Network owners are often faced with the question of where to install (and whether they should install) Category 5e, 6 or 6A copper cabling, and/or multimode/singlemode fiber optic cabling for different areas of their buildings network.
Unfortunately, there is not a clearly defined answer to this question. Most private networks require a mixture of both copper and fiber media to create the most cost-effective networks for voice and data across the horizontal and backbone segments of the network. High performance copper cabling, such as Cat 5e and 6 solutions, provides the lowest initial cost for today’s Local Area Networks (LANs) up to rates of 1Gbps over distances of 100 meters. Fiber-based networks clearly have higher performance and enable transmission over a larger range of distances, but at a larger overall cost.
With the introduction of Cat 6A systems, the capabilities of copper cabling were substantially increased to 10Gbps, halting the move to fiber in many short distance applications. However, PONs (Passive Optical Networks) are making inroads into areas that traditionally may have used copper cabling such as hotels and hospitals.
In addition, as wireless technologies have appeared on the market with multi Gbps capabilities, copper cabling will likely be squeezed, as networks deploy more fiber cabling in the core and edge, and wireless infrastructure to the device.
In order to determine which combination of copper and/or fiber to install and in which architecture, each customer must evaluate their application needs, considering the various advantages of each cable type and their relative importance. Cost, ease of installation, moves and arrangements, current and anticipated applications, and the expected life of the system are typically major decision factors. Environmental considerations such as electrical noise and clean rooms may also influence the decision, as well as building type, industry sector, and cabling system ownership.
The need to understand the different passive infrastructure types and applications is why institutions like CommScope’s Infrastructure Academy exist. Passive infrastructure remains a critical part of any network, so learning about it is always time well spent. Get your copy of CommScope’s eBook here to better understand the passive infrastructure that underpins your network.