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Comparing cable types: Fiber vs. copper twisted pair
January 17, 2019 – 05:36 am
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rely on to support their operation. Those cables include fiber optic cable and copper twisted pair. And each of these cables is engineered to meet specific demands. Let's compare fiber vs. copper and take a close look at each type of cable, then discuss where it might be used in today's complex networks.

Enterprises have several options to support their wired and wireless network transmissions - bear in mind, all wireless access points have a wired component. Standards vary, depending upon the type of connectivity to be used. For Ethernet, the most widely used protocol, the Ethernet Alliance publishes a roadmap every year that explains new and emerging specifications. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. maintains a list of other cabling specifications, as does Standards Informant, a blog published by cable manufacturer Siemon Co.

In addition, the Fibre Channel Industry Association publishes its own list of standards governing the use of that storage networking protocol. And other industry associations publish standards for their specialty applications. For the purpose of this primer, however, we will address Ethernet only, as it is the most predominant protocol used today for LAN, Wi-Fi uplinks and data centers.

Fiber vs. copper: Pros and cons

There are pros and cons to both fiber and copper distribution methods. Fiber is, generally, the more accepted method, and it is used for backbone and long-haul applications. Copper remains dominant for server-to-switch and desktop-to-switch connections. That's because copper ports are less expensive and they can auto-negotiate - that is, they can support multiple speeds out of the same port. Another benefit of copper is the ability to supply DC power over the data cabling, thus removing the need to run additional electrical services to a variety of end devices. If evaluating fiber vs. copper, consider the media - copper or fiber - the cost of the ports at both ends, length of time the application will be supported, maintenance costs and so on. Examining per-port and power costs is not as revealing as examining the total cost for your communication requirements.

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