Network connections can be made with either fiber optic or copper cable. Which one offers the best choice for your network? While both can be used, there are several situations where fiber optic offers improved bandwidth and other benefits. Review the key differences between fiber vs. copper and discover five times when fiber optic cabling offers significant advantages to copper cabling in your organization.
Fiber vs. Copper: What’s the Difference?
Both fiber and copper transmit data. There are, however, differences not only in their data transmission abilities but also in their method of transmission. Comparing the manufacturing method and transmission type of fiber vs. copper can help you understand the situations when fiber is preferable to copper cabling.
Glass strands, which are extremely pure and about as thick as human hair, are assembled in thin bundles. These fibers transmit data through infrared light pulses and optical transceivers. Compared to copper cabling, fiber optic offers the following benefits:
- Symmetrical bandwidth: Fiber optic allows for equal speeds between uploading and downloading.
- Rapid data transmission: Thanks to the photon-based data transmission style of fiber, it transfers more bits per second than copper.
- Flexible installation: While fiber cabling needs to be treated with care to avoid breaking the thin glass strands, it’s generally more flexible than copper. This allows it to weave its way in between equipment and other cables in space-restricted situations.
The legacy cable choice was originally used to transmit voice call data. Copper wires send and receive signals through electrical transmission. Some companies choose to stay with copper because it easily connects with legacy equipment, while fiber optic cabling may require some additional upgrades and installation steps.
Depending on your current networking system, copper cable may be easier to install. Legacy systems work with legacy cabling, so simply choosing copper prevents you from needing to update equipment or find ways to connect newer fiber optic cables to older systems.
When is Fiber Preferable to Copper Cabling?
If you’re looking to increase your bandwidth and elevate your network, then it’s time to consider fiber vs. copper. Fiber optic installation may have a higher upfront investment, but the total cost of ownership is lower due to its longevity and future-proof technology. Explore the top five times when switching to fiber is a better option than using copper cabling for your networking goals.
1. Transmitting Over Long Distances
One major factor to consider when comparing copper vs. fiber is connection lengths. Transmitting data within a small data center is possible with copper cable, but these cables can’t span distances greater than 300 feet due to governing standards. Copper experiences a 94% signal loss past this point, which makes it no longer useful in transferring significant amounts of data.
Compare that distance with fiber optic, which can be used in distances over 24 miles, depending on the cable features and signaling. Any long-range connections need to use fiber to ensure reliable and rapid data transmission.
2. Making Connections in Tight Spaces
The thin, lightweight fiber cables make them a better option for confined spaces. When installing copper cables, you need to be cautious of the physical dimensions of the area. These thicker cables can be damaged with improper installation, so the paths need to be more carefully considered.
For example, copper cabling can be compromised due to pull pressure. Both types of cable can be damaged when bent, but copper’s thicker, heavier design makes it more difficult to work with in small spaces or unusual connection routes.
3. Preparing for Future Bandwidth Requirements
Another consideration when installing fiber vs. copper is the amount of bandwidth you’ll need in the future. Bandwidth usage continues to grow year after year. Unless you expect your organization’s networking needs to shrink in the future, you need to plan for an increase in bandwidth requirements over the years. One way to do this is to invest in new equipment, but your copper cabling may be holding back your network.
While copper offers speeds up to 10 Gbps, fiber can be used to transmit data at faster speeds. Fiber optics can be used to transfer data at speeds over 1,000 Mbps. In theory, fiber optic cables allow data to transfer at speeds only 31% slower than the speed of light, so innovations in transceivers and overall systems can dramatically increase bandwidth capabilities without replacing fiber optic cables.
4. Investing in Long-Term Solutions
When comparing fiber vs. copper, consider fiber if you’re looking for the best purchase in terms of total cost of ownership. Fiber cabling can be more expensive initially, particularly if you need to update some of your equipment to accommodate the transfer. Due to the improved durability, flexibility, and design of fiber optics, however, it’s less likely to need to be replaced due to damage or outdated design.
5. Operating Near External Interference
Interference from outside sources is a serious concern for copper cables. This legacy cable option can’t be used in areas prone to electromagnetic interference. Copper cable can not be compromised by accidental interference, but its electromagnetic radiation can be decoded from external sources, creating a networking security risk.
As you review the security of copper cable vs. fiber optic cable, it’s important to also consider the fire safety of both cables. Worn-out copper cabling can have compromised sheathing, which creates a fire hazard as electric signals are sent along the copper wire. Fiber optic cable may not efficiently send signals if damaged, but the light transmitting through the strands doesn’t pose a fire hazard.
Learn More About the Benefits of Fiber Optic Cabling
If you’re ready to choose fiber vs. copper to update your network, then it’s time to turn to Equal Optics. While fiber optic may be an upfront investment, this cabling is a clear winner in these five situations your organization may face. Contact us to learn more about fiber optic solutions for your specific industry. From lengths of cable to optical transceivers, we offer the products and expertise you need to move forward with innovative networking possibilities.