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Is Copper Cheaper Than Fiber?

Is Copper Cheaper Than Fiber?

There is no clear cut answer here, as there are many different scenerios to consider.  Generaly, fiber becomes more cost effective in larger applications on the teleco service provider levels such as CATV providers.   We all know that fiber optics is always assumed to be much more expensive than copper cabling.  In any aspect, whether the cable, terminations or networking electronics, fiber optics cable costs more...right? Well,  as copper cable gets faster (e.g. Cat 6 and Cat 7 ), copper cable gets more expensive, almost as much as fiber cable.  Fiber can be cheaper if your network is optimized to take advantage of fiber's speed and distance advantages. In LANs, you need to follow the new EIA/TIA 568 B.3 standard to optimize the fiber usage, and then you'll be surprised that it can be cheaper than copper. 

There is more to consider in making the decision between copper cable and fiber cable based purely on a price standpoint. Fiber comes with a much greater capacity, and with that comes price, but even if fiber were 1000 times the cost for a simple two fiber cable, fiber optics cable would still be 1/100th the cost per channel over copper.  As a general rule, fiber optics cabling is 1-5% more in cost, but has a greater capacity in tranmission, is much smaller, weighs less, can carry signal over much greater distances, and clearly a better choice in many situations. Copper cable and fiber cable start to make the transparent difference in larger projects where long runs or high speeds are needed, and as mentiooned. in an optimized network. 

If fiber is 1-5% more expensive, you might wonder why all the telephone and CATV networks have been, or are being converted to fiber?  These orginnizations use fiber to connect their central offices and long distance switches because it has thousands of times the bandwidth of copper cable and the ranges is hundreds of times the distance before needing a repeater.  Fiber optics cable gives the providers greater reliability and flexibility, allowing them to offer new services such as phone service and Internet connections together. As mentioned above, with an optimized network fiber system built on a sound architectural network that takes advantage of fiber's strengths, fiber can be less expensive than copper.

On a small scale, for home networks or small office networks, copper remains the best option and most cost effective.  In some cases such as when runs are longer than 295 feet, a fiber optics backbone and media converters are the best route to employ.  

National Data Contractor