Advantages of Fiber over Copper



All modern communications systems are based on fiber optic cable – hair-thin (or thinner) strands of glass that carry information by transmitting pulses of light, which are usually created by lasers. The pulses are turned on and off very, very quickly. A single fiber can carry multiple streams of information at the same time over different wavelengths, or colors, of light.

Fiber has many advantages over copper, whether that copper is in the form of wire or coaxial cable.

  • Fiber is great for rural areas. Signals travel long distances inside fiber cable without degradation or need for refreshing – 40 miles or more in many real-world networks and 65 miles or more in some.
  • Fiber is easy to deploy. Thin fibers can be packaged in a cable or a narrow ribbon or inside a hollow plastic microduct less than 1/8 inch in diameter. Fiber cable can be hidden easily on the surfaces of walls in old buildings. There are even hair-thin fiber products that can be attached to walls with adhesive tape and painted over.
  • Fiber is permanent. Once installed, fiber is upgraded by changing the electronics that create and receive the light pulses, not by replacing the cable itself.
  • Fiber is rugged and weatherproof. Unlike copper, it does not corrode, is not easily affected by water and generates no heat. Lightning doesn’t damage it. Nothing hurts it except a physical cut.
  • Fiber networks cost less to operate than copper. The most common FTTH network technology, GPON, uses no electronics – and therefore no power – between the provider’s central office and the customer premises. Even optical networks that require electronics in the field use far less power than copper networks do. Glass is easily made from sand, an abundant resource.
  • All-fiber networks are far more reliable than copper. Surveys by market researcher Michael Render of RVA LLC show that a typical DSL modem has to be reset by a user about once a week. For fiber, it is once a month or less. This is critical for telemedicine and for distance learning, but it is also important for businesses. We have all sought to pay for an item by credit card only to find that the card reader is not working. This is usually because the DSL or cable modem connection has been lost. A few lost sales per month can cost a retailer more than the monthly fee for the connection! 

Source:  “What Fiber Broadband Can do for Your Community” from the editors of Broadband Communities