Gigabit Interface Converter

Posted on Jul 26, 2009 in Knowledge Base

A Gigabit Interface Converter (GBIC) is a standard for transceivers, commonly used with Gigabit Ethernet and Fibre Channel in the 2000s. By offering a standard, hot swappable electrical interface, one gigabit port can support a wide range of physical media, from copper to long-wave single-mode Optical Fiber, at lengths of hundreds of kilometers.

A variation of the GBIC called the small form-factor pluggable transceiver(SFP), also known as mini-GBIC, has the same functionality but in a smaller form factor. Announced in 2001, it largely made the GBIC obsolete.


The appeal of the GBIC standard (and hot-swappable transceivers in general) in networking equipment, as opposed to fixed physical interface configurations, is its flexibility. Where multiple different optical technologies are in use, an administrator can purchase GBICs as needed, not in advance, and they can be the specific type needed for each link. This lowers the cost of the base system and gives the administrator far more flexibility. On the other hand if a switch will mostly have one port type (especially if that port type is copper) purchasing a switch with that port type built in will be cheaper and take up less space per port.


The GBIC standard is non-proprietary and is defined by the Small Form Factor committee in document number 8053i. The first publication of the proposal was in November 1995. A few corrections and additions were made through September 2000. Robert Snively of Brocade Communications was technical editor. Original contributors were AMP Incorporated, Compaq Computers, Sun Microsystems, and Vixel Corporation.


Get to know more about GBIC, you may be interested in SFP, which is called mini-GBIC and wider used than GBIC, please see “What is SFP”.