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Advantages of optical fibre and copper.

This is simple, until you bring distance, connectors, cost and media converters into the debate.

Optical Fibre.

Bandwidth – Fibre optic cables have a much greater bandwidth than metal cables. The amount of information that can be transmitted per unit time of fibre over other transmission media is its most significant advantage.  With the high performance single mode cable used by telephone industries for long distance telecommunication, the bandwidth surpasses the needs of today’s applications and gives room for growth tomorrow.

 Low Power Loss – Over a longer distance. An optical fibre offers low power loss. Providing it does not increase the number of connectors by ratio, distance and connectors. This allows for longer transmission distances.  In comparison to copper; in a network, the longest recommended copper distance is 100m while with fibre, it is 2000m.

 Interference – Fibre optic cables are immune to electromagnetic interference.  It can also be run in electrically noisy environments without concern as electrical noise will not affect fibre.

 Size – In comparison to copper, a fibre optic cable has nearly 4.5 times as much capacity as the wire cable has and a cross sectional area that is 30 times less.

 Weight – Fibre optic cables are much thinner and lighter than metal wires.  They also occupy less space with cables of the same information capacity.  Lighter weight makes fibre easier to install.

 Safety – Since the fibre is a dielectric, it does not present a spark hazard.

 Security – Optical fibres are difficult to tap.  As they do not radiate electromagnetic energy, emissions cannot be intercepted.  As physically tapping the fibre takes great skill to do undetected, fibre is the most secure medium available for carrying sensitive data.



Copper can be ideal for Ethernet LAN up to 100 metres. Due to low loss connectors in copper compared to high accumulated losses experienced at fibre connectors.

A through connector with two connectors can have a similar loss as 2 kilometres of fibre.


Media Conversion- Copper does not require media conversion. Optical fibre has a requirement for media conversion. Typically at both ends.


Attenuation- Insertion loss is lower at connectors for copper network when installed correctly.


Loss- Copper has a lower aggregated loss under 100 metres. Fibre loses its advantage over shorter distances due to connector loss.


To use fibre you need to consider your design needs ratio.

  • Distance

  • Bandwidth

  • Speed

  • Security

  • IP or conventional telephony

This will then help you decide on fibre or gig copper.

Cost – Copper cables are less expensive to install. Fibre is affected by flood (Brisbane 2012) and vermin once installed in conduit. (Kiama)


 Transmission – transmission on optical fibre requires repeating at distance intervals. Copper does not require repeaters if kept under 100 metres


Bend Radius.- Copper bend radius of 4 as compared to between 10 and 32 for fibre. Fibre is more fragile.

 Fragile – Fibres can be broken or have transmission loses when wrapped around curves of only a few centimetres radius.  However by encasing fibres in a plastic sheath, it is difficult to bend the cable into a small enough radius to break the fibre.  Copper is more robust

 Protection – Optical fibres require more protection around the cable compared to copper

Do not assume fibre is better unless you are looking for good design over a distance or security. In building networks or campus less than 100 metres, fibre can lose its advantage over copper.

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