Fiber LAN over Copper: What are the Differences?

Since the appearance of fiber-based LAN architecture that most people, predicted the end of the copper networks.

This kind of LANs are used for decades, as its production processes, from the production to the installation, are well defined. The installation is also easier, as technicians are used to handle these cables and it requires low specialization, and no special tools.

Fiber optics is a relatively recent technology and is a subject of several investigations and, daily bases developments.

The major problem with the Fiber optic technology is the lack of trained technicians and the cost of the special tools needed. But if we look at its benefits, they are far superior to any other technology.

Copper VS Fiber

The copper cables are flexible, easy to handle and install. They are very effective to transmit voice, image and data for distances up to 100mts with bandwidth from 1 to 10 Gb/s. The twisted pair technology can reach 25 or 40Gb/s with the new (sense 2016) Cat 8 cable but they are not so flexible and easy to handle.

The fiber optic cables, with the development of their components, are becoming as flexible, as easy to install and handle as the copper cables. The transmission capacity in one fiber is, for now, unlimited.
The current record is 1 million Gb/s or 1 Petabyte/s, limited by the active equipment, not by the fiber optic cable.

In a copper-based network, whenever we need to increase the bandwidth, it is mandatory to change all the components of the old network (cables, plugs, patch cords, …) with all the impact that it has on the users of the network.

Another disadvantage of the copper LAN is the antenna effect. The cables are not effective against electromagnetic fields in the surrounding, usually caused by electrical cables or even by other network cables. As the category of the cables has increased, this problem is getting worse. The most efficient method to attenuate this is to add electromagnetic shields in the cable and even in each pair of the cable. Yet, this solution makes the cable less flexible, not so easy to install and handle, and much more expensive.

Why should we choose a fiber lan architecture?

In what comes to the fiber optic, it only carries light, so it is immune to electromagnetic fields but it is not possible to have POE over a fiber LAN.

Another major advantage of the fiber optic LAN architecture is flexibility. If we need to increase the performance of the network, we just have to change the active equipment and all cables and connectors can remain the same.

One fiber optic cable can have several fibers, from 2 to several hundreds in a 2cm cable. This allows to save lots of space in the cables paths. In fact, a fiber LAN architecture can save up to 90% of the space in the cable paths. This reduction in the cable and the plastic around the fiber, in the cable’s path, and the use of silica, a very abundant material, as the raw material for the optic fiber, allows us to also say that the fiber LAN is more sustainable than the copper LAN.

The cost of a fiber LAN has been decreasing with time. Some time ago, all the components were very expensive. But with the massification of use of this technology, the cost of a fiber LAN is higher than a copper LAN for Networks with less than 100 users, and lower for over 100 users.

The life cycle of a copper LAN is about 5 to 10 Years. Usually, after this period, a new category emerges and the applications on the network need more and more bandwidth. The only solution is to change everything. In the case of fiber cables, they have an estimated life cycle of 30 to 50 years, and you will only need to change active components, to upgrade the network.

Another big difference is the power consumption. As the Fiber LAN is not limited to 100mts, most of the times one cabinet can manage the entire network. Making unnecessary a technical room in each floor. This can save a lot of energy, not only in switchs but mostly in air conditioned systems, UPS´s and others facilities in the technical room.

source: (Fiber LAN Architecture over Copper: What are the Differences?)