Why We Choose Fiber Over Copper Cable?

When installing the network cable, which one do you prefer? Copper cable or fiber optic? Both of them have their advantages and unique characteristics. Copper has already existed in many places and it is cheap in network devices connection. While the fiber optic cable is more enticing cable infrastructure solution than its copper counterpart. However, with the dramatic reduction of cost of optical deployment, the fiber optic cable shows more advantages over copper and has a better prospect in the future market. This paper presents five reasons for the choice in fiber rather than copper cable from cost, bandwidth, transmission speed and distance, durability and security.


A few years ago, the overall price of fiber cables was 100% to 200% higher than coppers, but now the price between fiber and copper has little difference as the cost of fiber cable, components, and hardware has steadily decreased. Generally, electrical power transmission over copper is, and will likely remain, cheaper than laser power transmission over fiber. But most people overlook the cost of the wiring closet in copper networks. Per closet includes the costs of conditioned UPS (Uninterruptible Power Source) power, data ground, HAVC (Hybrid Automatic Voltage Control) and floor space. These costs generally exceed the extra cost of fiber equipment in a centralized fiber architecture. Besides, fiber usually has better performs, thus costing less to maintain. So, an all-fiber LAN (Local Area Network) is really more economic than copper for new construction and major renovations.


The copper has very limited bandwidth, which is perfectly adequate for a voice signal. While fiber provides standardized performance up to 10 Gbps and beyond. Fiber links provide over 1000 times as much as copper and go more than 100 times further as well. A typical bandwidth-distance product for multimode fiber is 500 MHz/km, so a 500 m tether can transmit 1 GHz. While twisted pair optimized for high data rates (Cat 6) can transmit 500 MHz over only 100 meters over the same product. Besides, the signal losses over 500 m in fiber are negligible, but copper has very high losses at high frequencies.

Transmission Speed and Distance

Fiber optic versus copper transmission can be viewed as the speed of photons versus the speed of electrons. Photons travel at the speed of light, whereas electrons used in copper travels at less than one percent of the speed of light. Although fiber optic cables do not reach the speed of light, they are only about 31% slower. So you can see that there is a huge inherent speed difference between fiber and copper. In addition, fiber does not have the 100-meter distance limitation which belongs to the unshielded twisted pair copper without a booster. Therefore, distance can range from 550 meters for 10 Gbps multimode and up to 40 kilometers for single-mode cable.


Fiber optic cable is much less susceptible to various environmental factors than copper cable. For example, copper will experience a great deal of degradation in quality over a distance of two kilometers, using fiber optic cable over the same distance can provide extremely reliable data transmission. What’s more, fiber is also immune to temperature fluctuations than copper and can be submerged in water. You can deploy fiber cable next to industrial equipment without worry.


Since optical fiber does not transmit electricity, it does not radiate signals and cannot be tapped. While the copper using electricity is easy to be tapped, which will cause the entire system to fail. Besides, a broken or damaged optical fiber can be detected extremely quickly by monitoring either the actual power transmission or the transmission of a pilot signal. On the other hand, the copper carrying a current and could cause a fire concern if it is old or worn without such efficient monitoring.


The advent of optical cables, with their low cost, great bandwidth, high speed and long reach, good reliability and perfect security, has replaced coppers in all aspects of networking. Now fiber optic cable becomes one of the most popular mediums for both innovative cabling installations and upgrades, including backbone, horizontal, and even desktop applications. With the improvement of fiber optic connectivity, fiber construction will become more convenient.

This article originates from http://www.fiber-optical-networking.com/2016/05/17/why-we-choose-fiber-over-copper-cable/.

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