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Muxponder vs Transponder vs Transceiver, What are the Differences?



Do you know what is the difference between transponder vs transceiver and muxponder vs transponder? This post is here to explain.

A transceiver is an accessory for transmitting and receiving optical signals in telecommunication and data communication. Then do you know what is a transponder or a muxponder? A transponder converts input signals into WDM wavelength in the WDM network. A Muxponder is a derivative version of the transponder, but with the additional capability to multiplex multiple sub-rate client interfaces into a line interface at a higher rate. This article introduces the three elements respectively and concludes the differences between transponder vs transceiver and muxponder vs transponder.


Muxponder vs Transponder vs Transceiver Introduction

What is Transceiver?

The term transceiver is a blend of transmitter and receiver, which is the core optoelectronic component in the transceiver module. In optical communication networks, the transceiver is a hot-swappable module for receiving and transmitting optical signals. Optical transceivers convert signals from electrical to optical and optical to electrical over fiber optic cable. 


Figure 1: QSFPTEK 100G LR4 optical transceiver on a switch port


Market transceiver modules are available for a wide range of types, including 1G SFP, 10G SFP+, 25G SFP28, 40G QSFP+, 100G QSFP28, and higher-speed 200G/400G transceivers. Transceivers are used for plugging into networking equipment ports such as servers, Ethernet switches, routers, network interface cards (NICs), etc. Using matched fiber patch cables or Ethernet copper cables as transmission medium, the transceiver modules can achieve short-distance or long-distance transmission, such as 30m, 100m, 10km, 40km, 80km, etc. 

What is Transponder?

The transponder is a compound for the transmitter and responder. Similar to the transceiver, the transponder is also an Active element that sends and receives optical signals through a fiber. The main difference is that the transponder is typically used to achieve wavelength conversion and fiber type conversion for embedded xWDM networks. It can amplify the signal quality and extend the transmission distance.


Figure 2: QSFPTEK WDM transponder (OEO) with 4 channels and 8 SFP/SFP+ slots


Upon receiving a signal, the transponder can amplify, and then switch it into a different signal for emitting out while not changing the signal content. In general, a WDM transponder supports multiple mode conversions, including wavelength conversion from standard signal to WDM wavelength; fiber type conversion from MMF to SMF, duplex to simplex; and optical to electrical conversion. For example, a WDM transponder can converter a regular multimode SR signal into a single-mode xWDM signal to meet long-haul transmission requirements. 


One also calls transponders OEO (Optical-Electrical-Optical) converters or WDM converters. We can categorize transponders into various types based on data rates, the number of channels, or max signal distance. In general, there are transponders of 10G SFP+, 25G SFP28 , 40G QSFP+/100G QSFP28 by data rate; 3 channels, 4 channels, 5 channels by the number of channels; and 40km, 80km by transmission distance.

What is Muxponder?

A muxponder can be viewed as an advanced version of a transponder. Besides owning the function of a transponder, muxponder has the additional ability to integrate multiple rate and protocol services into a single wavelength at a higher rate. For instance, a 10G muxponder with 5 SFP+ client ports can combine multiple input client interfaces of a 100Mbps Fast Ethernet (FE) signal, 1GE signal, and 10GE signal into a single 10G output uplink.


A transmitter can be a sole electronic device or an electrical component in another electronic device. The transmitter in the transceiver functions for transmitting signals. And the receiver is responsible for receiving signals. They are used in pairs.


Muxponder vs Transponder vs Transceiver Differences

In optical fiber communication, transceivers, transponders, and muxponders are all elements to receive and transmit optical signals and support electrical to optical signal conversion. However, they are different devices with respective design purposes. The following part will list the differences between muxponder vs transponder vs transceiver.


• The transceiver connects to host devices with a serial electrical interface, receiving and transmitting signals achieved over a single module. However, transponders or muxponders use a parallel electrical interface, relying on a pair of transceivers to achieve full receiving and transmitting signal. Simply put, a transponder requires a transceiver on one end to transmit a signal and another transceiver on the other end to respond to the signal.


• A WDM transponder or muxponder can convert a signal from a multimode wavelength to a single-mode coarse WDM (CWDM) or dense WDM (DWDM) wavelength to extend the transmission distance. However, a DWDM or CWDM transceiver is to transmit or receives an optical signal at a certain wavelength, the output data and the receiving data maintain the identical mode, data rate, and wavelength. The signal will not be changed or amplified at all.


• The transponder or muxponder is used in wavelength division multiplexing (WDM) system networks for integrating multiple fiber types, and wavelengths in one system and maintaining signal quality in long-distance transmission. The transceiver is often used in a simple network for shorter-distance applications.


• The muxponder differs from the transceiver and transponder in multi-service capability. it can multiplex several client interfaces with different speeds, protocols, and wavelengths into a single interface with a a higher data rate. For example, a muxponder with a 10G output port can take multiple 1GE, 100M, and even 10GE inputs and combine them into a single 10GE interface. However, the transponder or transceiver is not able to do that.


Using WDM transceivers to build an embedded WDM network might be simple and affordable. However, in a highly converged WDM network with multiple services, fiber types, and multi-brand equipment in one system, a transponder or muxponder-based solution will bridge the gap that a sole transceiver-based solution can not meet.



In summary, the main difference between transponder vs transceiver is that transceiver can only transmit and receive a specific signal with a certain wavelength, mode, and data rate while the transponder can receive, and amplify an input signal and retransmit it into a different output signal. The key difference between a muxponder vs transponder is that a transponder only converts an optical signal to a new wavelength while a muxponder can integrate multiple rate and protocol services into a single wavelength at a higher rate. A muxponder can multiplex and demultiplex signals, while a transponder cannot.


QSFPTEK provides both optical transceivers and 10G/100G transponders. Other optical networking products are also available, including DWDM Mux Demux and CWDM Mux Demux, amplifer modules and dispersion compensation modules, etc. If you need product quotation, technical or solution support, please choose one option to contact us.


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