What are the Benefits of Fibre Optic Cabling?

23 October 2018

We’ve discussed the differences between multimode and single mode fibre and the varying fibre optic cable constructions but when should you choose fibre over copper? What are its benefits?

We take a brief look at it’s benefits and why you would potentially choose optical fibre over balanced copper cabling.

Longer Distance Applications

One of the primary reasons fibre optic cabling is chosen is due to the distances it can run.

All cable, regardless of type, suffers attenuation, this in simple terms is due to the degradation of signals as they run the length of the installed cable.

However, fibre optic cables have dramatically less attenuation (signal loss) than copper cables, this is due to optical fibres using light to transmit data rather than electrical signals.

Single-mode can run up to 100Km without any active hardware mid-span being needed, seriously impressive.

When you need to link hardware that runs over a distance of more than 100M, standard balanced copper cabling is no good and this is where optical fibre excels.

Bandwidth

Most installations of optical fibre are backbone links, linking remote communication cabinets back to the main communications room.

In the past, we’ve seen multiple copper links provide uplinks to remote cabinets that are within 100M of one-another.

However, the requirements for bandwidth have never been higher than what they are now.

Not only is each user demanding more bandwidth per device but we are also seeing a greater amount of devices becoming network based, especially with the huge gains in the IoT (Internet of Things) market.

And with more devices, comes the requirement for more bandwidth which is where fibre optic infrastructure really steps in.

Single mode fibre offers up to 100G of bandwidth over just two cores. That can support a lot of users!

And whilst most applications really don’t need 100G of bandwidth currently, OS1 cable supports bandwidth applications from 10Mb to 100G.

This means that installing an optical fibre infrastructure will not only provide you with bandwidth fit for today (10G & 40G), but also for the foreseeable future (100G).

Electromagnetic Interference (EMI)

Another benefit of fibre optic infrastructure is its immunity to EMI (Electromagnetic Interference).

Whilst this benefit doesn’t scream it’s usefulness quite like distance and bandwidth, in certain environments it can really play a major part.

The typical cable pathways between cabinets contain a large quantity of electrical cabling.

Electrical cabling generates electromagnetic fields which can cause data loss in unshielded copper cabling (UTP). To avoid this, segregation of UTP Copper Cabling and power cabling is required, this is usually achieved by separate containment being installed for the data infrastructure.

However, because Optical Fibre does not use electrical signals and instead opts for light, it is immune to such influences, further concreting it’s position as the best medium to inter-connect cabinets.

Security

Many people believe that optical fibre as a means of transporting data is of higher security.

And this is partially true.

Because copper cabling uses electrical signals, they are much easier to tap.

Optical fibre uses light instead of the electrical signals, which does make it slightly more complex to tap.

However, ‘tapping’ of Optical Fibre is still highly possible, however the tooling required to do so makes it a lot more prohibitive.

For this reason, Fibre-to-the-Desk (FTTD) is often utilised in very high-security facilities.

Summary

It’s clear that Optical Fibre cabling certainly has it benefits over copper cabling, and while its ability to push large amounts of data over huge distances is impressive, it does come at a cost disadvantage.

With switches that enable fibre patching in large quantities coming at a cost premium and the cable itself requiring specialist termination, for most installations we feel that fibre optic infrastructure is best serving the backbone of the network between major cabinets.

Wherever there is any doubt in what type of cable to install, whether that be an optical fibre or balanced copper cabling it is worthwhile engaging with a network cabling provider. If you wish to speak with one of our infrastructure consultants, get in touch via our live chat or via telephone on 01604 422722.