabit Ethernet is the most successful networking technology in the history. Delivering Gigabit performance over up to 100 meters of twisted pair cabling (Cat5 UTP), it is ideal solution to upgrade network smoothly without change its original architecture and decrease the cost of upgrading for a wide range of enterprise and embedded networking applications. When investing in 1000BASE-T SFP modules to keep the highest working quality for business, everyone wants to find the best deals when they come to their network hardware, but also with the same compliance certification and quality. So where to buy reliable low cost 1000BASE-T SFP modules? This article will tell you answer.

1000BASE-T SFP

1000BASE-T SFP for Copper Networks

1000BASE-T SFP copper transceiver is based on the SFP Multi Source Agreement. It is compatible with the Gigabit Ethernet and 1000BASE-T standards as specified in IEEE 802.3z and 802.3ab. This Gigabit RJ45 copper SFP transceiver module supports 1000Mbps over Cat5 cables with RJ45 connector interface, which operates on standard Cat5 unshielded twisted-pair copper cabling of link lengths up to 100 m (328 ft). So those 1G copper SFPs can plug into any standard SFP interface allowing for 1000BASE-T Gigabit transmission. When referring to the types of 1000BASE-T copper SFP modules, there are generally three types provided by Cisco: Cisco GLC-T, Cisco GLC-TE, Cisco SFP-GE-T.

Cisco GLC-T

GLC-T is the Cisco 1Gb copper SFP, which is compliant to IEEE 802.3, and operates over Cat5 copper wire for a distance of 100m. It provides 1Gbps data transfer and full-duplex Gigabit Ethernet connectivity to high-end workstations and between wiring closets over existing copper network infrastructure.

Cisco GLC-T

Cisco GLC-TE

Similar to GLC-T SFP modules, GLC-TE provides a link length of 100m over Cat5 copper wires. The only difference between these two SFP modules lies in the operating temperature range. GLC-T SFP is commercial temperature range (COM) from 0 to 70°C (32 to 158°F), while GLC-TE is Extended temperature range (EXT) from -5 to 85°C (23 to 185°F).

Cisco SFP-GE-T

SFP-GE-T is Cisco copper SFP transceiver that works with 1000BASE-T. This 1Gb SFP RJ45 module is with spring latch for high density applications. The most difference is that SFP-GE-T has the function of NEBS 3 ESD. (NEBS is short for Network Equipment Building System and is a set of standards for building networking equipment which can withstand a variety of environmental stresses.) Therefore, SFP-GE-T supports extended working temperature.

Where to Look for Compatible Cisco 1000BASE-T SFP?

There are all sorts of resources to get the most out of technology budget, especially when it comes to find the Cisco 1000BASE-T SFP modules either for brand new, refurbished, or gently used. What are the best ways to find them for a much more inexpensive price?

  • Online Retailers

Online retailers with warehouses not only provide consumer-side purchasing with modules and networking hardware, they can also be a valuable asset to all sorts of companies looking to spend less money on equipment. There are online retailers that give almost as high as 90% discounts and price reductions. You need to be careful when it comes to certain warehouses as they might have huge savings but the parts might be used or not of the highest quality.

  • Certified Sellers

Certified sellers, or re-sellers, can offer brand new or refurbished modules with great prices. Besides, they have professionals who can help you with all of your technology questions and make sure that you get the best deal.

  • Third-Party Companies

In fact, there are many third party vendors to manufacture compatible SFP modules, such as FS.COM, 10GTek, Finisar, Fluxlight etc. Many people are confused about whether I should use 3rd party SFP modules. Most “third party” transceivers are made and assembled in exactly the same plants assembling officially-branded transceivers. There is almost no big difference between an official Cisco transceiver and a third-party plug, aside from the branding and about two hundred to a few thousand bucks. And now, using 3rd party SFP modules seems to more and more popular, as many 3rd party SFP module vendors are providing high quality and reliable 3rd party SFP modules with low prices. Besides, third-party SFPs can be as reliable as official OEM products.

Copper SFP Models Description Operating Temperature Range FS.COM Price Fluxlight Price
Cisco GLC-T 1000BASE-T SFP Copper RJ-45 100m Transceiver COM $ 21.00 $ 44.00
Cisco GLC-TE 1000BASE-T SFP Copper RJ-45 100m Transceiver EXT $ 21.00 $49.00
Cisco SFP-GE-T 1000BASE-T SFP Copper RJ-45 100m Transceiver NEBS 3 ESD EXT $ 21.00 $44.00

Conclusion

The 1000BASE-T SFP copper transceiver offers a flexible and simple method to be installed into SFP MSA compliant ports at any time with no interruption of the host equipment operation. It enables for seamless integration of fiber with copper LAN connections wherever SFP interface slots can be found. Such system is economical, it saves time, offers flexibility and eliminates the necessity for replacing entire devices once the customers have to change or upgrade fiber connections and you will benefit so much from it.

Related Article: GLC-T vs GLC-TE vs SFP-GE-T: Which One to Choose?

Related Article: A Quick Overview of Cisco 1000BASE-T GLC-T SFP Copper Module