Understanding Fiber Optics - Part 3

Understanding Fiber Optics – Your Quick Guide to SFP Transceivers

What is an SFP Transceiver?

SFP (small form-factor pluggable) is a compact, hot-pluggable optical module transceiver used for both telecommunication and data communications applications. These applications -usually on networking hardware- feature an SFP interface which is a modular (plug-and-play) slot for a variable, media-specific transceiver in order to connect a fiber optic cable or sometimes a copper cable.

The form factor and electrical interface are specified by a multi-source agreement (MSA) under the Small Form Factor Committee umbrella; a popular industry format jointly developed and supported by many network component vendors.

Types of SFP transceivers

There are a number of types of SFP Transceivers based on the different classification standards. To help you pick the best SFP Transceiver for your application, it is important to understand these different classifications and characteristics and more importantly, to tell them apart.

They may seem like a lot to digest, but not to worry. We have taken time to outline a summary of the most common classifications and differences, to serve as a quick guide to selecting the right SFP Transceiver.

Let’s explore them in detail…

Single Mode vs. Multimode SFP Transceivers

Based on the types of optical fibers SFP transceivers work with, SFP transceivers are divided into single mode SFP that works with single-mode fiber and multimode SFP that works with multimode fiber. Explore the major differences between them. Single-mode SFP transceivers are designed to transmit signals over long distances, while Multimode SFP transceivers are specially designed for short distance data transmission. Explore some more differences below…

  Single Mode SFP Multimode SFP
Wavelength 1310nm and 1550nm 850nm
Colour Coding Blue color-coded bale clasp for 1310nm SFP. Yellow color-coded bale clasp for 1550nm SFP. Black color-coded bale clasp.
Fiber Jacket Colour Yellow jacket for Single Mode fiber. Orange jacket for OM1 & OM2 Multimode fiber
Transmission Distance Long distance transmission such as 2 km, 10 km, 20 km, 40 km, 80 km, 100 km and 120 km. Short distance transmission such as 100 m and 500 m.
Single Mode SFP vs Multimode SFP

SFP Fiber Module vs SFP Copper Module

Copper SFP modules allow communication over twisted pair networking cables while fiber modules allow communication over fiber optic cables. Explore more differences below;

  Transceiver Type Connector Distance Data Rate
SFP Fiber Module CWDM/DWDM SFP LC Duplex 10km-120km over Single Mode Fiber 100Mbps/ 1000Mbps
SFP Copper Module 1000BASE-T 10/100BASE-T 10/100/1000BASE-T RJ45 100m over copper twist pair cable 100Mbps/ 1000Mbps

Copper SFP vs Fiber SFP

Simplex SFP vs Duplex SFP

Simplex SFP transceivers use only a single fiber for transmission while Duplex SFP transceivers use dual fibers. Simplex SFPs, are also known as bidirectional (BiDi) SFPs. It is very easy to distinguish simplex SFP and duplex SFP from the receptacle as shown in the diagram below;

Simplex SFP vs Duplex SFP

Note: All SFP transceivers should be used in pairs. For duplex SFPs at the two sides, we should connect two SFPs of the same wavelengths. For example, two 850nm SFPs or two 1310nm SFPs. However, for simplex/BiDi SFPs, we should use two SFPs that have opposite wavelengths for transmitter and receiver.

Bandwidth; SFP vs SFP+

The trend towards higher speed and higher bandwidth is always unstoppable, from Fast Ethernet to Gigabit Ethernet. At the same time, new devices for transmitting data are published; SFP+ for 10 Gigabit and SFP28 for 25 Gigabit Ethernet. While they all use the same form-factor packaging, the most obvious difference between them is the data rate. Explore the differences below;

Data Rate 1.25G 2.5G/3G/4.25G 6G/8.5G/10G 25G
Types Single-mode/Multimode Simplex/Duplex CWDM/DWDM Single-mode/Multimode Simplex/Duplex CWDM/DWDM Single-mode/Multimode
Distance 100 m up to 150km 220m up to 80km 100m up to 10km

Dense Wavelength-Division Multiplexing (DWDM) vs Coarse Wavelength-Division Multiplexing (CWDM)

Simply put, Wavelength-Division Multiplexing (WDM) is a technology that enables transmission of multiple signals simultaneously on a single fiber. WDM is utilized by telecom systems in long distance transmission. In these systems, the lasers of SFP transceivers are chosen with precise wavelengths closely spaced but not so close they interfere with each other.

Wavelength-division multiplexing for SFP transceivers is either DWDM (dense WDM) or CWDM (coarse WDM). Discover more below;

Wavelength SpacingUp to 45 wavelengths (Channel 17 to Channel 61 according to ITU) of C Band (1525 nm to 1565 nm) or L Band (1570 nm to 1610 nm) with a 0.8nm spacing Up to 18 wavelengths from 1270 nm to 1610 nm with a 20nm spacing, i.e. 1270 nm, 1290 nm, 1310 nm, 1330 nm...
Transmission DistanceUp to 80 or 200 kmUp to 100 km, typically 80 km
ApplicationLong distance DWDM SONET/SDH transmission, Gigabit Ethernet, Fibre Channel, Metro Network Gigabit Ethernet, Fibre Channel (FC), Metro Access Network, Point-to-Point Network, Synchronous Optical Network (SONET), SDH (Synchronous Digital Hierarchy).
BenefitsUp to 32 channels can be done passively. Up to 160 channels with an active solution. Active solutions involve optical amplifiers to achieve longer distances. Passive equipment that uses no electrical power. Much lower cost per channel than DWDM. Scalability to grow the fiber capacity as needed with little or no increased cost. Protocol transparent. Ease of use.


Quick guide to selecting SFP

When selecting the correct SFP transceiver, the main factor to consider is the application scenario based on the classifications outlined above. In summary,

-Which type of Fiber Optic Cable are you connecting to the SFP transceiver?

-At what data rate do you want to transmit?

-What is the distance of your link?

-What type of signal are you transmitting?  

There’s one more important consideration technicians are careful to look into…

With quite a number of third party SFP optical transceivers in the market, compatibility is often the most parameter users care about. Before place your order, you can check the vendors’ optics testing center to confirm whether the SFP module you choose is compatible with your devices.

Or just talk to us for details about the SFP transceiver compatibility.

View SFP Transceivers we Have in Store.


Small form-factor pluggable transceiver | Fiber Optic Cabling Solutions | SFP Module: What’s It and How to Choose It?

Understanding Fiber Optics [Part 1] - Fiber Optic Cables

Understanding Fiber Optics [Part 1] – Fiber Optic Cables

A fiber optic cable is a network cable that contains strands of glass fibers inside an insulated casing, designed for long distance, high-performance data networking and telecommunications. Compared to wired cables, fiber optic cables provide higher bandwidth and can transmit data over longer distances. They basically support much of the world's internet, cable television, and telephone systems.

Fiber optic cables come in two types; Single Mode and Multimode. Let’s dive into detail on their functional differences and applications.

Single Mode Cable

Single Mode optic cable has a small diametral core that allows only one mode of light to propagate. The small core and single light-wave virtually eliminate any distortion that could result from overlapping light pulses, providing the least signal attenuation. Because of this, the number of light reflections created as the light passes through the core decreases, lowering attenuation (loss), creating the ability for the signal to travel further and enabling the highest transmission speeds of any fiber cable type. 

Types of Single Mode Fiber Cables

Single mode cables come in 2 categories, OS1 and OS2.

In a nutshell, OS1 fiber is a tight buffered cable designed for use in indoor applications (such as campuses or data centers) where the maximum distance is 10 km. OS2 fiber is a loose tube cable designed for use in outdoor cases (like street, underground and burial) where the maximum distance is up to 200 km. Both OS1 and OS2 fiber optic cable allow a distance of gigabit to 10G Ethernet. Besides, OS2 fiber can support 40G and 100G Ethernet.


Single Mode cables are best suited for long distance, high bandwidth signal transmissions by Telcos, Cable TV companies, Colleges and Universities as well as Data Centers.

Multimode Cable

A multimode optic cable has a large diametral core that allows multiple modes of light to propagate. Because of this, the number of light reflections created as the light passes through the core increases, creating the ability for more data to pass through at a given time. Because of the high dispersion and attenuation rate with this type of fiber, the quality of the signal is reduced over long distances.

Types of Multimode Fiber Cables

Multimode cables are classified into 5 categories, based on functional differences.

OM1 - typically comes with an orange jacket and have a core size of 62.5 µm. It can support 10 Gigabit Ethernet at lengths of up to 33 meters. It is most commonly used for 100 Megabit Ethernet applications. This type commonly uses a LED light source.

OM2 - Like OM1, OM2 fiber also comes with an orange jacket and uses a LED light source but with a smaller core size of 50 µm. It supports up to 10 Gigabit Ethernet at lengths up to 82 meters but is more commonly used for 1 Gigabit Ethernet applications.

OM3 - OM3 fiber comes with an aqua color jacket. Like the OM2, its core size is 50 µm, but the cable is optimized for laser-based equipment. OM3 supports 10 Gigabit Ethernet at lengths up to 300 meters. Besides, OM3 is able to support 40 Gigabit and 100 Gigabit Ethernet up to 100 meters, however, 10 Gigabit Ethernet is most commonly used.

OM4 - OM4 fiber is completely backwards compatible with OM3 fiber and shares the same distinctive aqua jacket. OM4 was developed specifically for VSCEL laser transmission and allows 10 Gbit/s link distances of up to 550m compared to 300M with OM3. And it’s able to run 40/100GB up to 150 meters utilizing a MPO connector.

OM5 - OM5 fiber, also known as WBMMF (wideband multimode fiber), is the newest type of multimode fiber, and it is backwards compatible with OM4. It has the same core size as OM2, OM3, and OM4. The color of OM5 fiber jacket was chosen as lime green. It is designed and specified to support at least four WDM channels at a minimum speed of 28Gbps per channel through the 850-953 nm window.

Multimode fiber cable types


Multimode cables are typically used for short distance, data and audio/video applications in LANs.

Single Mode or Multimode?

It is all dependent on the applications. For backbone, high-speed interconnections between systems or even large companies over a long distance, single mode fiber cables work best. These cables can be quite pricey.

Multimode cables on the other hand are more preferred as a cost-effective choice for enterprise and data center interconnections, up to 600 metres. They are often used for backbone applications in buildings.

However, that doesn’t mean one can substitute a single mode fiber with multimode cable. It all depends on applications that you need, transmission distance to be covered as well as the overall budget allowed.

Do visit our store to explore our wide catalogue of Single Mode and Multimode fiber optic cables by trusted vendors, for your high-speed interconnections and transmission needs!

Read Part 2 Here