Fiber optic cables are fundamentally similar to electrical cables but transmit light rather than electricity. Between their unique construction and methods of transmitting information, they have numerous advantages over conventional copper cable. First, optic fiber cables have much greater bandwidth than copper cables. Copper was originally designed for voice transmission, and thus has a limited bandwidth. Fiber optic cables, on the other hand, were created with modern information technology in mind, and can carry more data than copper cables for the same diameter of cable. Within optic fiber cable families, single-mode fiber delivers twice the throughput of multimode fiber.
Fiber optic cables can carry signals much farther than the 328-foot limitation of copper cables. Som Gbps single-mode fiber cables can carry signals almost 25 miles, but the effective distances depend on types of cable, wavelength, and the network. Reliability is also a massive advantage for optic fiber cables. Fiber is immune to temperature changes, severe weather, and moisture, all of which hamper the connectivity of copper cable. Because fiber transmits light and not electric current, it is not affected by electromagnetic interference that can interrupt data transmission.
Fiber optic cables are also much faster than copper. Fiber optic signals travel at speeds only 31% slower than the speed of light itself, far faster than Cat5 or Cat6 copper cables, and suffer from less signal degradation compared to copper cables. Size is also an advantage in favor of fiber optic cables. Compared to copper cables, fiber optic cables are thinner and lighter in weight, can withstand more pull pressure than copper, and is less prone to damage and breakage.
Lastly, fiber optic cable is more future-ready than copper cables. Media converters make it possible to incorporate fiber into existing networks, with converters extending UTP Ethernet connectors over fiber optic cables. Modular patch panel solutions can integrate equipment with 10 Gb, 40 Gb, and 100/120 Gb speeds to meet current needs, as well as be ready for future needs. Fiber optic cables also have a lower total cost of ownership compared to copper cables. Fiber optic cables often have a higher initial cost, but their durability and reliability mean they cost less to maintain and replace over their lifetime of usage. As fiber optic cables become more popular and manufacturing techniques improve, prices are likely to drop as well.