When computer networks were invented, copper wiring was used for the cables that handled the Internet. But nowadays fiber optic cable is more often used for new cabling installations and upgrades, including backbone, horizontal, and even desktop applications. They are more favored for today’s high-speed data communications, such as Gigabit Ethernet, FDDI, multimedia, ATM, SONET, Fiber Channel, or any other network that requires the transfer of large, bandwidth-consuming data files, particularly over long distances.
Fiber optic cables offer a number of advantages over copper.
Lower Cost–While fiber optic cable itself is cheaper than an equivalent length of copper cable, fiber optic cable connectors and the equipment needed to install them are more expensive than their copper counterparts.
Long Distance And High Capacity–Fiber optic cables carry communication signals using pulses of light. Only fiber optics can go the long distance. Not only is fiber optic cable capable of carrying far more data than copper, it also has the ability to carry that information for much longer distances. Fiber to the Home (FTTH) installations are becoming more common as a way to bring ultra-high speed Internet service (100 Mbps and higher) to residences.
Higher Bandwith–Fiber has a higher bandwidth than copper. Example: cat6 network cable is classified by the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) to handle a bandwidth up to 600 MHz over 100 meters, which theoretically, could carry around 18,000 calls at the same time. Multimode Fiber, on the other hand, would have a bandwidth of over 1000 MHz which could carry almost 31,000 simultaneous calls.
Adaptable To Any Environment–Fiber optic cables don’t mind roughing it. Since fiber optic cables are glass-based, glass fibers don’t only escape interference. They are virtually free from the threat of corrosion, too. While copper cabling is sensitive to water and chemicals, fiber optic cabling runs almost no risk of being damaged by harsher elements. Fiber optic cables can be used outdoors — and in close proximity to electrical cables –without concern. As a result, fiber optic cable can easily endure “living conditions” that coaxial cable just can’t, such as being put in direct contact with soil, or in close proximity to chemicals.
For reasons stated above, fiber optic cable is a more reliable means of communication. While the decision on using copper cables or fiber optic cables may be difficult. It will often depend on your current network, your future networking needs, and your particular application, including bandwidth, distances, environment, and cost. While in some cases, copper may be a better choice.
Copper works on simple ADSL connections since there is not much of a distance from a modem to a phone jack on a wall. Copper usually transmits data without loss at distances of two kilometers or less. On top of all that, the demand for bandwidth in an ADSL connection is often low enough (around 6 to 8 Mbps on average) to use copper wires.
As the mature of fiber optic cables production, they are more affordable. Choosing fiber optic cables or copper wire for your communication is completely up to your future networking needs and your particular application.