Copper cabling has been around for a long time because it was historically one of the lowest loss transmission mediums. In recent years, however, there’s been a newer kid on the block in the form of fibre optics, which has begun to challenge copper’s dominance.
But when is the right time to make the switch to fibre? To decide that we need to look at some of the pros and cons of each technology.
Despite the rise in popularity of wireless, most business networks still rely on cabling to operate. Traditionally, this has been twisted pair copper which, in its cat6 spec, can offer transmission speeds of up to 1 Gbps on distances up to 100 metres. It’s also relatively low cost and is easy to install. Over longer distances, however, copper can suffer from signal loss so may require signal boosting if you have a large site.
Fibre optic cable, on the other hand, transmits information as light through a glass filament. It’s able to transmit data far faster – up to 10 Gbps or more – and over longer distances of 2,000 metres before signal loss starts to become an issue.
Fibre is, at the moment, more expensive although its cost has fallen in recent years. Fibre optic networks also need careful installation by experts as the cabling can’t turn sharp corners. It’s becoming increasingly common to use fibre to provide network backbones, even though the cables to individual endpoints may still rely on copper.
When installing new network cabling, therefore, there are a number of factors that you need to take into account:
Getting your choice of cabling right is important. If you select the wrong medium, it can result in errors or downtime that cost your business money and time. Taking the time to get it right may seem a more expensive option in the short term, but the resulting robust infrastructure will future-proof your business and should make for a lower total ownership cost over the long term.
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Matt Nice, Director of ICT, Bristol Grammar School