Article
In a different article, I mentioned a few of the benefits of fiber optic cable as opposed to copper cable for networks. They included: High bandwidth levels to handle web conferencing, HD video streaming, and cloud-based applications faster and more reliably High signal strength and low attenuation for lower signal degradation Resistance to external factors such as corrosion, water damage, and inclement weather Resistance to electromagnetic interference

Fiber Optics – The Saga Continues

Steve Maurer, IME
In a different article, I mentioned a few of the benefits of fiber optic cable as opposed to copper cable for networks. They included:

  • High bandwidth levels to handle web conferencing, HD video streaming, and cloud-based applications faster and more reliably
  • High signal strength and low attenuation for lower signal degradation
  • Resistance to external factors such as corrosion, water damage, and inclement weather
  • Resistance to electromagnetic interference
So, lets look at a few more, along with some potential drawbacks.

More fiber optic advantages
One interesting advantage of using a fiber optic network is that a higher level of security is possible. I've seen this touted on several websites. Because fiber uses light instead of electricity, it doesn’t emit any signals that can be easily tapped into using conventional means of "wiretapping."

All data must be accessed from the end of the cable, not at points along the route. Therefore it can't be easily cut into and spliced without massive amounts of data interruption. And that will be immediately noticed. Anyone using or monitoring the network would become aware of the breach in an instant.

Fiber is also intrinsically safe. Because data is carried by light, not electricity, an accidental break in the cable will not interact with potentially hazardous atmospheres. I can remember the days when even my pager needed to be intrinsically safe. With fiber, that's not an issue.

Fiber optic cable is significantly lighter than copper network cable. For example, a fiber cable may weigh as little as four pound per 1000 feet, where as the same length of copper cabling can weigh upwards of 39 pounds. That may not seem important at first glance, especially stretch out and installed … until you're toting a box or two of it up a flight of stairs.

Fiber also has a longer life cycle. Part of this is because of fiber's material. The average life span of a fiber cable is 30-50 years. Copper will corrode and degrade, giving it a much shorter usable lifespan.

So what are the downsides, if any?

Disadvantages of fiber optic cabling
Honestly, the downsides are rather minimal. Yes, it is more fragile than copper. For example, tight bends can fracture the fiberglass or plastic core. However, using the proper jacketing, along with a little care and concern, you shouldn't have much of a problem.

Just don't back up and step on it, alright?

The tools and techniques for installing fiber are a little more complex than just wire strippers and compression splices. You'll definitely need to invest in some additional tools if you're going to install it. And practice using them, for goodness sakes.

Once installed, a fiber cable should be tested to ensure you did it right. While copper network cable installations are fairly simple to test for continuity, it's a new ballgame when testing fiber. Remember, you're testing light, not electricity transmission. So you'll need tools suited for that purpose.

Because fiber is still a relatively new technology as compared to copper, it may have a little higher price tag for supplies and installation. However, the benefits likely outweigh the costs as you may get a better ROI on increased speed and bandwidth, particularly in the business environment.

Of course, getting fiber connectivity to the outside world would be fantastic. It may be limited in your area. Not every internet service provider offers it yet, but the number is growing. My personal ISP actually gives me great fiber optic service. Interestingly, it's not one of the "big boys" in cable and internet service …

It's provided by my electric utility company.

Finally, you'll need to upgrade your network components. Ethernet and fiber are two different animals. Yet, they can coexist in peace and harmony. You just need the right gear to make the connections.

Data traveling at the speed of light.

It's here to stay … and I like it.
Photo courtesy of Legrand
Built for Contractors, Designed for the Field
advertisement
The Perfect Flexible Conduit Solution for Your Application
advertisement
Newsletter Signup