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I have been told that Ethernet magnetic transformers are used for base-t Ethernet when transmission is sent over a lengthy cable. What is the purpose of the transformer? (is it for signal filtering or boosting?)

Additionally, I have a circuit that has been used for an 8 wire (1000base-t) Ethernet configuration. Would the same circuit work for a 4 wire (100base-t) configuration if I connected only pins 1, 2, 3 & 6? if so would the performance be the same as the 8 wire configuration?

I'm sorry if I may not be coherent in my question as I am not too familiar with Ethernet hardware. Thank you for reviewing my question.

P.S. I am unsure about how data is transmitted over Ethernet. Is it that all differential pairs (DA: pins 1 & 2, DB: pins 3 & 6, DC: pins 4 & 5, DD: pins 8 & 7) are busses where data can be transmitted both ways (unlike the UART where RX has to be connected to TX)? and in case I am just using 2 pairs, would I be connecting only DA and DB? Is there also an issue with connecting a 4 wire device to a network that uses 8 wires?

  • Did any answer help you? if so, you should accept the answer so that the question doesn't keep popping up forever, looking for an answer. Alternatively, you could provide and accept your own answer. – Ron Maupin Aug 8 '17 at 3:41
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I have been told that Ethernet magnetic transformers are used for base-t Ethernet when transmission is sent over a lengthy cable.

They are always used, not just when "sent over a lengthly cable"

What is the purpose of the transformer?

The primary purpose is isolation. Typically they are also used as part of the signal conditioning, turning a pair of single ended drives into a differential signal on transmit and establishing the correct common mode voltage for the receiver on receive. For this reason the device-side of the transformers is usually center-tapped.

Isolation is a very good idea on communications systems that are linking lots of hardware over a wide area. You don't want fault current/voltages in from faults in the mains wiring or devices to spread through your communications wiring.

There are basically two options for isolation, opto and transformer. Transformer isolation has a couple of major advantages. Firstly the signal power passes through the transformer which means you don't need to get a power supply to the "isolated" side of the barrier. Secondly transformers are very good at generating and receiving differential signals while providing high common mode rejection, this makes them a good combination with twisted pair wiring. Thirdly it is easier to design transformers for high frequency (aka high speed) than optocouplers.

Transformer coupling does have some downsides, transformers don't work at DC and small transformers that work well at high frequencies don't work well at low frequencies but this is easilly dealt with through line coding schemes that avoid low frequencies.

P.S. I am unsure about how data is transmitted over Ethernet. Is it that all differential pairs (DA: pins 1 & 2, DB: pins 3 & 6, DC: pins 4 & 5, DD: pins 8 & 7) are busses where data can be transmitted both ways (unlike the UART where RX has to be connected to TX)? and in case I am just using 2 pairs, would I be connecting only DA and DB?

It depends on the version of Ethernet. 10BASE-T and 100BASE-TX used one pair in each direction. On older hardware you had to manually ensure that transmitter was connected to reciever (using crossover cables if needed) but more recent hardware usually has AUTO-MDIX which figures it out automatically.

1000BASE-T uses all four pairs in both directions at the same time using echo cancellation techniques to seperate received data from transmitted data.

I think 10GBASE-T also uses echo cancellation techniquest but i'm not postive on that.

Is there also an issue with connecting a 4 wire device to a network that uses 8 wires?

Most devices suport lower speed modes but not all. In particular twisted par to fiber media converters usually only support a single speed on the twisted pair side. Devices that support 10GBASE-T usually also support 1000BASE-T but only sometimes support 100BASE-TX and afaict never support 10BASE-T.

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The ethernet magnetic transformer is required by the ethernet standard. You will find this question, "Why Are Ethernet/RJ45 Sockets Magnetically Coupled?" answered on the Electrical Engineering SE.

The UTP cabling specifications call for a four-pair cable. 10BASE-T and 100BASE-TX use two of the pairs, one transmit and one receive pair, while 1000BASE-T requires all four pairs, both transmitting and receiving at the same time. If you try to run 1000BASE-T on only two pairs, it will negotiate to 100BASE-TX.

  • When you said "while 1000BASE-T requires all four pairs, both transmitting and receiving at the same time", did you mean that any of all 4 pairs can act as TX or RX at any one time, unlike 10/100base-t where tx and rx are dedicated to specific pairs? For my case I have only 4 wires (2 pairs) from my 100base-t device. Does it matter that I connect them to pins 1, 2, 3 & 6, or can I connect them to other pairs? Finally, would my transformer circuit for 1000base-tx work for 100base-tx? I have found many circuits available online and I was confused by them. – Benjamin Apr 27 '16 at 5:48
  • I mean that 1000BASE-T uses all four pairs to simultaneously both send and receive. Both 10BASE-T and 100BASE-TX use pins 1, 2, 3, and 6, and they must be wired with one twisted pair on 1-2, and another twisted pair on 3-6. Splitting a twisted pair will not work correctly. If you didn't know the above, I seriously doubt you can build your own ethernet interfaces, so you shouldn't worry about the transformers. If you do want to build your own ethernet interfaces, you should ask your questions on Electrical Engineering. – Ron Maupin Apr 27 '16 at 7:10

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