Difference Between Copper CAT Cable and Fiber Optics

The cable infrastructure plays a fundamental role in supporting offices, establishments, and devices that rely heavily on network connections. The scalability of cable connection impacts how you can efficiently carry out specific tasks. Subsequently, stable connectivity is now the nation’s staple to sustain business operations, education, and communication.

Presently, there are two primary components that telecommunication contractor utilize to build robust network infrastructure. Copper cable and fiber optics are integral in the industry, although they differ in specific ways. As a result, these materials feature different characteristics, advantages, and disadvantages that set them apart.

This article will tackle the key characteristics and significant differences between copper cable and fiber optics. Both the consumers and network providers must gain a clear understanding of this topic to make well-informed decisions. After all, the materials that make up your cable infrastructure can tell how your network performs.


Critical Characteristics of Copper Cable

Copper cable is composed of highly conductive materials that carry sufficient power to your home. The line has copper wires to support the movement, which converts into wave patterns of network signal. In telecommunication devices, copper cables connect to a modem that performs modulation and demodulation of waveforms.

Copper cables are widely recognized across households and businesses because they are accessible and offer higher bandwidth. Users can set up copper cable infrastructures in a shorter timeframe as they deploy. A majority of small businesses and homeowners also prefer copper cables because they cost less than fiber optics. However, its coaxial cables can only transmit a small number of waveforms. This threshold indicates the maximum data capacity of the user network. Data transmission can also degrade over time, especially if the distance between the devices increases.

Most common copper cable:


Critical Characteristics of Fiber Optics

Fiber optics emerged in the 70s and transformed the cabling industry, thanks to Corning Incorporated. The implementation of fiber optics deployed light bursts to transmit signals. Instead of transporting waveforms, light bursts travel through metal fibers. Fiber optics are composed of thin extruded glass (silica) or plastic. Light travels on both ends of the cable but can only couple at its entry points.

Fiber optics are known for their increased bandwidth of around 10 Gps. Communication over fiber optics is seamless even in long distances. Users have not experienced electromagnetic interferences despite accelerating distance between devices. This consistency of power is due to data loss being minimal during transmission while still maintaining the same wavelengths.

Most common Fiber Optic Cables:
Single Mode: OS1 and OS2
Multimode: OM1, OM2, OM3 and OM4


Copper Cable Vs Fiber Optics: A Direct Comparison

Let’s consider the critical factors that make up a reliable infrastructure to compare copper cable and fiber optics directly.

Transmission Speed

When it comes to data transmission speed, fiber cable is far more superior to copper cable. Fiber optics transmit data significantly faster than copper cables as a result of leveraging light pulses. Copper cable infrastructure enables electrical pulse transport electrons to share data. In contrast, data transmission through light transports photon particles, and photons travel faster at the speed of light than electrons.


As mentioned, optical fibers transmit light instead of electricity. This transmission puts optical fibers at an advantage when it comes to security. Optical fiber infrastructure offers extensive security measures like routine monitoring of data transmission. This data monitoring allows telecommunication providers to determine specific issues before they get out of hand.

Copper cables radiate signals that can be easily infiltrated by unauthorized people. This vulnerability makes a cable infrastructure more susceptible to system failures and breaches. On top of that, these cables are prone to short circuit incidents that may result in fire and damaging your property.


Bandwidth is crucial across the telecommunications industry. It is the maximum rate of data transmission at a given time. In other words, this defines the capacity of a network to provide a stable internet connection. When a system has more bandwidth, it has a higher transmitting data capability. Bandwidth is either expressed as gigabits per second (Gbps) or megabits per second (Mbps).

Copper cables have less bandwidth than fiber optics. However, copper cable infrastructures tend to meet the standard among households and establishments, providing up to 10 Gbps. A growing number of people are discovering the benefits of fiber optics offering greater bandwidth at over 60 Tbps.

Life Span

Although copper cables feature more consumable energy for each user (10W), fiber optics (2W) is considered more durable and long-lasting. The cable infrastructure out of fiber optics can last for up to 30 to 50 years. When it comes to signal durability, you can anticipate losing 3% of the signal over distances exceeding 100 meters. In contrast, users can expect their copper cables to last for about five years. Copper wires have tendencies to degrade due to varying temperature conditions and other environmental factors. For this reason, its data signals can lose about 94% as the distance increases.


Copper wires require electromagnetic signals to transmit data across households, facilities, and devices. For this reason, electromagnetic interferences can be a common occurrence. This interference can come from placing electric charges too close generates an electromagnetic field, disrupting the signal. Many telecommunication companies explored innovative solutions to resolve this issue. They have found that twisted-pair copper wires can mitigate any potential electromagnetic interferences. Providers shield the copper wires with foil to reduce the signal disruption and improve the overall user experience.

On the other hand, fiber optics cannot encounter EM interferences since they transmit data through light bursts. Offering signal integrity, users can always ensure that they can experience uninterrupted signals. Even though EM interference prone equipment is close to the network, it cannot affect the cable infrastructure’s performance.


To be able to provide scalable and exceptional performance, fiber optics have to leverage cutting edge technology. This cost requires providers to set the prices higher than the copper cable infrastructure. If you are on a tight budget, the cost gap is a significant factor that can affect your decision.

However, it is essential to note that the higher expenses can be worthwhile, considering value allies with the cost. The installation of fiber optics provides a reliable, consistent, and scalable network. On top of that, you are looking for fewer expenses in the long run since it needs less maintenance than its counterpart.


In choosing between copper cable and fiber optics, it is vital to determine your needs and budget, allowing you to highlight the factors that can directly affect your business, household, or devices. Copper cables and fiber optics perform the same functions but offer network connections to a different extent. Fiber optics feature more bandwidth despite increasing distances, which is why many buildings prefer this infrastructure. It can also strive in establishments that are sprawling in between one another. On the other hand, copper cable infrastructures are cheap and do a decent job when connected to the local area network.