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SFP vs RJ45 vs GBIC: How to Choose?

GBIC (Gigabit Interface Converter) and SFP (Small Form Pluggable), RJ45 are standard sizes for fiber optic transceivers. Basically SFP is smaller in size than GBIC. Both GBICs and SFPs have multiple interface types, each operating on a specific fiber type and wavelength. Without knowing the difference between the two standards, many users do not know when to use which transceiver model and which line card to choose for their switch/router. SFP, RJ45 and GBIC transceiver modules are the three main 1GbE transceiver modules on the market. You may be confused by the many options for transceiver modules. do not worry. This article will help you clarify the difference between SFP, RJ45 and GBIC transceivers and give you some advice on how to choose them.

What Is an SFP Transceiver?
Short for small form-factor pluggable, an SFP module is a kind of fiber optic transceiver module with an LC duplex interface. It supports the transmission data rate of 1GbE. SFP optical transceivers can operate on single-mode or multimode fiber patch cables. The transmission distance of SFP modules ranges from 550m to 150km.

What Is an RJ45 Transceiver?
SFP copper RJ45 transceiver is a kind of transceiver with a copper RJ45 interface. SFP copper RJ45 transceiver modules can support the transmission data rate of 1GbE. They are often used with Cat5 cables. SFP copper RJ45 transceivers are popular to be used for short-distance transmission because the overall cost of the copper network is lower compared with the optical network.

What Is a GBIC Transceiver?
Gigabit interface converter (GBIC), is a kind of hot-pluggable fiber optic transceiver module. With the data rate of 1GbE, GBIC transceiver modules can transmit data through a distance of 550m to 80km. A GBIC module supports the same data rate as an SFP module, but a GBIC transceiver module has twice the size of an SFP transceiver module.

SFP vs RJ45 vs GBIC: What’s the Difference?
After getting a general idea about what are SFP, RJ45, and GBIC transceivers, we will talk about the differences among them. The following chart shows the differences among SFP vs RJ45 vs GBIC transceiver modules from 4 aspects.

Transceiver module SFP SFP copper RJ45 GBIC
Interface LC duplex RJ45 SC duplex
Transmission distance 550m~150km 100m 550m~80km
Cable type SMF/MMF Cat 5 SMF/MMF
Data rate 1000Mbps 1000Mbps 1000Mbps

SFP vs RJ45 vs GBIC: When to Choose Which?
As is shown in the chart, SFP, SFP copper RJ45, and GBIC transceiver modules are all used in 1Gbit data transmission. Then when to choose which for the 1GbE network?

When to Choose SFP Transceivers?
Compared with GBIC transceiver modules, SFP modules have a smaller size. So SFP modules allow having more interfaces on a line card or a switch. Besides, SFP transceivers can support the transmission distance much longer than SFP copper RJ45 transceivers and GBIC transceivers. So if you require a long transmission distance,  SFP transceivers can meet your need. Last but not least, If you already have a line card or a switch with empty SFP slots, then you need to adapt to that.

When to Choose SFP Copper RJ45 Transceivers?
When your budget is not enough to use SFP transceivers, you can choose SFP copper RJ45 transceivers for short-distance transmission. If you have the requirement of long-distance transmission afterward, you can use SFP to RJ45 slot media converters. They can provide an economical path to extend the distance of an existing network with fiber cabling.

When to Choose GBIC Transceivers?
If you already have a line card or a switch with unoccupied GBIC slots, then you need to choose GBIC transceivers to make full use of the empty slots on your switch. In fact, GBIC transceiver modules are gradually replaced by SFP modules on the market. For SFP transceivers are regarded as the upgraded version of GBIC modules.

What is the difference between GBIC modules and SFP modules?
GBIC and SFP modules are both transceivers which are hot-pluggable, meaning they can be loaded into and out of a working telecommunication switch without the need for powering down. They are used to convert optical and electrical signals.
GBIC stands for Gigabit Interface Converter and SFP stands for Small Form-factor Pluggable.

Although relative models of each technology are equal in performance, SFP’s are generally considered as an upgraded version of a GBIC module, because they are smaller. It’s also why you may also hear SFP’s being referred to as mini-GBIC’s.

Which technology should I choose?
This question depends on the card or switch you are using. Normally the card and/or switch includes slots for either GBIC or SFP modules and so the decision will be made for you.
If you don’t already have an existing switch or card and are planning which equipment to use, but aren’t sure whether you will need GBIC or SFP’s, the answer is dependent on the number of interfaces required.

The differences among SFP vs RJ45 vs GBIC transceiver modules include the interface type, transmission distance, and cable type. Your choice among them depends on different situations.
If you are not sure which product you need, we can help and will be happy to advise you on the product that best suits your requirements.