There are two main types of cabling for communications infrastructure- fiber optic and copper. Deciding between them requires a working knowledge of how they differ, and they do differ. They are based on different technologies for transmitting signals over distance, which means that they also differ in cost and performance. In this post, we will examine the differences between copper and fiber optic in more detail. In summary, however, fiber optic cable tends to be initially more expensive but offers higher performance, longevity and throughput compared to copper
The most basic measure of performance for cabling is bandwidth. Fiber offers much higher bandwidth than copper cabling, but that also comes at a higher price. While fiber optic cabling has been getting cheaper over time, it is still usually a bit more expensive to wire and install a system using fiber optic cable than copper. But the difference in bandwidth means that fiber is cheaper on a per-unit basis of bandwidth, taking into account the relative prices of each style, and the capabilities of fiber will take you much farther into the future than copper cabling.The key is that a business or other entity will need a lot more bandwidth than a private home. A home can’t take full advantage of fiber because one family doesn’t need the bandwidth capacity of fiber. But most businesses and governmental organizations can easily use up fiber’s better potential bandwidth- right now that’s around 10 GB/s, but it increases as development continues.
Bandwidth Over Distance
Fiber also does better with distance. Copper wiring requires boosters along the way to ensure the signal does not fade out, but fiber optic cable is a glass tube that reflects light along its length. The signal lasts longer and maintains its speed better in fiber. That translates to lower maintenance costs in addition to higher speeds. Both speed and bandwidth affect the performance that the end user actually experiences, so it’s important to have both.
In copper’s favor, there is a large existing copper network in the US that extends just about everywhere already, so it is much cheaper to install copper cabling. The connections are closer. Fiber optic cables do not reach everywhere yet, so it might need a longer distance to connect from the business or government office to the greater network. That means more cost and potentially more time required to set up the cabling system.
Fiber optic cables are lighter and smaller in volume than copper cable, but it is also stronger. That means fiber can resist the effects of bad weather and storms a little better than copper. At this point, the difference is not that large, so this should not be a deciding factor, but it might play a role if the organization is in an area where there is a lot of bad weather or rugged conditions where the cables need to run.
In the end, it comes down to the needs of the organization. Not all of them can afford to pay the extra cost for fiber setups, and not all of them need the extra performance that fiber offers. You know your business better than anyone, so you understand exactly what it needs in terms of capacity and how that would fit into the budget. Be sure to shop around for the best deal on an installation, because different companies can have significantly different quotes on how much it will cost to set up the infrastructure.
We’re NetQ Multimedia, located in Freehold, New Jersey, and we hope this article got you thinking. Check out our free e-book on Structured Cabling or contact us with your questions today- 800-303-4782 or click here: NetQ Media