Copper - vs- Fiber Frequently Asked Questions
Copper-vs-Fiber Discovering the perfect solution for your cabling infrastructure is a difficult task. However, once you understand the distinct properties of copper and fiber your solution may seem clearer. Many organizations just like yours, are struggling to read between hype and reality. Everyone is pushing their own agenda. We are giving you reality.
Advantages of Structured Copper Cabling
Power over Ethernet (PoE) — This gives you the ability to power phones, surveillance cameras, Wireless Access Points (WAPs), and many other devices right through the networking cable itself. That means that you don’t have to schedule an electrician in to run power to your surveillance cameras to power them. Another advantage is the ability to have an emergency power supply that will continue powering mission critical devices even if your electricity goes out.
Less expensive electronics — If you are going to take fiber to the workspace, realize that most PC’s come with copper NIC cards. Optical ones will cost you between $100-200 each.
More Flexible — TDM environments are built to run on copper infrastructures. Fiber can be used, however the electronics that make it work are expensive.
Advantages of Structured Fiber Cabling
Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) — The interference in signal transmission or reception caused by the radiation of electrical and magnetic fields.
Optical Fiber is immune to electromagnetic energy because it is a dielectric (not able to conduct electric current). Copper cabling, if not installed properly is vulnerable to the effects of EMI, such as undesirable responses, degradation, or complete system failure.
High Bandwidth — Fiber has a higher bandwidth than copper. Example: Category 6A Cable is classified by the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) to handle a bandwidth up to 600 MHz over 100 meters, which theoretically, could carry around 18,000 calls at the same time. Multi-mode Fiber, on the other hand, would have a bandwidth of over 1000 MHz which could carry almost 31,000 simultaneous calls.
Less Expensive — fiber cable is actually less expensive than copper, but don’t forget the expensive electronics that it requires.
Lightweight — An optical cable weighs less than a comparable copper wire cable.
Non-flammable — Fiber is a dielectric, which means that there isn’t any electrical current that flows through it. Copper, on the other hand does carry a current and could cause a fire concern if it is old or worn.
Distance — Whether you use fiber or copper, there will be a loss in signal strength as the length of the cable increases. This loss is called Attenuation and is measured in decibels (dB).
The maximum allowed industry standard of attenuation for multi-mode fiber over a 100-meter distance is 0.15 dB. The fiber looses only 3% of its original signal strength over 100 meters. Also the attenuation of fiber doesn’t change as bandwidth increases or decreases.
The maximum allowed industry standard of attenuation for Category 6A cable over 100 meters at 100 MHz is 20.9 dB which is a 94% loss in signal strength.
The fact of the matter is that fiber can retain a higher bandwidth over greater distances than comparable copper cabling.
Pulling Tension — Copper cable is relatively delicate. It has a 25-pound tension limit. While basic fiber has a 100-200 pound tension limit.
Security — Eavesdropping on a LAN using copper cables only requires a sensitive antenna to pick up the energy radiated from the cable. Since optical fiber is a dielectric (doesn’t transmit electricity) it doesn’t radiate energy and cannot be tapped by an antenna. To place a tap on a fiber optic cable is difficult and can’t be done without causing attenuation. An optical-time domain reflectometer will easily locate the location of a tap on fiber cabling.
We touched on the basic differentiators between copper and fiber. Your structured cabling decisions are dependent on your very specific circumstances, which can be very complex. To fully maximize your cabling infrastructure and prepare for the media rich applications of the future, speak to one of our Specialists Today!