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What is the difference between fiber cable and copper cable?

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Definition of Copper Cable

Copper cables are guided media composed mainly of copper wires that allow transmission of data from an end to another. Copper cable due to its conductive nature widely used as a medium for data transmission for the past 50 years.

In copper cables, the data is transmitted due to the movement of electrons. This is the reason; copper cable allows data transmission in the form of electrical pulses.


Definition of Fiber Optics

Fiber optics allows the transmission in the form of light pulses. These are composed of one or more strands of glass or silica. These are basically dielectric waveguide that works at optical frequencies.

copper cable systems

The Main Advantages of Fiber over Copper (UTP)

Greater Bandwidth & Faster Speed: Fiber optic cable can support extremely high bandwidth and greater speeds. The sheer amount of information that can be transmitted per element of optical fiber cable is its most significant advantage.

Cheap: Miles of fiber optic cable can be made much cheaper than equivalent lengths of UTP copper wire.

Distance: Easily one of the greatest advantages over UTP copper is the distance that fiber optics can provide for data transmissions.

Smaller Diameter & Lighter Weight: Fiber Optic cable is much thinner and can be manufactured to smaller diameters than copper wire. The fiber strands and the cable, as a whole, are a much smaller size and lighter weight than compared to copper cable and offer a better fit for tight places where space is a concern.

Less signal degradation: The loss of signal in a fiber optic cable is much less than that in copper wire.

Light signals: Unlike the electrical signals that are transmitted in copper wires, light signals from one fiber do not interfere with the other fibers within the same cable.


The Main Advantages of Copper over Fiber

Specialized Technology: Fiber optics are considered a unique technology in the cabling world and in return requires specialized training, much more expensive tools, more specific installation techniques and in return higher labor and material costs to implement.

The POE advantage: UTP certainly has the advantage over fiber optics when it comes to Power Over Ethernet due to the inability of the fiber to carry an electrical signal.

Please Note: There are fiber optic converters available that will convert a light signal to an electrical signal but they can be costly.

Simply reverse the advantages in the above segment “Main Advantages of Fiber Optics over Copper” and the list of the disadvantages of Copper will grow, BUT, please read on and you will soon see the light at the end of the UTP tunnel.

 fiber optic systems

And the Winner is Both!

To sum up, fiber to the desktop, or endpoint, has not been fully adopted as a practical solution. This is mainly due to the associated cost of the equipment required. So, at this point in our fiber optic vs copper comparison it should be apparent that fiber optic cable and copper UTP cable have their own distinct advantages and are by all means not practically interchangeable. They are best used in partnership with each other in order to provide the best solution for your structured cabling solution.


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