What is the Disadvantage of using Fiber-optic Cabling Versus Twisted-pair Cabling?

Nowadays, more and more people choose fiber optic cables for the transmission of data. It transmits data at a much faster pace, approx. 26,000 times higher than copper cables. With such a high speed, you can enjoy the optimum performance. Though fiber cables can dominate twisted pair cables in the future, you cannot wholly replace twisted cables. Why? It is essential to understand the cable types and related aspects of the network. Then, what is the disadvantage of using fiber-optic cabling versus twisted-pair cabling?

Twisted Pair Cable

In a twisted pair cable, you intertwine two or more separately insulated wires and run them parallel. You also twist the paired wires to reduce the crosstalk. 

As the cable has interference cancellation property, it reduces any electromagnetic interference on the network.

What is the Disadvantage of using Fiber--category six network cable twisted pairs

Image: category six network cable twisted pairs

Twisted pair cables are of two types. One is a shielded twisted pair (STP), and the other one is an unshielded twisted pair (UTP). In shielded cables, there is a wine wire mesh that surrounds the wire to protect the transmission. On the other hand, unshielded ones do not have this wire mesh.

You can use unshielded twisted cables (UTPs) in Ethernet set-ups. They are also suitable for residential and business applications. On the other hand, shielded ones are more suited for data and telecom networks. UTP cables are cheaper and require less maintenance than STP cables. However, you may hear some noise in UTP cables during transmission data.

What is the Disadvantage of using Fiber– Fiber Optic Cable

Firstly, its core has one or more optical fibers instead of copper wires. Furthermore, a plastic coating insulates the optical fibers. Finally, a protective plastic outer layer provides the final covering to the threads.

You can find optical fiber in single-mode and multimode connections. In a single-mode, only one mode of light passes at one time, and thus, it has higher bandwidth and allows data to travel faster.

In multimode, multiple modes of light pass through a large core at a time. As the light reflections increase, data transmit faster, but there is lower bandwidth due to high dispersion. The signal quality lessens with the distance.

Single-mode connections are suitable for CATV networks and Telephone networks. On the other hand, multimode is ideal for LAN and other networks where you need fast speed at short distances.

What is the Disadvantage of using Fiber--optical fiber with light effects

Image: optical fiber with light effects

What is the Disadvantage of using Fiber– Benefits of Optical Fiber Cables Versus Twisted Pair Cables

Here are some reasons that let you choose fiber optic cables over copper cables.

Cost:

Earlier, the price of optic fiber cables was too high compared to copper cables. However, over the period, the rate of fiber components and hardware is going down steadily. 

Even if you think that fiber optics is expensive today, you may overlook the overall wiring cost. You must invest in UPS, HAVC, floor space, and data ground with a copper network. On the other hand, with fiber optics, you get a centralized fiber structure.

Bandwidth:

Copper has a very restricted bandwidth, while fiber gives you a performance of 10Gbps and more. With fiber, you get around 1000 times more bandwidth than copper ones.

Let’s understand this with an example. Multimode fiber has a bandwidth distance of 500 Mhz/km, which means a 500-meter cable can transmit 1 GHz. On the contrary, high data-rated twisted pair cables can be 500MHz over 100 m only. 

What is the Disadvantage of using Fiber– Transmission speed:

Fiber optic transmits data through light; it transmits data at the photon speed comparable to the speed of light. On the other hand, copper uses electrons to transmit electrical signals. So, its speed is even less than one percent of the speed of the light.

What is the Disadvantage of using Fiber--Crossing the telecommunication panel cable in the rack

Image: Crossing the telecommunication panel cable in the rack

Distance:

There is no restriction of 100m transmission distance in fiber optics, as you can see in unshielded twisted pair cables. It would be best if you had a booster in UTP to enhance the signal quality over distance. In twisted-pair lines, length ranges from 550m for 10Gbps in multimode to 40 km in single mode.

What is the Disadvantage of using Fiber– Reliability:

Natural factors like temperature and electromagnetic fluctuations do not affect fiber optic cables, and there is no signal degradation. However, that is not the case with copper cables. You can easily install a fiber cable near industrial equipment but not a copper cable. Further, you can also set underwater networks with fiber optics as it remains unaffected by water.

Security:

As fiber optics does not transmit power, no radiation or signal is there. Thus, nobody can tape its signs. On the contrary, one can easily tape a copper signal. If a fiber cable breaks, you can easily detect the fault. In the case of copper wire, any flaw can result in a short circuit or complete burning of wire.

What is the Disadvantage of using Fiber–Flexibility:

With the help of media converters, you can incorporate fiber optic cables into existing networks. Modular patch panel solutions help you integrate 10Gb, 40Gb, and higher speeds to meet the current speed needs.

Drawbacks of Optical Fiber Cables Versus Twisted Pair Cables

Fiber optic cables have cons also.

Cost: You can install a high-quality UTP-based 10-1000 auto-sensing Ethernet NIC at $25. However, you will have to pay four times for the same connection in fiber optics. Further, the switches, hubs, and patch cords for UTP are inexpensive compared to fiber cables. If you need to deploy some hundred workstations, UTP will be a viable solution. Thus, the higher cost of fiber cables is preventing its mass acceptance.

Installation: In ethernet cables, you need to connect the ends. For fiber networks, connections are tricky due to:

  • Difficult to splice: The light will scatter through rough ends if you do not splice the fibers correctly. The physical arc of fiber cables is limited, and they can break on bending too much.
  • Highly susceptible: Fiber cables are pretty small and compact, and they are highly vulnerable to damages and cuts. If you curve the fiber cables for even a few centimeters during installation, there can be transmission loss. 
  • Strict specifications: Fiber cable ends must have good polish so that they are flat. Polished ends ensure that light properly shines through them. 

However, twisted pair cables are easy to install as compared to coaxial cables and optic cables.

Conclusion

As you have seen, twisted copper cables are affordable and ideal for shorter distance networks, while optic lines offer you faster speeds and higher reliability. Hope this article helps choose proper cabling solutions. Remember, the type of cable depends on the network’s size, topography, and protocol.  Here at Cloom, we can help you with high-quality cable assemblies and wiring harnesses.

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