As need for bandwidth throughput increases, the demand for high-speed connectivity solutions like fiber vs cabling will drive use in future systems.
UltraHD 4K’s growing popularity is forcing fundamental change within the consumer and commercial electronics industries, and the result is rapid adoption of fiber-based cabling solutions.
Integrators who routinely work with traditional cabling solutions are now finding there are limitations to copper-based cabling products. Emerging as an alternative to copper and new and potentially expensive AV over IP high-speed connectivity options is fiber optic cabling.
Breaking the stereotypes and misinformation associated with fiber that often inhibit the high-speed connectivity solution’s use, fiber is now finding its way into more than just data-intensive networks found on college campuses, broadcast facilities, and other locations that require high-speed connectivity. Increasingly, commercial integrators and residential electronics professionals are using fiber products to provide connectivity for today’s A/V formats and high-speed network systems.
The Basics of Fiber vs Cabling for High-Speed Connectivity
Many integrators are outpaced by a rapidly-changing market and are left without much experience handling fiber.
Explaining the differences integrators find between fiber and copper cabling products, Robert D’addario, CEO of Cleerline Technology Group says the complex differences between cable types can be explained simply.
“Fiber optic cable systems transfer data using light energy instead of electrical pulses. The light is infrared and out of the human visibility spectrum. The fiber signal travels down a small silica core smaller than the size of a human hair,” he explains.
“Copper cable must deal with a variety of issues like impedance, capacitance and shielding to enable higher bandwidth communications, while fiber communications must deal with attenuation within a system and model dispersion.”
“Attenuation specifically deals with the amount of amplitude lost within the cable and connection points are described in decibels or ‘dB.’ Modal dispersion is determined by the hardware and the grade of the cable—specifically for multi-mode fiber types. Most of the distance limitations within the AV community on multi-mode fiber are due to modal dispersion, and not link budget [allowable loss]. They are easily navigated by understanding the bandwidth ratings for the grade of fiber being used.”
D’addario says there are several benefits to high-speed connectivity that fiber offers over copper that include durability, size, its rejection of lightning strikes and immunity to EMI/RF interference.
Arguably the biggest benefit that fiber offers is its bandwidth capabilities, he says.
“Fiber optics have much more bandwidth available today, and will be expanded upon in the future without significant changes to the fiber types being used. That means an OM3 multi-mode fiber network implemented today will have a much longer effective life supporting emerging technologies than an equivalent copper network,” he says.
“Current multi-mode links range from 100Mbps to 100Gbps over two strands of fiber. In general there are foreseeable limitations to multi-mode networks, but we have not come close to encountering them yet, while copper networks are at their effective sunset of use due to speed limitations inherent to copper transmission.”
As for Fiber vs Cabling speeds, “fiber is only limited currently by the equipment plugged into it; speeds of 100Gbps, 400Gbps and beyond are all capable due to signal transmission at the speed of light.”
Harnessing the benefits of fiber can be a daunting task if an integrator lacks the experience and training in terminating the products, but D’addario says there are plenty of resources available to installation professionals to make the job easy.
“Traditional fiber—even the bend insensitive stuff requires a good deal of understanding, training and practice prior to being able to implement,” he notes.
“There is an entire industry built around fiber termination training and certification to guard against improper installation. That being said, Cleerline SSF offers a solution with no formal training or certification. The product was built from the ground up to be as easy or easier than UTP [unshielded twisted pair]. Simply terminating SSF fiber is the same learning curve as that of terminating Cat-6 for any technician.”