Understanding the Difference: Fiber Optics vs Copper Cabling

network cabling program

Cabling specialists sometimes have to decide whether to use fiber optic or copper cable when installing a network. They have to consider things like cost, transmission speed, device accessibility and other factors. Compared to copper cabling, fiber optics are relatively new on the market.  In the networking industry, there’s an ongoing debate as to which type of cabling has more advantages and each side has several valid points.

The basic function of both fiber optic and copper cabling is to send signals over a distance, but their differences lie in how each type manages to do that. If you hope to pursue a career in network cabling, it’s important to know the differences between the two technologies so that you can decide for yourself which one would be best to use on a particular job.

Read on to learn more about differences between fiber optic and copper cabling and to find out the advantages each one offers!

Network Cabling with Copper

When it comes to telecommunications, several types of copper cabling are typically used:

  • Twisted pair cabling is the most popular network cable and is often used in data networks for short and medium length connections
  • Unshielded twisted pair (UTP) cables are the primary cable type for telephones
  • Coaxial cables  are popular for computer network (Internet) and instrumentation data connections, video and CATV distribution

All forms of copper communication work by sending electrical pulses through copper wire. If you’re planning to enroll in a network cabling program, here are some advantages of using copper cabling on an installation:

  • Power over Ethernet (PoE): This gives you the ability to power phones, surveillance cameras, Wireless Access Points (WAPs), and other devices right through the networking cable itself.
  • Cheaper electronics: Most computers come with copper Network Interface Controller (NIC) cards. This is good to keep in mind for offices that require multiple computers to be networked. Optical NICs can cost up to $200 each.

Network Cabling with Fiber Optics

Fiber optic communication uses light signals to transmit information. Light travels through a series of reflective glass tubes within a cable, which can be beneficial when you’re trying to transfer data over long distances.

They may cost a little more, but network cabling career training will teach you that there’s several advantages of using fiber optics in a cable infrastructure, such as:

  • Non-flammable: There’s no electrical current that flows through fiber optics. Copper, on the other hand does carry a current and can become a fire hazard once it starts getting worn.
  • Faster transmission: Copper suffers from a significant signal-loss issue. Information travels through fiber optics at 70% of the speed of light.
  • Lightweight: An optical cable weighs less than a comparable copper wire cable.
  • Electromagnetic Interference (EMI): Copper cabling is at risk of being affected by EMI, and is vulnerable to undesirable responses, degradation, or complete system failure. Optical fiber is immune to electromagnetic energy because it is a dielectric (it doesn’t conduct an electrical current.)

If you’re pursuing a career in network cabling, you probably know that both types of cabling are reliable. In the end, when a network cabling specialist is trying to decide what type of cable will work best, it’s good to have options!

Do you know of any other advantages of using fiber optic versus copper cabling?

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