Budget is always the most direct choice factor when installing cables. Copper cable vs fibre optic cable price, it’s true that the popular impression is that copper is cheap, fibre is expensive. Well, at a certain period in the past decades, it’s true. However, today with the development of networking, is copper cabling really cheaper than fibre optic cabling?
Copper vs Fibre: What’s the Difference?
Copper and fibre optic cable are different cable types. Copper cable, also called RJ45 Ethernet cable, transmits data by electrical impulses, which is perfectly adequate for voice signals. Copper cables have many types such as Cat5, Cat6, Cat7, and Cat8, which can reach different transmission speeds. Cat5 Ethernet cable is once as slow as 10 Mbps over 100 metres. However, in today’s market, copper is getting faster. That the latest technology Cat8 Ethernet cable speed now can reach 40Gbps for 20 metres, but note that it has the notable limitation with regard to distance.
Unlike copper cable, fibre cable is made from fine hair-like glass fibres, which transmits data via light. Therefore, fibre cable does not conduct electricity, which is impervious to radio frequency interference. It’s naturally more durable than copper that it can withstand tougher environments and harsher weather conditions. As for the speed, fibre definitely wins for sheer speed and longer transmission distance. For example, the maximum distance of single mode fibre OS2 can be up to 200km. The following table makes a clear comparison between copper and fibre cables.
No spark hazard
Susceptible to EM/RFI interference, crosstalk and voltage surges
Factors of Copper Cable vs Fibre Optic Cable Price
People always believe the cost of fibre optic cable is expensive. Is it true? The following will discuss it in two main factors.
Due to the technological differences between fibre and copper cables, their installation cost are different. Fibre’s immunity to electromagnetic interference (EMI) can save users’ cost because they don’t need to lay fibre optic cables in the pipeline for avoiding electromagnetic interference. But copper cables need some protection, which increases the installation cost. Besides, in many scenarios, users need distributed cabinets for the copper network while fibres don’t require this due to the longer distances. There are duplicated costs of building comms rooms, air con, ventilation, UPS (Uninterruptible Power Source) that people should not ignore in copper cabling. All these installation costs will exceed the extra cost of fibre equipment in a centralized fibre architecture. Therefore, if people decide to build a new data center, choosing fibre-based LAN is a much more economical solution than a copper networking environment.
Fibre optic cables do not pose fire hazards since the glass can not catch on fire. This means fibre cabling can save the cost of fire prevention. And fibre cables don’t break as easily, that customers will not worry about replacing them frequently. Thus, the support cost of fibre is less than the copper cable.
On the other hand, the increasing demand for fibre cables results in dropping prices. For example, at FS.COM, a Cat6 UTP cable with 3ft length needs 2.2 dollars, while LC to LC UPC duplex single-mode fibre patch cable with 3ft length just costs 3 dollars. The price difference is narrow. Therefore, when copper cable vs fibre optic cable price, the cost of copper cabling is not much cheaper than fibres.
In conclusion, copper cable vs fibre optic cable price, the copper one is not always the cheapest choice. When building a new network, people should not ignore the installation and support costs of these different cabling solutions. It’s wise to choose one according to the actual installation environments.