Copper vs. fiber: Choosing the right cable for new networking installations

Fiber Optic Jargon COPPER VS. FIBER:

The number of networking cable options has drastically increased in recent years. However, two specific types continue to dominate the domain: copper and fiber optics. The former accounted for 77 percent of the Ethernet cable market in 2015, the latest year for which data was available, according to researchers from Technavio.

Fiber, meanwhile, sees less use - as of 2015, only 11 percent of U.S. broadband subscriptions relied upon fiber, analysts for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found - but represents the future of connectivity. In fact, the worldwide fiber optic cable market is expanding at a compound annual growth rate of more than 12 percent and is expected to surpass the $93 billion mark by 2025, according to data from Grand View Research.

Both cabling solutions can support new and unique networking installations. However, before pursuing either, businesses should evaluate the benefits and challenges that accompany each.

The case for copper

Network installation teams have counted on copper cabling for decades - and for good reason. Copper cables are supremely reliable, with passive models boasting mean time between failure measures of 50 million hours, according to Network Computing. This makes them perfect for indoor implementations involving equipment that must remain active at all times. Consequently, many data centers continue to use copper cabling. Additionally, copper solutions with reinforced jacketing offer considerable durability, EE World reported. Finally, copper cables are more cost-effective than alternatives. Passive styles can be two to five times cheaper than comparable cabling solutions.

The case for fiber

Networking specialists in numerous industries are embracing this next-generation material due to its overwhelming speed, capacity and adaptability. Fiber cabling moves information at an accelerated rate unparalleled in the networking space. Top-of-the-line models transmit data at two-thirds the speed of light, enabling transfers as rapid as 8.8 terabytes per second.

Due to its speed, fiber optic cabling also outperforms all other options in terms of capacity. On top of this, fiber offers optimal durability. These cabling solutions are immune to electromagnetic interference and far more resistant to attenuation, or the gradual loss of signal strength, than other cable types, including copper.

In addition to these big-bucket variables, a number of smaller factors make fiber optic cabling a good choice for new networking installations. For instance, fiber is less susceptible to tampering and espionage than other cabling models. It is also less prone to sparking, which can be an issue for business installing networking equipment in or near industrial environments such as mining operations.

Finally, fiber optic cabling continues to move forward, which makes perfect for new connectivity frameworks. Innovators in the field continue to improve upon fiber and develop new implementation methods that bolster its performance and accessibility. For example, technicians at Nokia Bell Labs recently managed to boost the capacity of submarine fiber optic cabling by 250 percent, according to the International Data Group. This technical forward momentum makes it a strong option for network builders.

While of these cabling solutions can support modern networking, fiber optic models are by far the better choice. At least that's what we believe here at LANShack. We specialize in pre-terminated fiber optic assemblies designed to support businesses of all sizes, in every industry. Contact us today to learn how we've been helping enterprises stay connected for more than 20 years.