What Are Optical Transceivers?

Equal Optics

Data networks are all about connections. A critical connection point for sending and receiving data is known as an optical transceiver. Also known as a fiber optic transceiver, optical transceivers are essential for telecommunication applications. Learn more about these hardware components and how they fit into your high-performance network solutions before reviewing your options for ordering and installing new transceivers.

What Are Optical Transceivers?

Whether embedded in a device or plugged into between network devices, transceivers are the fiber optic highway used to send and receive information in your network. They consist of two basic components:

  • Transmitter
  • Receiver

While these components come in varying sizes, they all work to convert electrical and light signals, depending on whether the transceiver is sending or receiving information. The innovative device achieves this by modulating the intensity of a laser light emitted through a diode.

Once the specific wavelength and intensity is achieved, the light is encoded on the optical signal. A photodetector not only detects the incoming light but then converts it into an electrical signal. Transceivers are sized to fit the scope of your network and data needs.

What Are Optical Transceivers? | Equal Optics

Where Are Optical Transceivers Used?

Most IT departments send and receive large amounts of information, so there are many industries that utilize optical transceivers. Here are a few common areas where these devices are critical components for streamlined network solutions:

  • Data centers
  • Government facilities
  • Small businesses
  • Educational facilities

How to Choose an Optical Transceiver

Before selecting transceivers for your facility, compare components to find the right option for your needs. Here are are few features to explore as you look for the best transceivers for your network solution:

  • Size and weight: Some situations require space-saving solutions. Not every transceiver can fit into the dimensions available to make a connection, so be sure you choose an option that offers the size and weight you need.
  • Category and type: The type of transceiver you choose affects the data transfer speed, capable channel connections, and other essential factors.
  • Manufacturer: While many manufacturers have signed an agreement to create interoperable devices, the manufacturer you choose can still affect the cost, quality, and other factors.
  • Distributor: Shop for transceivers from a reliable supplier who can assist you in comparing your options, answer your questions, and deliver reliable components at efficient timelines.

The category and type of optical transceiver you choose affects both the size and the weight. Explore the differences in available transceivers before reviewing leading manufacturers and reliable distributors of these essential network components.

Categories of Optical Transceivers

While there are many different specific types of transceivers for data center solutions, there are three distinct categories to choose from. Review each category to see which transceivers best fits your application.

1. Standard

Standard transceivers are single-channel devices that only communicate through uncolored wavelength channels. They’re also known as gray transceivers, because other devices use colored wavelengths. Use standard transceivers to create a direct connection between an ethernet data switch and a single fiber channel. These components can also be used as optical interfaces for client-side transponders.

2. Bi-Directional

This transceiver category connects two distinct wavelength channels. Because of these two channels, bi-directional transceivers can send and receive information across a single fiber strand.

3. xDWD

This category offers two distinct types of transceivers, CWDM and DWDM. CWDM uses coarse wavelength patterns, while DWDM is used for dense wavelength patterns. Regardless of which type you use in this category, xDWD transceivers have two common applications:

  • Transport wavelengths through a direct connection to a data switch
  • Send output signals which originate from a xWDM transponder-based system

Why Form Factor Matters

Engineering manufacturers create a common agreement to ensure that various optical transceivers can send and receive information from each other, regardless of the manufacturer. This agreement, known as the multi-source agreement, outlined specific characteristics that affect the data speed of optical transceiver communication. These characteristics are known as a form factor.

Form factors still in use today range in data speed, with the highest speeds reaching up to 800 Gbps. Here are the most common form factors still in use today:

  • GPON B+ and GPON C+
  • XFP and XFP-BiDi
  • SFP, SFP-BiDi, SFP+, and SFP28
  • QSFP+, QSFP28, and QSFP-DD

Another crucial factor in transceiver type is its connectivity. Some are best connected using Ethernet, while others recommend single- or multi-mode fiber. Review your existing network and connection requirements before choosing a transceiver that fits your system.

Examples of Optical Transceiver Types

Each of these form factors have specific data speed capabilities and other specifications. Knowing the features of transceiver types can help you answer the question, “What are optical transceivers used for?” See how SFP, SFP+, and XFP optical transceiver types are used and how their specific form factor can affect their capabilities.


There’s a reason SFP is one of the most common form factors in use. Consider an SFP optical transceiver for use in high-density ports. This pluggable, hot-swappable connection can be used with a maximum speed of 5 Gbps. They support multimode fiber, single-mode fiber, and Ethernet wiring types for flexible connections.


Enjoy all the benefits of SFP transceivers but with enhanced data transfer speeds. SFP+ optical transceivers allow transfer speeds of up to 10 Gbps when you use an Ethernet connection. Not every connection requires this increased data transfer speed, but it can be an essential improvement in the right network.


While quickly turning into a legacy transceiver type, XFP remains in use throughout many networks. XFP allows transfer speeds of up to 10 Gbps and is an energy-efficient alternative to many other transceivers. This transceiver type is compatible with SONET, fiber, and Ethernet connections, but is best used with fiber due to its ability to support high-density multiplexing.

Shop for Optical Transceivers Today

From a few additional transceivers to a total network upgrade, turn to Equal Optics for all your questions and needs. Contact us today to learn more about the latest optical transceivers and your form factor options to elevate your network and enjoy reliable, high-performance solutions.





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