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I'm trying to build a laptop system that can connect to just about any network you might come across in a large enterprise. I realize I can use a media converter to go from twisted pair to fiber but prefer to have a NIC instead of a converter.

Is there a vendor out there that actually makes a gigabit ethernet fiber adapter for laptops?

Edit: A year after I asked this question, apparently Allied Telesis came out with the AT-2872SX ExpressCard which has an SC connector for Gigabit Ethernet. See syneticon-dj's answer below.

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Is there any external interface on a laptop that can keep up, realistically with GigE? USB is probably not fast enough, if running at full speed. Is Cardbus/PCMCIA fast enough? I don't recall the specs for that. – geoffc Jul 1 '09 at 15:02
Probably not, but I'm not specifically looking for the full performance of Gig-E, just the ability to connect and operate. Similar to what Cat-5e gives you if you don't have Cat-6. – romandas Jul 1 '09 at 15:28
laptop expresscards are 1 lane of pci express, which is 250MB/sec in each direction, which should allow you to snoop up to 2 flat out 1gig ethernet links. If you use a card that does IP in the card and allows you to put filters on the card, that should even allow useful monitoring of 10gig links, though clearly not the full pipe. – chris Jul 1 '09 at 15:31
@romandas: the gigabit ethernet spec requires that it function over cat5. Many older cat5 sites are not actually cat5 and still work at 100mb because it is more tolerant than gig, but if the wire plant tests out fine at cat5 specs, it will work at gig just as well as if you use cat6. and – chris Jul 1 '09 at 15:36
@chris - I understand that Cat-5, 5e, and 6 will all "work" for Gig-E. I was specifically referring to the actual throughput achieved compared to the theoretical Gig-E throughput. You can see significant improvement going from 5 to 5e to 6, but yes, it will still connect and transmit using 5. Pardon my apparently poor comparison between Gig-E throughput and Cardbus/PCI-E throughput. – romandas Jul 1 '09 at 16:08
up vote 2 down vote accepted

At least Allied Telesis has the AT-2872SX ExpressCard which has an SC connector for Gigabit Ethernet. I do not think I've ever seen a model with SFP/GBIC slots.

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Nice! So Allied Telesis came out with one a year after I asked. :) +1 – romandas Jun 17 '12 at 2:42

Why stop at gigabit?

This device allows you to connect a pci express 16x card using an external box and the laptop's expresscard/34 slot.

Now you put a 10gig card with sfp+, like one of these, into that.

While you're at it, grab a couple of passive fiber taps.

Now you've got a box that allows you to snoop any link you may encounter short of a sonet link, though I wouldn't be surprised if there were pci express oc12/oc48/oc192 cards out there.

Your clients will be very impressed when you pull these out of your padded aluminum briefcase.

You didn't mention you needed it to be cheap...

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Already have the passive fiber taps. :) – romandas Jul 1 '09 at 15:20
Do you have the shiny briefcase? If you go with the magma box and already have gig pci express cards it's actually not too pricy... Get a card with 2 interfaces so you can tap both directions at the same time. – chris Jul 1 '09 at 15:26
I have one of these and use it to connect a FibreChannel HBA to a laptop. – Clint Miller Dec 29 '09 at 19:41
@clint -- it's nice to know that such a setup works. – chris Dec 29 '09 at 23:48



Sorry, I'm only bringing up 100base cards. Still looking.

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So, it's a 'no'? :) – romandas Jul 1 '09 at 15:21
Okay. Looked through about 5 vendors, did a bunch of googling. They are all 100base. Sorry. – MathewC Jul 1 '09 at 15:24

Your best bet might be using an actual media converter. I came upon this one while searching for MCs a while ago, looks like it's USB powered (which might be a good compromise for mobility): alt text

Unfortunately, I know nothing else about this product (nor the company)

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That's the boring way to solve the problem! He'd need to make sure to get the proper sort of converter (multimode / single mode / etc) – chris Jul 1 '09 at 15:58
As nice as it might be, I'm really looking for the answer to the question 'Are there any vendors making gigabit fiber laptop adapters'. I can solve the problem of connectivity if need be, and do use media converters already. That's not the question. I'm getting the idea that the answer is 'no'. – romandas Jul 1 '09 at 16:12
I wouldn't give up so easily... looks like you just asked this question (about an hr ago?), leave it open for a couple of days, and hopefully someone with either more time on their hands (to research), or someone who's come upon the solution that you're seeking might respond. – l0c0b0x Jul 1 '09 at 16:17
that could be the solution you're looking for if you find a tranceiver that uses a SFP. – petrus Nov 23 '10 at 23:08

Apparently, as of today (07 Aug 2009), I'm concluding there are no Gigabit Fiber solutions (no CardBus, PCMCIA, Internal, etc) out there for laptops. If this changes, I'll change the accepted answer.

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Lots. Do a Web search for "PCMCIA gigabit ethernet fiber"

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Try clicking on those links. I haven't found one yet that actually contains all three requirements in one device: Gigabit && Fiber && laptop. – romandas Jul 1 '09 at 15:19

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