Fiber VS Copper: How Should I Make a Decision?

Both fiber optic cables and copper wires are media of signal transmission, but the way of transmission may differ. Fiber optic technology uses pulses of light to carry data along strands of glass or plastic, while traditional copper wires transmit electrical currents. The obvious difference is the maximum cable length. Most people prefer fiber because of the longer max cable length of optical fibers. But what are other factors which might come to mind when making choice between them? You may find answer in this post.

Comparison Between Fiber Optic Cables and Copper Cables

The following properties make a comparison between fiber optic cable and conventional copper cables.

1) Bandwidth

Fiber optic cable provides more bandwidth than copper and has standardized performance up to 10 Gbps and beyond, something that it is impossible to achieve when using copper. More bandwidth means that fiber can carry more information with far greater efficiency than copper wire.


2) Range of transmission

Since data travels in the form of light (in total internal reflections, the loss of quality is negligible) in fiber optic cables, very little signal loss occurs during transmission and data can move at higher speeds and greater distances.

3) Not susceptible to interference

Fiber optic cable is also much less susceptible to noise andelectromagnetic interference than copper wire. For example, over a distance of two kilometers, copper wire would experience a great deal of degradation in quality, while there would be virtually none over the same distance using optical cable. It is so efficient, in fact, that roughly 99.7% of the signal reaches the router in most cases.

4) Size, weight & strength

Fiber optic cable is much thinner and lighter than copper cable. It can be used more efficiently in confined underground pipes, and is also much stronger, with eight times the pulling tension of copper wire. Furthermore, it has strength members and stiffeners that make it much harder to damage or kink.

Fiber optic cables vs Copper cables-

When to Choose Fiber or Copper?

Apart form all the factors above, one important factor while choosing the cable is the speed of the network and the devices you plan to use. The general specifications for currently available ethernet network speeds are as follows:

copper cable

fiber optic cables-

I’d pick a cable that will support the current network requirement, while having sufficient scope for expansion. It is important to choose a medium that will support enough growth because usually replacing switches or modules on both ends of a link is just a one/two man job, while running new cabling for an upgrade is highly labor intensive and might cost a lot of money in comparison. The following are suggested scenarios where I’d pick each cable.

1.Cat6 would be my choice for last mile connectivity to the desk/wall outlet for any organization that either has:

  • A very low bandwidth requirement, like small cafes, retail stores, etc.
  • Or where the expected life of the interior fitout and office space is less than 5 years.
  • It might be worth noting that Cat5e might seem cheaper, but it only covers a small margin. So I’d just skip that for the better performance.

2.Cat 6a will be my choice for both last mile connectivity for the following reasons.

  • Ability to run at 10G speeds later on
  • Less susceptible to noise, interference and cross talk compared to Cat6. (Since almost all Cat6a cables are shielded)
  • Cat6a would be my choice for the last mile haul in any industrial or factory environment if they cannot use fiber all the way to their equipment.

3.Single mode fiber would be my cable of choice for any kind of backbone cabling where the long haul is needed. It has stood the test of time and I don’t think it’ll get obsolete any time soon. I’d pick the OS1 grade for indoor applications and OS2 grade for outdoor applications.

4.I’d use multimode fiber in between my telecom rooms, between racks in the data center. I’d pick OM3/OM4 depending on the budget available.

5. If possible to convince decision-makers, I’d use a combination of SMF and MMF across the entire network, even to the desk or wall outlet. Going for a completely fiber only networks saves up a lot of space and energy costs and provides a lot of management flexibility by drastically reducing the number of telecommunication rooms in large facility. Also such a network will have a large capacity of bandwidth and provided you’ve run enough number of cores, it will be future proof to a large extent.


There is no such thing as the perfect cable for everything. In the end you need to balance out between cost, capabilities and provision for growth based on the requirements of your particular application and business. But no matter copper cables or fiber optic cables, all can be found at FS.COM. You can always find one catering to your need most.


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