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Copper vs. Fiber: The Battle of Quick Performance vs. Futureproof Infrastructure

What’s better: Copper coaxial or fiber optic cabling? Here’s a quick primer.
Feb 3, 2023

What’s better: Copper coaxial or fiber optic cabling? Here’s a quick primer.

First – let’s explain their physical differences. Copper and fiber optic cabling are both types of wiring that are used to transmit data communication signals. Copper cabling, which is made of metal wire, has been around for a long time and is widely used. Fiber optic cabling is a newer technology that uses strands of glass or plastic to transmit data using light signals. When do you choose one over the other?

Most applications use copper cabling. It is relatively cheap and widely available, and great for businesses on a budget. Copper is easy to work with and install and is compatible with a wide range of devices and systems, including Ethernet, telephone, and broadband networks.

However, copper cabling can be prone to interference, which can result in slower data speeds and lower quality connections. As technology evolves to ubiquitously connected environments, the network must support a multitude of applications at greater bandwidth at faster speeds. If your networking infrastructure was based on thinner copper, such as Cat 3 cabling, it may not suffice for the newest applications. Additionally, upgrading a copper network involves a manual switch-out to faster cable. This means single-handedly removing every single foot of cable and reinstalling – which is both time-intensive and costly.

Fiber optic cabling is more expensive upfront, but the outcome is a faster and more reliable connection than copper cabling, with data speeds up to 100 times faster. Fiber optic cabling is immune to electromagnetic interference, so it provides a stable and high-quality connection. The magic of fiber, though, is in the upgrades, which take a fraction of the time of a copper replacement. A certified fiber technician uses high air pressure to blow―or jet―new glass fibers into the conduit. Because the optical cable is lightweight and flexible, one fiber pull can replace up to a mile of cable!

In conclusion, both copper and fiber optic cabling have their benefits, and the right solution for your business will depend on your specific needs and budget. Copper cabling is the reliable and affordable option, but it may not be as fast or durable as fiber optic cabling. Fiber optic cabling is faster and more reliable, but it is also more expensive and may require specialized equipment and training to install and maintain.

DES is Pittsburgh’s leading integrator for fiber optic cable installation. Our clients include world-class medical institutions, universities, critical infrastructure and corporate headquarters – including UPMC, AHN, the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Pittsburgh Penguins, GNC global headquarters, and many more.

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