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What Is a Small Form-Factor Pluggable Transceiver?

By Jean Marie Asta
Updated Jan 31, 2024
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In telecommunications and communication of data, a small form-factor pluggable transceiver is a transceiver that is compact and easily replaceable in a computer system. This transceiver conforms to and supports certain communication standards such as SONET, Fiber Channel, Gigabit Ethernet (GbE), etc. The purpose of a small form-factor pluggable transceiver is the provision of an interface between the motherboard of a network device and a networking cable made of copper or fiber optics. The device comes in a variety of forms that operate in computer networks ranging in size from household to large business networks. A small form-factor pluggable transceiver must meet certain standards and protocols.

A standard small form-factor pluggable transceiver has at least 20 separate electrical connections for input and output of telecommunications or data. An enclosure usually holds this device and has standard dimensions where the height is 0.39 inches (9.8 mm) and the width is 0.53 inches (13.5 mm). These standards are determined by the Multi-Source Agreement (MSA) and are applied to all devices of this kind.

The enclosure for a small form-factor pluggable transceiver consists of two sidewalls, one sidewall cover, one top cover, one rear cover and one bottom wall. Cages for these devices are generally made of metal or a metal alloy. On each sidewall and top plate are malleable spring tabs that have both outward and inward portions grounded to them. The inward portions will project into this cage, making contact with the small form-factor pluggable transceiver, while the outward portions project outwards to make contact with another electrical component in a computer system, most commonly the motherboard.

One type of small form-factor pluggable transceiver is a dual wavelength, single fiber transceiver that is bidirectional. This device supports fast connection speeds to Ethernet and GbE, up to 100 megabits per second (Mbps), as well as the ability to connect and reconnect while the computer is turned on. It is held in a small cage for protection and physical support, and has an LC connector. The tranceiver complies with many industry standards and regulations, including MSA standards.

The small form-factor pluggable transceiver uses its single fiber for the transmission and reception of signals without the need of a combiner or splitter. Single fiber transceivers also cut down the amount of fiber optics needed in a system for telecommunications, eliminating the hassle of large quantities of fiber optics and cables that a user may deal with otherwise. This can create cost savings as well as increasing efficiency.

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