Tips to Select Between SFP Ports And Combo Ports

Tips to Select Between SFP Ports And Combo Ports

The Ethernet switch has emerged as one of the important requirements for connecting different devices and computers in a network. There are different types of Ethernet switches used today. The SFP Ports and combo ports are two terms that you would often hear when it comes to these switches. What do these terms signify and how they are important for various applications? Are they present on the same switch? How to use combo SFP ports? This post discusses them in detail.

Get Introduced To SFP Ports


The term SFP stands for small form-pluggable. An SFP port is the port on an Ethernet switch onto which SFP transceivers are plugged. The SFP transceiver is basically a metal component that is connected to another device using the data cable. When connected these transceivers enable quick data transmission. The SFP ports are used to establish a connection between two devices that are far from each other. The connection is established using cables and an SFP transceiver and these ports are also referred to as mini-GBIC ports.

What Is A Combo Port? What Are The Different Types of Combo Ports? 

The combo port or combo interface is popularly referred to as an optoelectronic multiplexing interface. It is a single interface that features dual front ends or two different types of Ethernet interfaces. These interfaces are usually an SFP port and an RJ-45 connector. This means the ports can support both types of connections – RJ-45 and SFP modules. However, the only requirement is that these different physical connections must share the same port number and switch fabric. The user can configure their Ethernet switches easily according to his requirements. Having said that, does it means both these ports can be used at the same time? No. If either of these two ports is enabled, then the other is disabled. This suggests you can insert the cable in the SFP port or the copper 10/100/1000 interface, but not both at the same time. Even if you try to use both at the same time, then also only one port will work. 

There are basically two types of combo ports: 

Single Combo Port: It features two Ethernet ports on the panel. These ports offer a single view. The state switching of two ports is conducted in the single port view. Single combo ports are more capable of interfacing Layer 3 or Layer 2 Ethernet. 

Dual Combo Port: These combo ports feature two Ethernet interfaces on the panel, which create two individual port views – electrical or optical port view. The user can perform port switching on the electrical or optical port view. The dual combo interface is usually employed for interfacing Layer 2 Ethernet. 

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SFP Ports Vs Combo Ports: What Is The Right Choice For Your Application 

The choice will depend on your application requirements. The following pointers will help you make the right decision. 

SFP Ports: Designed for gigabit transmission over long distances, these ports are suited for both optical and copper links. When an SFP module made of copper is inserted in the port then Ethernet cables made of copper are used for data transmission. Similarly, when optical cables are inserted LC patch cables and fiber SFP modules are used for data transmission. The SFP slot gains priority when the SFP transceiver is used to connect network devices.

Combo Ports: The combo port features an optical and electrical port. These ports are multiplexed logically between two corresponding ports. The RJ 45 connectors are used for establishing shorter connections within 100 meters, whereas the SFP ports are used for long-distance connections. If you connect the SFP slot of the combo and twisted-pair ports to connect network devices, then SFP port gains a priority. The SFP slot and the twisted pair ports possess the same settings. 

Most manufacturers label combo ports on the panel. If you fail to find them then you can check the interface identifier on the panel. Sometimes, the panel may have two ports with the same ID, which may connect different media. These ports are multiplexed, and they act as combo ports. Whether choosing an SFP port or a combo port, it is important to understand the requirements of your application. Also, when choosing SFP GBIC modules or combo ports, it is important that you source from a trusted supplier. Versitron manufactures copper-to-fiber connectivity products for voice, data, and video applications. The company also provides SFP GBIC modules and combo ports in various configurations. 

Author Name: R.W. Tull

Author Bio: R.W. Tull is a 17 year veteran at VERSITRON. He interfaces daily with current and potential end users. Customers include all branches of the US military, government departmental agencies, and commercial accounts such as schools, hospitals, utilities etc. R.W. regularly consults with customers to assist them in the selection of the best product to suit their particular applications; whether it be maximizing bandwidth or port configuration for the efficiency of equipment. R.W. also works closely with clients to review layout diagrams and drawings in order to ensure that the best fiber optic solution is achieved for a particular project.

Known for his amazing writing and technical blogging skills, Edward Thompson is the admin of the Techenger. Joined back in 2019, after moving from San Francisco to Chicago to switch from his role of staff writer to a guest blogger. Since then, he never looked back to his past. In nutshell, he is a tech enthusiast who loves to write, read, test, evaluate, and spread knowledge about the growing technology that surrounds mankind.

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