Data Installation – Copper vs. Fiber Cabling
Data installation requires making a set of careful decisions before acting. Though this may be a tedious task, once you understand how the combination of distinct hardware elements impacts directly on the performance of your networking, the actions to take will seem much more natural and simple. One of those hardware elements is the wiring itself. Much has been said about whether to choose copper or fiber, and a lot of organizations are struggling to understand their actual differences and how those differences affect their data installation process. Let’s try to focus on practical and real differences.
Copper Cabling in Data Installation
One of the advantages of copper is Power over Ethernet (PoE), which provides the ability to power phones, cameras, Wireless Access Points (WAPs), along with other devices directly through the networking cable itself. This gives you certain independence from technical staff to do some things, which otherwise would require their presence, like powering a surveillance camera. Another advantage: you count on an emergency power supply that will continue feeding important devices even if power goes down.
Less expensive and more acceptability — before going into fiber, consider that most PC’s come with copper NIC cards ready. Optical cards will cost you between $100-200 each. So, in this aspect, choosing copper cabling will keep the costs of data installation lower.
Flexibility — TDM environments are thought to use copper-based infrastructures. In order to turn to fiber, you’ll have to spend more money in electronics.
Cons – LAN copper is quite susceptible to damage, while fiber, even though it contains glass, is more resistant than copper cables and may have a pull strength of 100-200 lbs for standard cables.
Structured Fiber Cabling in Data Installation
The first two features that must be mentioned regarding fiber are its high data rate over long distances (which makes it perfect for systems such as Gigabit ethernet, FDDI, multimedia, ATM, SONET, Fibre Channel) and its complete immunity to electrical interference.
The reason why optical fiber isn’t affected by electromagnetic energy is because it is dielectric (not able to conduct electric current). Copper cabling, on the contrary, is vulnerable to the effects of EMI (Electromagnetic Impulse). If not installed properly, it may cause many problems such as low responses, degradation, or system failure.
High Bandwidth — Fiber has a higher bandwidth than copper. Example: Category 6A Cable is classified by the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) to handle a bandwidth up to 600 MHz over 100 meters. In theory, this could carry around 18,000 calls at the same time. Multimode Fiber would have a bandwidth of over 1000 MHz which could carry almost 31,000 simultaneous calls. This makes a difference in terms of the data installation option you want to choose depending on how much information your business must handle.
Less Expensive — While fiber electronics are very expensive, fiber cable is actually less expensive than copper.
Lightweight — An optical cable weighs less than a comparable copper wire cable.
Safe — As we mentioned before, fiber is a dielectric. Since no electrical current flows through the cable, there’s no danger of causing fire. Copper does carry a current and an old cable could cause a fire.
Distance — No matter which type of cable you choose for your data installation, a loss in signal strength as the length of the cable increases is expectable. Such loss is called attenuation and is measured in decibels (dB). Although both of them are affected by this physical fact, fiber retains a higher bandwidth over long distances compared to copper cabling.
— For fiber, lower-power transmitters are enough because fiber signals degrade less over distance than copper.
Depending on the distances you want to cover, on the environment and on your budget, you’ll have to decide which one is suitable for your data installation. If you need support for high bandwidth media and long distances, or you think that your business needs to be ready for those variables, you should go for fiber. But remember that copper is widely compatible with a lot of existing products and that it counts on Power over Ethernet.
Integrated Systems Installers is a premiere network cabling expert in Denver. We have over 13 years of experience in the data installation systems. If you have questions or doubts, give us a call or visit our technology section to find out more about fiber and copper options.