In the world of networking cables, there is still a little bit of a mystery surrounding fiber optics. How do they work, and how do they match up to copper cables? Which type of cable will be the better investment? Let’s compare.
To start, what are the differences between fiber optic and copper cables? Fiber optic cables carry digital information by transmitting light from one end to another through thin strands of glass, otherwise known as optical fibers. A standard cable, such as an Ethernet cable, is typically constructed with copper wiring and transmits data through an electrical current.
Speed is one of fiber optic’s biggest draws, as new fiber cables operate near the speed of light. Copper cables experience more signal loss, which inherently slows them down.
If you are looking at a long cable run, a fiber optic cable would be the best choice because they transmit data much further than copper cables, and can also transmit greater bandwidth over longer distances. If you are running a standard Ethernet cable such as Cat5e, you will definitely have length limitations. Usually Ethernet switches can be used for longer runs with copper cables, but that will also cause your set-up to be more expensive.
If security is one of your concerns, fiber definitely beats out copper in every which way. Fiber is much more secure and less easy to tap into than a standard copper cable. Because fiber cables do not need to be grounded in the same way that copper cables do, it means that there is much less chance for other digital interferences.
Do keep in mind though that fiber cables need special handling as they are more fragile than standard copper cables. This is due to the fact that glass strands are much weaker than copper. This in turn makes a fiber cable physically lighter than a copper cable. Installations of fiber cables can be more expensive than other cable installs because specialized equipment is needed, as well as an installer who is specially skilled with fiber optics.
So when the two types of cables are put side by side, it looks like in the end fiber is your best bet. Your cable will be faster, lighter, safer and more secure.