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Fiber vs. Copper

In the cabling industry, the contest between fiber optics and copper cables has been going on for more than a decade. Nowadays, with the continuous emergence of new services such as cloud computing and 5G, the scale of data centers continues to expand, and its architecture and wiring are becoming more and more complex. However, the light weight of optical fibers and the gradually reduced cost make backbone network equipment more difficult for optical fibers. The demand is also growing stronger. In large data centers, the proportion of optical fiber is as high as 70%, which is much higher than that of copper cable. Does this mean that copper cable will be completely replaced by optical fiber? actually not.




  1. Why is copper cable still an integral part of the data center?
  2. Application comparison

Although, driven by the demand for higher bandwidth in the data center, optical fibers occupy a larger share in the deployment of the data center, especially the backbone application network, due to the advantages of higher transmission rate and larger bandwidth; but in fact, Copper cables will still be an integral part of data centers, and in applications in special environments such as voice transmission and power supply, copper cables cannot be replaced by optical fibers.


Second, the unique advantages of copper cables

In the integrated horizontal wiring within 100 meters, optical fiber is inferior to copper cable in terms of maintenance, cost, and wiring. The fiber core in the optical fiber is a special type of glass fiber, which is more fragile than the copper in the copper cable. In the wiring and later maintenance, if the optical fiber is not paid more attention, it will be easily broken, which will increase the cost; and As far as the current market situation is concerned, although the price of optical fiber has decreased, it is still higher than the price of copper cable in general; therefore, compared with optical fiber, the wiring and maintenance of copper cable are more convenient and cost-effective.


In the application of power supply such as voice signal transmission and wireless access, POE power supply system, optical fiber cannot replace copper cable.


First, because copper cables are different from optical fibers in that they transmit data through electrical pulses and can support voice signals. Therefore, copper cables can be used for voice transmission, but optical fibers cannot.


Second, because the glass fiber used in the optical fiber cannot conduct electricity, but the copper in the copper cable can conduct electricity. Therefore, the copper cable can supply power while performing data connection, so it is widely used in wireless access and POE power supply. systems, LED-based power systems, etc.


In addition, Modular Plug Terminated Link (MPTL) has been approved in TIA-568.2-D standard as an option for connecting devices, which will promote the growth of RJ45 copper cable applications, especially in surveillance systems using IP cameras . At the same time, 28AWG network jumpers are added to the appendix of this specification, and copper cables with smaller specifications will help air circulation and space utilization, making it possible to develop in high-density applications.



  1. What are the types and applications of copper cables?

What are the common copper cable types?

Nowadays, there are many types of copper cables on the market, such as network jumpers such as Category 5e, Category 6, Category 6, Category 7, and Category 8. Different types of copper cables have different wiring applications, as follows:


  1. Cat5e network cable

Cat5e network jumper (Cat5e network cable) was developed by TIA/EIA in 2001. It has small attenuation, less crosstalk, a maximum bandwidth of 100MHz, a maximum transmission rate of 1000Mb/s, and is backward compatible. For Category 5 network cables, its performance has been greatly improved, with higher attenuation-to-crosstalk ratio (ACR) and channel-to-noise ratio (SNR), as well as smaller delay errors. Category 5e network jumpers are suitable for 100M and Gigabit Ethernet, and are commonly used in home networks or indoor wiring. Usually, the longest transmission distance of Category 6 network jumpers does not exceed 100 meters, and the ideal is within 90 meters.




  1. Category 6 network cable

The bandwidth of the six-category network jumper (that is, Cat6 network cable) is 250MHz, and the maximum transmission rate is 10Gb/s. Compared with Category 5e network jumpers, the internal structure of Category 6 network jumpers is better, in which the cross skeleton is used inside, and the lay distance of four pairs of twisted pairs is smaller, which makes the Category 6 network jumpers more effective in crosstalk and echo. The performance in terms of wave loss and other aspects has been improved, and the transmission performance is much higher than that of Cat5e network jumpers, which is more suitable for applications with a transmission rate greater than 1Gbps. In addition, under normal circumstances, the longest transmission distance of the six types of network jumpers does not exceed 100 meters.




  1. Cat6e cable

Cat6a network jumper (that is, Cat6a network cable) is an improved version of Cat6a network jumper, its bandwidth is twice that of Category 6 network jumper, the transmission frequency can reach 500MHz, and the maximum transmission rate is 10Gb/s. Due to the high-quality construction of the Cat6a network patch cord, which helps to eliminate alien crosstalk (AXT), it can support a distance of up to 120 meters, but the actual application is best within 100 meters. In addition, compared with Category 6 network jumpers, the conductor material of Category 6e network jumpers is thicker, which is more suitable for industrial environments.


Many friends with weak electricity may have some doubts about the difference between Category 6 network cables and Category 6e network cables. You can compare them with the following picture to see the difference.




  1. Seven types of network cables

The transmission frequency of the seven-category network jumper (that is, Cat7 network cable) is as high as 600 MHz, and it supports a transmission rate of 10Gbps within a transmission distance of 100 meters, which is suitable for adapting to 10 Gigabit Ethernet. Compared with the previous generations of network jumpers, the seven types of network jumpers have strong shielding, which can effectively reduce attenuation, and are suitable for the connection of switches, distribution frames and other equipment in high-density data centers. It is worth mentioning that the transmission rate of Category 7 network jumpers can reach as high as 40Gbps at a transmission distance of 50 meters, and even 100Gbps at a transmission distance of 15 meters. At present, because the seven-category network jumper is not flexible enough and not easy to manage, it has not been popularized for the time being.



  1. Category 8 network cable

The eight-category network jumper (that is, Cat8 network cable) is the next-generation twisted-pair copper cable standard specified by ANSI/TIA-568-C.2-1, which can support a bandwidth of up to 2000MHz and a transmission rate of up to 40Gb/s, but Its maximum transmission distance is only 30m, so it is generally used for the connection of servers, switches, distribution frames and other equipment in short-distance data centers. Since Category 8 cables are designed for 25GBASE-T and 40GBASE-T applications, they are especially suitable for data center switch-to-server interconnection.




  1. Summary

Optical fiber and copper wire are two common data center transmission media, both of which have anti-interference and good confidentiality, so what is the difference between optical fiber and copper wire? The difference between the two is mainly reflected in the following four aspects:


  1. Transmission distance

Generally speaking, the transmission distance of copper wire does not exceed 100m, while the maximum transmission distance of optical fiber can reach 100km (single-mode fiber), far exceeding the transmission distance of copper wire.


  1. Transmission rate

At present, the maximum transmission rate of copper wire can reach 40Gbps (such as Category 8 network cable, DAC passive copper cable), while the maximum transmission rate of optical fiber can reach 100Gbps (such as OM4 optical fiber jumper), far exceeding that of copper wire.


  1. Maintenance and management

Operations such as the production of crystal heads for copper wires and the port connection of equipment are very simple, while operations such as cutting and welding of optical fibers and equipment connection have higher requirements and are more complicated to operate.


  1. Price cost

In the case of the same length of optical fiber and copper wire, the price of optical fiber is generally slightly cheaper than that of copper wire, but the price of optical fiber plug-in equipment (such as optical fiber coupler, etc.) and construction is higher than that of copper wire, so in terms of project cost, The price cost of optical fiber is higher than the price cost of copper wire.





From the above comparison, optical fiber and copper wire have their own advantages. Copper cable still occupies an important position in voice transmission, indoor network, horizontal wiring, POE system and other applications, and will not be completely replaced by optical fiber. Copper technology is currently It is still being researched and developed to meet the connection needs of more devices in the future, so you don’t have to worry about it becoming obsolete.