Can Copper Keep Up or Will Fiber Rule the Future?

As technology trends continue to fuel the demand for higher speed and more bandwidth, computer networks and network infrastructure are more critical than ever before. Video conferencing, 4K video streaming and the Internet of Things are all fueling the demand for reliable high speed, high bandwidth networks.

Copper networking cabling has been around for quite some time and has enjoyed tremendous success. The availability of category cabling, ease of termination and its support for a wide range of data rates has propelled its deployment to nearly every network around the world providing a cost effective and extremely reliable connectivity solution.The continual evolution of its standards and design have allowed copper category cable to continue to fulfill the critical needs of businesses and demands of consumers for high speed high bandwidth connectivity. Additional benefits such as Power over Ethernet (PoE) which allows data and power to be transmitted over the same Ethernet cable have solidified the reputation of copper cabling as a favorable choice for networking solutions.

While copper cabling has many advantages, it is not without limitations.

The greatest disadvantage to copper cabling is inarguably its predisposition to greater signal attenuation and electromagnetic interference. Attenuation refers to the amount of signal loss experienced during signal transmission. Copper cabling simply cannot compete with fiber over long distance transmission as the higher the frequency over copper, the greater the attenuation.

In addition to high attenuation, copper cabling is also vulnerable to electromagnetic interference (EMI) from electrical equipment which can interfere with signal transmission causing irregularities in the performance of your network.

In areas where copper cabling suffers, fiber excels.

Fiber has a greater bandwidth, higher transmission speed, and lower signal attenuation than copper. Fiber supports a far greater bandwidth than copper allowing for the support of multiple devices performing multiple tasks at the same time without resulting in sluggish performance. This may prove to be a critical characteristic as the IoT trend, connecting everything from smart hubs that control lighting and other smart devices to washing machines and refrigerators, and 4K video streaming move to the mainstream further perpetuating the need for increased bandwidth.

fiber-networkIn addition to offering superior bandwidth, fiber has been the standard for long distance transmission as light pulses are able to travel far greater distances with far less attenuation than that of signals over copper. Not only do light pulses travel farther, they travel considerably faster than electrons making fiber transmission significantly faster than copper.

Copper vs. fiber is a seemingly perpetual debate within the industry.

While many may seek a definitive answer to which one is the best, perhaps the answer is both. Both have advantages and disadvantages which seemingly remedy one another shortcomings.

It is unlikely that fiber will fully replace copper in the near future.

Rather than position copper and fiber in an all-out battle as competing technologies, it is advantageous to recognize the value of their coexistence and leverage their unique characteristics to achieve maximum network performance.

Networks and network technology have significantly evolved and will continue to evolve with the high demand for higher speeds and increased bandwidth. Whether you utilize copper, fiber or both, it is certain that as more and more devices become “connected,” the demand for bandwidth will continue to increase as will the expectation of uninterrupted connectivity. By remaining proactive to the demands of your network and leveraging the advantages of both fiber and copper technologies, you can help ensure that your network meets your current and future needs.

Comprehensive Connectivity offers a wide variety of fiber optic and copper category cables in standard and custom lengths to help you maintain a reliable high performance network.

Posted by Patrick Cirelli

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