What Is an SX Transceiver?

Mal Baxter

SX transceiver modules are digital-electronic components that fit in the hand, often bearing a couple of telephone-style input ports. Often referred to as small form-factor pluggables (SFP), or gigabit interface connections (GBIC), these transceivers interface fiber-optic or copper cables to network device motherboards. Host devices can include routers, switches, or media converters, among others, and permit the transfer of digital signals used in telecommunications and other data transmissions.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

Essentially high-speed connectors, SX transceiver modules are generally hot-swappable devices; this means they can easily be placed into a working system without disruption and be detected automatically. They link to Ethernet ports or other standards to create a flow of information between hardware and networks. Developed by Cisco, their specifications have been applied with several other grades of transceivers to become an industry standard. These transceivers differ according to the types of fiber they service, their recommended distances, and their data capacities. Other transceiver types are designated according to performance specifications.

SFP transceivers include several standards that differ according to their directionality, fiber type, and other agreements among competing manufacturers. Some types of components attach to circuit boards. Others are self-contained units designed for plug-in operation. Their ports often accommodate phone-style jacks or other industry-standard network connectors. Directionality refers to whether a signal transmission travels in one direction only, as in simplex fiber, or is bidirectional, as in duplex fiber.

The SX varieties specifically serve 850 nanometer (nm) multimode fiber. This refers to the wavelength range of laser light the fiber-optic cable is rated to handle. Multimode fiber transmits complex multiple signals simultaneously over shorter distances. SX transceiver units use cable in short local area networks (LAN) with distances of 600 yards (about 550 m) or less.

These and other transceivers act as interpreters. They are designed to connect with printed circuit boards to convert light communications data into electronic signals. Components can range from cheap to costly, depending on the level of performance required from them. Some serve as vital links in small hand-built systems; others connect into a complex and vast network of digital communication channels designed to accommodate millions of users. SX transceiver products provide a small but critical function at the heart of digital signal processing.

Most often, the capacities of SX transceiver devices are measured in megabits per second (Mbps). Some are designed for proprietary technologies; they operate for company-specific or specially designed equipment. Others provide more universal compatibility. These adhere to industry-standard protocols for data transmission and compatibilities with other equipment, such as multiplexers and converters.

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