Which is better for ethernet cabling: copper network cable or fiber optic?

Ethernet cables are commonly used in computer networks, but there are two different types of network cable that can be used depending on your needs. Copper Ethernet cables and fiber optic Ethernet cables both work well to send information from one point to another, but each type of cable has different strengths and weaknesses. This article will examine the difference between copper and fiber optic Ethernet cables, helping you decide which type of cable will best suit your needs.

Copper vs. Fiber

Copper VS Fiber

The longer a copper wire is, and higher traffic it experiences, which causes more signal loss; which makes a direct connection between two computers difficult.

Fiber optic cables are better in signal strength, bandwidth, and seamless connectivity than copper cables. One problem with copper cables is that they can be physically broken into without damaging either end of the cable.

The signal strength of a copper wire depends on its thickness. When it comes to bandwidth and seamless connectivity, fiber optic cables beat copper hands down.

Fiber optic cables offer significantly faster speeds (up to 100 Gigabits per second) and they're also less likely to develop electromagnetic interference. Whether you're trying to set up a wired network in your home or office, there's a good chance you'll want it to be as fast and easy as possible. That's why most people choose fiber optic Ethernet cables over copper.

Copper Network Cable

Copper Network Cable

Copper has been a staple of networking since Ethernet was created in 1980. The reason? It’s a well-established standard, easy to work with, and cost-effective.

For example, twisted pair cable (also known as UTP) provides high-quality connections over short distances at a reasonable price. In fact, most new homes are wired with CAT5e, which makes it easy to connect your home office computer to your router via an Ethernet cable. If you need long-distance connections or if your building doesn’t have its own dedicated wiring, consider fiber optic cable.

A copper network cable can also be used to transmit voice signals between two connected phone lines. When combined with RJ-45 connectors, which are common in all local area networks (LANs), it provides a data transmission speed of 10 megabits per second, which can sometimes be improved by adding 10BASE-T adapters. Copper cables are cheaper and easier to install, but they have some limitations that might not make them worth using for your network.

Copper has long been used in telephone, television, and internet connectivity. A copper cable consists of four main components: an insulated conductor, an insulation layer, a protective sheath, and a jacket.

When it comes to the length limitations of cables, larger cables can carry larger amounts of data without significant signal loss. However, these cables are cheaper than other networking options such as fiber optics and coaxial systems (in short runs) which leads to their popular use in today’s wiring systems.

Fiber Optic Cables

Fiber Optical Cable

The main benefit of fiber optic cables is that they can transmit data faster than most other network cables. Fiber optic cables use pulses of light to transfer data instead of electricity, which means they don’t experience interference from other signals on a network and offer greater bandwidth – meaning more devices can connect at once.

A fiber optic cable is a network cable that contains strands of glass fibers. In order to understand why fiber optic cables are commonly used in today's networking environments, we first need to examine how they differ from traditional wire cables:

  • Fiber optic cables are used in both telecommunications and computer networks
  • Allowing for faster data transfer
  • Super-fast data transmission speeds
  • Fiber optic cables are necessary for ultra-high bandwidth networks

Because fiber optic cable doesn’t emit electromagnetic radiation, it also offers greater security. There are two different types of fiber optic cable – single-mode and multi-mode, though both are used in similar environments; only their uses differ slightly. Single-mode fiber is used when transmission distances are long, like in intercontinental connections between continents and across undersea telephone lines.

Multimode fiber has larger cores, so it can carry signals over shorter distances without requiring amplification. A typical home might have CAT5e/CAT6 wiring running throughout its walls, with drops coming off every few feet along baseboards and ceilings that branch out into each room. Since the copper wire is thicker than glass fibers, networking hardware needs to be larger if you’re using a copper cable rather than a fiber-optic one.

Which Type Should you Choose?

Each has its benefits, so it's worth taking a look at how they compare and which one is best for your needs. Fiber optic cable also carries data with less attenuation or signal loss only three percent (when compared to copper), meaning that your connections are less likely to drop out or experience interference.

When purchasing networking cable, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all of your options. To keep things simple when deciding between copper or fiber optic cable. For example, in most situations, you’ll want to choose fiber optic cable over its less expensive counterpart because of its lower attenuation or signal loss.

Fiber optic cable also carries data with less attenuation or signal loss only three percent (for 100 feet) compared to 75 percent with standard category 5e (cat5e) UTP (unshielded twisted pair) wiring.

In terms of security, fiber optic cables can be more challenging to breach because their physical signals are stronger than those in standard electrical cables. On top of that, due to their greater bandwidth and limited susceptibility to interference from other signals, there's some evidence that using multiple small optical cables can even improve performance over traditional LAN cables.

In terms of cost, installing fiber optic cable does take more time and resources than setting up standard network cabling but you're unlikely to run into compatibility issues as you would when using older systems. However, it should be noted that when we talk about better here we're talking about speed and stability, not necessarily price.

Testing Fiber Optic Connections

Thoroughly testing fiber optic connections is crucial for maintaining the performance and reliability of communication networks. Visual inspection, power loss testing, OTDR testing, chromatic dispersion and PMD testing, BER testing, and return loss testing are all essential techniques to identify and address any issues in fiber optic links. By ensuring proper testing, network operators can maintain optimal signal quality, minimize downtime, and provide uninterrupted high-speed connectivity.


Fiber optics are superior to copper cables in virtually every way imaginable. They are faster, can carry much higher bandwidths, suffer from less interference, and are thinner and stronger as well. Fiber optic cables are far more advanced and efficient than traditional copper cables. They are significantly faster, can carry larger amounts of data at once, experience much less interference from other sources, and last longer too. Copper wires have proven themselves time after time but fiber optics are undeniably the future.