Fiber optic data transmission was first tested in 1965 by a German physicist named Manfred Börner at the Telefunken Research Labs in Ulm. By 1968, NASA had used fiber optics in television cameras they sent to the moon. But since the millennium, fiber optic transmission has come into its own with the growth and reliance on the Internet. So, why are fiber optic cables better than copper wires, and is it worth it to switch to a fiber network?
Why is fiber optic better?
If you’re interested in upgrading your business connectivity but are wondering which type of cable to choose, there are several reasons why fiber optic cables are better than copper. Here are the five main advantages of fiber optic cables when setting up your business network and communications infrastructure.
1. Fiber optic vs. copper speed
Fiber optic cabling is faster than copper cabling. This is because fiber optic cables are made of extremely thin strands of glass or plastic, transmitting data at higher speeds than the copper equivalent.
The precise speed of transmission using fiber optic cables will vary, but if you opt for multimode fiber, you can expect the signal to reach speeds that are only 31% slower than the speed of light. This makes them faster than CAT5, CAT6, and twisted-pair copper cables.
2. Greater bandwidth
Fiber optic cables also have a much higher bandwidth than copper cables. The additional bandwidth means the fiber can carry more information with better efficiency than the copper equivalent. In a nutshell, this means that data rates will improve over greater distances.
3. Lower attenuation
Attenuation is the loss of signal strength over distance, and fiber optic cables have much lower attenuation than copper network cables. This means that fiber optic networks carry data over much further distances than copper networks. While this may not be a consideration within a fiber optic ethernet network, it’s critical for reliable broadband signals from city to city or country to country when we use the internet.
4. Less interference
Fiber optic cables are also less susceptible to interference than copper cables. This is because the signals in fiber optic technology travel through a glass or plastic core, covered in insulators and cladding that is not affected by electromagnetic interference. In comparison, copper wires are susceptible to EMI and can also generate electromagnetic radiation that may be intercepted by other equipment in the vicinity.
5. Lightweight alternative
Fiber optic cables offer durability but are lighter than copper, making them easier to install by blowing or pulling them into place. This is because fiber optic cables are made of thin strands of glass or plastic, while copper cables are made of heavier metal wires.
Why is fiber optic faster than copper?
So how does fiber optic work? And why is it faster than copper?
Fiber optic data transmission
A fiber optic cable is made up of glass fiber strands, each packed within an insulated casing. The glass fibers are incredibly thin. Although the diameter can vary, you can expect it to be significantly thinner than a strand of human hair.
Each glass fiber is coated with a layer of material that allows light to travel along its length. Laser transmitters generate pulses of light; these can travel along the length of the fiber at speeds of up to 200,000 kilometers per second.
At the other end of the fiber optic cable, the data signals carried by the light pulses are converted back into electrical signals. This allows the data to be transmitted at extremely high speeds, with very little signal loss.
Copper wire data transmission
In comparison, copper wires work by transmitting data as electrical pulses. These signals are sent along the length of the copper wire, with the strength of the signal attenuating over distance. This is why copper cables have a limited range and are unsuitable for carrying data over long distances.
The high bandwidth of the cable also limits the speed of data transmission in copper cables. This is because the electrical signals in copper cables are subject to interference from other sources, such as power lines and electromagnetic fields. This limits the amount of data that can be carried by the copper cable and also reduces the speed of data transmission.
What are the disadvantages of optical fiber over copper wire?
The main disadvantage of fiber optic cabling over copper wire is the cost. Along with a costly manufacturing process, fiber optic cables are also more expensive to install and maintain than copper wires as specialist equipment is required.
Although copper wiring is associated with lower costs, fiber optics are a fantastic investment. They also allow you to future-proof the infrastructure of your business telecommunications.
Another potential problem is the fragility of the cables. Fiber optics are thinner than copper wires and can be easily damaged if not installed correctly. This can lead to data loss and connection problems. But with proper care and maintenance, fiber optic cables can last for many years.
What’s the cost of fiber optic cable vs. copper?
The exact cost of a fiber optic installation will depend on many factors, including:
- the length of cable required
- single mode fiber or multimode fiber
- how many strands are in each cable
- your choice of internet service provider
- the cost of hiring fiber optic installation and testing equipment (example: an optical time-domain reflectometer)
- the labor involved in a conduit installation
Arrange your fiber optic installation
Are you ready to upgrade your internet speed and business connectivity? Now you know why fiber optic cables are better than copper wires, your next step is to contact The Network Installers.
Our team will conduct a thorough site assessment before preparing a report with our recommendations. Contact us today to speak to our fiber optic network professionals and arrange your FREE, no-obligation quote.