Wireless, Fiber Or Copper?
While debates about which is better – wireless, fiber, or copper – has resulted in lively cabling discussions for many years now – it is becoming a debatable point. It appears that the end user market and leaders in communications technology have made decisions already that dictate the media for the most part. Cabling network designers, for fiber optic networks especially, along with the customer, usually have a fairly easy task these days of determining which media should be used after the communications system is selected.
Designing outside plant or long distance applications usually means selecting cabling that contains single mode (SM) fiber rather than any other media. A majority of the systems have been designed to be used over speeds and distances precluding the use of anything other than SM fiber. Other options might be more cost effective occasionally, for instance if a business has two buildings that are on the opposite sides of a freeway, then a radio optical or line-of-sight optical wireless network might be easier to use given that the cost of installation is lower and obtaining the relevant permits is easier.
Other than a few telco systems still using copper for their final connection to the house, almost every cable is fiber optic that is used in telephone systems these days. A high performance coax is used by CATV companies into the house, but it is connected with a fiber optic backbone.
When it comes to the Internet, it is all fiber. A majority of commercial buildings in highly populated areas use direct fiber connections from the communications companies. SM fiber is used by cities for traffic signals, surveillance cameras, connecting municipal buildings and sometimes offer residential and commercial connections, all over single mode fibers. Usually even cellular antenna towers that are seen on tall buildings and along the highways have fiber connections.
Wireless Copper and Fiber Arguments
The wireless/copper/fiber arguments are focused on premises cabling. Since cooper communications cabling has been used for 150 years, most users are familiar with copper which tends to make them skeptical about other medium. Also, many times it has been proven that copper is a very valid choice. Proprietary copper cabling is used by a majority of building management systems, such as audio and paging speaker systems as well as thermostat wiring. Entry systems and security monitoring, the lower cost ones especially, depend on copper, although many high security facilities such as military and government installations frequently pay extra for the more secure nature of fiber.
In buildings surveillance systems have become increasingly more prevalent, specially in banking, governmental, and other buildings which are considered to be potential security risks.
Although coax connections are quite common in structured cabling and short links, according to advocates camera limited distances can be run on Cat 6 UPT or Cat 5E, such as computer networks, where fiber is becoming an increasingly common choice. In addition to providing more flexibility for camera placement due to distance capabilities, fiber optic cabling is lightweight and much smaller, which makes it easier to install, particularly in airports and other older facilities, or large buildings that might have spaces available that are filled already with numerous copper cabling generations.
Cooper Versus Fiber Battleground
LAN cabling frequently is seen as being the big battleground of cooper versus fiber, however for many users the marketplace’s reality has started to sink in. The network user, who used to sit in front of a desktop computer with cables that connected their computer with the corporate network and another cable connected to their phone, are becoming relics of the past.
These days, everyone want to be mobile. Almost everyone uses a laptop, except for graphic designers or engineers at workstations, and even most of them have laptops as their second computers to carry with them like everyone else does, to their meetings and connect using WiFi.
Some new devices, such as the iPhone, enable web browsing using a connection over either a WiFi network or cellular network. Some mobile phones these days are a type of portable VoIP device that connects over WiFi so that phone calls can be made.
Although WiFi has experienced continual upgrades and some growing pains, it has become increasingly reliable at 802.11n standard and for most users appears to offer adequate bandwidth.
The high desire and demand for mobility, as well as connected services continuing to expand, appears to be resulting in a new kind of corporate network. The new norm these days for corporate networks is a fiber optic backbone and copper to desktops where individuals want to have direct connections with numerous wireless access points, more so than in the past, to give them full coverage and to maintain a reasonable number of users on each access point.
How about fiber to desks? FTTD might be chosen by progressive users, as a comprehensive fiber network that can be quite a cost effective solution, which negates the need for having telecom rooms that are full of switches, year-round air conditioning, and data quality grounds and power. Power users, such as animators, graphics designers, and engineers are able to use the bandwidth provided by FTTD. Others choose a zone system, that involves fiber going to small-scale local switches, which are near enough to users for people wanting cable connectivity rather than wireless, for plugging in using a short patch cord.