When it comes to cabling today, the choice is mostly between copper, fibre and wireless options. When directly compared on paper, fibre cabling looks to be the best option, however, this is rarely the case when installing for a production environment. Copper carries electrical pulses along metal strands and this has, traditionally, been one of the best options when it comes to cabling. But fibre cabling – where pulses of light travel along flexible strands – tends to be the more powerful option, especially for upgraded networks.
- Transmission over fibre optic cables is faster – If your cabling is copper then it will max out at 40 Gbps. If you are using fibre, then the cable is transporting data at close to the speed of light.
- Fibre cabling is more effective over distance – There is no doubt that both copper and fibre optic cabling do suffer from a weakening of signal over some distance. Copper cables are limited to lengths of 100 metres while fibre cabling can transmit up to 24+ miles, although over longer distances the speed of transmission is reduced.
- Fibre cabling is much less susceptible to interference – Electromagnetic interference poses a lot of challenges, as it can be a security risk or force messages to be retransmitted. Where copper cabling is in use this is, unfortunately, par for the course, as a copper network connection will generate a field of interference around the cables that can be problematic. Luckily, standards require segregation wherever possible to avoid this.
- A much more space-efficient option – Fibre optic strands are incredibly narrow – the closest approximation of their size is probably the width of a human hair. So, they are very space efficient and have a lot of benefits in terms of ultimate cabling arrangements. Copper cores tend to be much bigger and are around four times the size of the average fibre core – as well as carrying just a small percentage of the data that the fibre cable can.
- Fibre cabling is an investment for the future – While copper cabling could become redundant as the volume of data we consume continues to increase, fibre optic cabling is very expensive when looking at a cost versus performance comparison – it should be installed as part of a fully-fledged wired network solution.
It should be noted that both copper and fibre have their advantages and disadvantages and in the current environment neither option is a perfect solution, many devices today won’t have capacity for fibre connections, which may require expensive converters to connect to copper.
We always discuss specific requirements as the best option can vary between businesses, project size and budget. Our typical recommendation is to run user devices in copper and critical links in fibre.
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