Why Fiber Optic Networks Beat Copper Networks

Data transmission via fiber optic cabling is not a new technology; it was invented in the 1970s. However, it is now the fastest-growing method for transporting high bandwidth data worldwide because fiber optic cabling works very well for transmitting bandwidth-heavy applications, spanning long distances and ensuring the integrity and network security of the transported data. These inherent characteristics make optical fiber the ideal platform for wide area networks (WANs), broadband Internet connectivity, optical Ethernet and all other next-generation networking methods such as multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) and virtual private LAN (VPLS) technologies.

In other words, it’s the fast, flexible and scalable way to connect businesses to vendors, customers and other digital resources. Copper

Here are the key advantages of fiber optic networks:

1. Extremely High Bandwidth

No other cable-based data transmission medium offers the bandwidth capability of fiber optics. The capacity of any type of transmission cable increases with frequency. On the other hand, distance decreases as frequency increases. Generally, copper cabling has a bandwidth capability of a few MHz. By contrast, fiber optic cabling has a bandwidth capability of 400MHz or greater. This enables fiber optics to provide data transmission performance up to 100 Gbps with the hardware that is now available, and allows for easier bandwidth upgrades in the future.

 While fiber optic cabling does not have infinite bandwidth, it’s certainly superior to copper cabling. It’s true that 10 Gbps copper applications are on the market; but copper can only transmit 10 Gbps for about 50 feet over high-cost copper wire — a distance that’s practical only within the confines of a data center. While Ethernet-over-Copper (EoC) data solutions are considered by some to be the way of the future, these applications are not as reliable and only deliver about 15 to 20 Mbps of actual bandwidth.

2. Greater Transmission Distances

Fiber optic cabling allows data to be sent far greater distances than copper cabling and performs this without nearly as many repeater pieces of gear. With copper cabling, a repeater must be installed in the middle of the copper path to regenerate the signal.

The higher the bandwidth needed, the greater the number of repeaters that are required in the copper path; this can prove to be very costly. With fiber optics, conventional electrical data signals are converted into a modulated light beam (laser), introduced into the cable and transported via a very, very small diameter glass or plastic optical fiber to a receiver that coverts light back into electrical signals. This process allows the data to be sent greater distances. In fact, as custom fiber optics have advanced over time, new long-reach lasers have been developed that reduce the number of regeneration sites even further. So fiber optics allow transmission of a signal over greater distances at a much lower cost than copper so rural businesses have better bandwidth options, and organizations with multiple offices can take advantage of the same network.

3. Easily Scalable Bandwidth

Thanks to recent generations of fiber optic cabling, your provider can increase bandwidth capacity by simply changing out a card or installing new equipment — without the need to replace the fiber. Optical technology called Dense Wave Division Multiplexing (DWDM) has the ability to turn on multiple light streams that travel down the same optical fiber, which greatly increases the bandwidth carrying capacity. By contrast, high bandwidth copper technology usually requires that the old copper cabling be replaced with higher performance copper cabling. This means fiber optics can easily allow your network to grow as your business grows, without huge capital expense of new copper cabling.

4. Resistance to Electromagnetic Interference

Because fiber optic cabling transmits light (photons) rather than electrons, it doesn’t radiate electromagnetic fields, nor is it susceptible to electromagnetic fields. Therefore, fiber optic transmissions do not suffer from crosstalk, electrically noisy environments or electromagnetic interference problems like copper transmissions do. Fiber delivers clear communications and reliable data delivery, compared to copper.

5. Secure Transmission

Fiber optic cabling is an extremely secure transmission medium since there is no way to detect the data being transmitted by ‘listening in’ to the electromagnetic signal, as is possible with traditional copper transmissions. Since fiber optic cabling does not radiate magnetic fields, the photons are confined within the fiber, making it impossible to tap into the signal without physically cutting into the fiber. Physically tapping the fiber would take great skill and can be detected by using fiber optic test equipment. Therefore, fiber optic cabling is one of the most secure data solutions available for carrying sensitive data/information.

6. Lower Long-Term Costs

Installation costs for fiber continue to be higher than copper because of the skill set required for installation and testing. While this makes fiber more expensive than copper initially; it will actually be less expensive over time since fiber optic cabling is typically more cost-effective to maintain, has less downtime, and requires less networking and re-generation hardware.

When you add up all the advantages, it’s no wonder that fiber optic cabling has become the standard for highly robust and reliable networking.