5 Reasons Copper Data Cables Dominate the Industry
The battle for dominance in the ethernet cable market between copper data cables and fiber optic cables has been fierce in the last ten years as advancements on both sides have given each cable type distinct advantages over the other. However, despite fiber optic cabling making significant strides in reducing costs and increasing speeds and durability, the consensus is that copper data cables will continue to dominate the market in key industry segments. Let’s dig into where and how copper has retained its place over fiber optics.
Copper Has Kept Pace In Ways That Matter
As fiber optic cable speeds have only increased and prices continue to drop, manufacturers of twisted pair copper cabling have pushed copper cabling techniques into the range of Gigabit Ethernet speed with the latest iterations on CAT cabling. CAT 6 and CAT 6a cabling, while several generations behind the higher performance CAT 8 cabling, have become the workhorses of the market, allowing for reliable 10Gbps connections across acceptable distances and frequencies.
Industrial Environments Need Durable Solutions
While the data center market might be embracing fiber optic cables for long distance, high speed solutions, the growing industrial and automation markets for Ethernet speed networks is growing rapidly and these harsh, high impact environments need a cable that can stand up to the conditions of a manufacturing floor. Cat 6 and Cat6a cabling, as previously mentioned, allows for Ethernet speeds, but also comes with the added benefit of more robust sheathing that protects it from the heat and conditions of an industrial setting.
Leave the Noise Behind
Speed of transfer and distance of transfer are non-issues in small contained spaces of a manufacturing floor, but signal noise can become an issue. The added sheathing of Cat 6a cabling is designed to minimize the impact of crosstalk and signal-to-noise ratios in order to protect critical infrastructure. Specifically, it’s built to minimize near-end crosstalk and alien crosstalk. These types of data loss occur when wires are crushed or from electromagnetic noise, both resulting in packet loss.
Cheaper To Retain Than Retrofit
The industry accepts that fiber optic cable manufacturers are making strides in improving performance and reducing costs of fiber optics, and experts in the industry see a future dominated by the flexibility and performance of fiber optic cabling. However, industry network architects are finding the cost of retrofitting at this point to be extremely cost prohibitive - especially with the presence of affordable and versatile Cat 6a cabling in many modern networks. The reality is that for the foreseeable future, network architects will be building a mix of hybrid networks that utilize both copper data cables and fiber optic cables and the associated switches for each in order to leverage the strengths of each and minimize the costs of building and maintaining.
Global Demand of Automation, IoT, and Manufacturing
It’s important to note that the global demand of cabling plays a huge role in the continued relevance of and reliance upon copper cabling. Industrial demands, where we’ve already determined that copper data cabling durability is influencing demand and usage, play a huge part of this, as does the growing reliance upon automated robotics and the need for connections with sufficient speeds that can withstand harsh environments.