One of fibre-optic cable’s benefits is that it has the highest possible information transmission capacity among all communication cable types with a relatively small cable diameter of typically less than 20 mm (0.8 in.). Other advantages include:
- It has the highest data transmission capacity and speed over short and long distances, which can provide ample transmission capacity well into the future. Current fibre-optic transceivers can transmit up 100 gigabit Ethernet (GbE) transmission rate over short and long distances of standard single-mode fibre-optic cable with
1 Tbps systems being currently developed in the lab. In comparison, the highest-speed Ethernet copper cable is Category 6/7, which is limited to 10 GbE over short distances.
- It allows high-speed Internet distribution to buildings, which is impossible with copper cables. Current copper Internet distribution technology—such as with cable modems or DSL—limit speeds to under 300 Mbps. There is no such limit for optical fibre (single-mode type).
- Fibre optics presents the ability to scale easily to accommodate new and existing tenant demands without needing fibre-optic cable replacement. Tenants can start with a slow transmission rate (i.e. 1 Mbps) and increase their rates in the future without needing to upgrade the building’s cable facility. There is less building re-cabling disruption since increasing capacities for new and existing tenants is often as simple as replacing fibre-optic transceivers.
- Fibre-optic communication cable can be installed in the same conduits/ducts as other communication cables. In some cases, nonconductive fibre-optic cable can be placed near high voltage power cables where other copper communication cables are not permitted and the Canadian Electrical (CE) Code should be referenced.
- Building fibre-optic communication systems can be extended to other campus buildings or remote properties through metropolitan and inter-city fibre-optic networks. This allows tenants and/or property owners to establish one private high-speed communication network between numerous offices with one centralized control.
- Fibre-optic cable communication can reach farther than 80 km (50 mi) at very high transmission speeds using very simple optical transceivers before any signal regeneration is necessary.
- One fibre cable can be used to combine many building communication systems, including Internet, data, telephone, cable TV, security video, and control systems.
- Fibre-optic cable is much smaller and lighter than similar copper cables and has much higher capacity. This saves on building cable tray space, riser space, and allows for an easier and neater installation.
- Fibre-optic cable communication is more secure than other media. Light transmission is confined in the fibre cable and is difficult to intercept.
- Communication signals propagating in fibre-optic cable are immune to electrical interference and therefore are not affected by electromagnetic interference (EMI) generated by high-voltage power cables, electronic lighting, motors, radio transmitters, and other electrical equipment.
- Fibre-optic cables are generally maintenance-free, but the associated fibre-optic electronics (e.g. optical transceivers) require maintenance.
- Life expectancy can be more than 40 years for a properly installed indoor fibre-optic cable.* The electronics associated with fibre-optic systems mean time before failure (MTBF) varies greatly between equipment manufacturers. Individual manufactures of this equipment should be consulted for accurate failure rates.
The main deterrent in deploying fibre cable is the requirement to convert electrical communication signals to optical signals using fibre-optic transceivers. This adds complexity and cost to the communication systems. However, optical transceiver pricing has dropped considerably over the years; this cost can be minimal compared to the overall benefit of fibre-optic cable deployment. Other drawbacks include:
- More complexity is added to a communication system because of the electrical-to-optical conversion transceivers, which can increase communication system costs.
- Ongoing maintenance is required for the optical to electrical conversion transceivers and associated electronic equipment. However, this maintenance can be as simple as unplugging a failed optical transceiver and plugging in a new one without even powering off the equipment.
- Specially trained engineers and technicians are required for the design and installation of fibre-optic cable systems.
- Fibre-optic cables, connectors, patch panels, splices, and other components are specialized to fibre systems and are not interchangeable with copper technology.
- Repair of a damaged a fibre-optic cable demands proper splicing tools and a skilled technician, which can be more costly than repair of copper cables.
For more on fibre-optic communication, click here.