Fiber Optic Cables vs Ethernet Cables: Differences

  • Last modified: December 28, 2023

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Fiber Optic Cables vs Ethernet Cables

Ethernet is perhaps the most important part of modern IT infrastructures. Whether it is a business environment or a residential building, LAN networks use ethernet technology to connect to one another. So much so that it has become impossible to imagine the modern world without it. This blog explores the difference between two of the most common ethernet cables: fiber optic and twisted pair ethernet cable 1000ft. Keep reading to learn more.

What are Ethernet Cables?

First off, let us clear a common misunderstanding. On the web, you will find numerous guides that state copper cables are Ethernet cables and that fiber optic cables are a type of their own. Although that is not entirely incorrect, the fact is that both fiber optic cables and copper cables are actually two different types of ethernet cables.

Meaning that both types of ethernet cables are designed for data transfer in LAN and WAN networks using ethernet technology but through different mediums. Fiber optic cables transmit data in the form of light whereas copper ethernet cables use low voltage current to carry out the same job.

In short, ethernet cables are a group of cables that are used in local area networks and wide area networks for data communication. In addition to fiber optic cables and twisted-pair cables, coaxial or coax cables are also a type of ethernet cable.

Types of Ethernet Cables

Contrary to popular belief that twisted-pair copper cables are the only ethernet cables, the following are the three types of ethernet cables.

Twisted-Pair Cables
Fiber Optic Cables
Coaxial Cables

Fiber Optic Cables

Fiber optic cables are a type of ethernet cable that is known for their unmatched data transfer speed. It might interest you to know that fiber optic cables connect the world via the internet. Deep under the oceans around the world, fiber optic cables run connecting entire continents and countries through the internet.

The actual fiber inside these cables that carries the data in the form of a light beam is thinner than a human hair. However, it allows data transmission at speeds that no other data transfer medium offers.

Types of Fiber Optic Cables

There are two types of fiber optic cables. Single mode and multimode. Single-mode fiber optic cables can carry only a single beam of light and they are used in long-distance transmissions. They have less insertion loss which is the resistance in the cable and are therefore more efficient. If you are reading this article on the internet, which you most certainly are, single-mode fiber optic cables are responsible for making it possible.

The second type of these cables is multi-mode fiber optic cables. This type of fiber optic cable has a comparatively thicker core that can carry multiple beams of light simultaneously. However, the downside to this feature is that they have more insertion loss which causes the signal to lose its integrity over long distances.

Therefore, the best use of multi-mode fiber optic cables is in data centers, server rooms, etc where the transmission distances are short.

Twisted Pair Cables

As mentioned before, twisted pair cables are generally referred to as ethernet cables. That is because of their wide use. From offices to schools, hospitals, and homes, these cables are simply everywhere. So much so that they have become synonymous with ethernet cables.

Twisted pair cables usually have bare copper conductors at their core. The conductors are 8 in number and are twisted into pairs of two. Twists in the conductor pairs keep the EMI and external noise at a minimum ultimately ensuring seamless connectivity. The term twisted-pair cables also arise from the name of their design.

Fiber Optic vs Copper Ethernet Cables: Difference

The biggest difference between the two types of cables is obviously their design and method of data transfer. But there is more to them. Find what else makes the two types of networks different in the list below.

  1. Fiber optic cables have a lower diameter as compared to their twisted-pair counterparts.
  2. Fiber optic ethernet cables are used mostly in long-distance transmissions. Twisted pair ethernet cables are used for both long and short distances.
  3. Twisted-pair copper cables are available in a wide variety of options to choose from but fiber cables come in only two types: single-mode fiber optic cables and multi-mode.
  4. Fiber cables are more fragile than twisted pair cables which are fairly durable to handle the physical impact.
  5. Copper Ethernet cables are quite fast and even Cat6 and Cat6a cables support gigabit and 10-gigabit speeds, but are not as fast as fiber optic cables.

Pros and Cons of Using Fiber Optic Cables

Let’s start with the cons. So the main disadvantage of using fiber optic cables is that they are too fragile. All fiber optic cables have a limited bend angle and twisting them beyond it may cause damage. Fiber optic cables are more expensive too.

Now the advantages of these cables are obviously faster data transfer speeds and better signal integrity. Because optical fiber cables utilize a light beam to carry data, they do not suffer electromagnetic interference. Electromagnetic interference is a major problem in twisted-pair cables.

In a sentence, fragility and higher costs are the downsides and faster speeds and overall better performance are the pros of using fiber optic cables.

Pros and Cons of Using Twisted-Pair Ethernet Cables

Twisted-pair ethernet cables also have their fair share of upsides and downsides. The main advantage of using these cables is that they are highly cost-effective and offer excellent speed. The key is to choose the right cable for the right application and you will never need a fiber optic cable. More on that later.

If twisted-pair cables are unshielded, they’re more likely to suffer interference which causes a higher latency.

Which One do You Need?

The best way to bypass the downsides of ethernet cables and to get the perfect ethernet connection, you need to get the right cable. But what is the right ethernet cable for me, you ask?

Well, the right ethernet cable is the one that should support sufficient data transfer speeds and should be feasible. While picking the right ethernet cable, you also need to make sure that the cable is easy to install, durable, and long-lasting.

Now, when you look for these specifications, both fiber optic cables and ethernet cables are fairly good contestants. So the best practice is to figure out which specifications are most important for you. Do you need the fastest or the most durable cable? Do you need a rather highly durable cable or can you make do with a fragile one? Choose the right cable for your network depending on the answers to these questions.

Best Fiber Optic Cables

Following are the top fiber optic ethernet cables.

  • SINGLEMODE 9/125 OS2
  • MULTIMODE 50/125 OM4
  • MULTIMODE 50/125 OM3
  • MULTIMODE 50/125 OM2

Best Copper Ethernet Cables

Following are the top copper ethernet cables that you can choose from.

  • Cat5e Bare Copper Plenum
  • Cat5e Bare Copper Riser
  • Cat6 Bare Copper Plenum
  • Cat6 Shielded Bare Copper Plenum
  • Cat6a Plenum/Riser
  • Cat6a Shielded Plenum

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Is fiber optic cable the same as Ethernet cable?

Fiber optic cable is a type of ethernet cable. There are two more types: twisted-pair and coaxial. However, all of these cables find their use in data communication applications.

Is fiber optic cable better than Ethernet?

In terms of speed, fiber optic cables are faster than ethernet (twisted-pair) cables. But both of them have their pros and cons. Read the pros and cons section above for more info.

Can fiber optic Cable be used as an Ethernet cable?

Yes indeed. Fiber optic cables are in fact ethernet cables and they are used as such.

Are copper Ethernet Cables faster than Fiber Optic Cables?

Fiber optic cables are generally faster than copper ethernet cables. However, both of them offer excellent speeds to cater to all kinds of data transfer requirements.

Is Cat6 Fiber or Copper Cable?

Cat6 is short for Category 6 of twisted-pair copper cables. It is not a fiber optic cable.

Do I need a special ethernet cable for fiber?

You need a single mode or a multimode cable to access the internet over fiber optic cables.

Specification Cat5e Cat6 Cat6a
Cable Jacket Plenum, Riser & PVC Plenum, Riser & PVC Plenum & Riser
Wire Gauge 24-AWG 23-AWG 23-AWG Highly Twisted
Frequencies 350 MHZ 550 MHZ 750 MHZ
Installation Temp 0°C to 60°C 0°C to 60°C 0°C to 60°C
Pairs 4 Twisted Pairs 4 Twisted Pairs 4 Twisted Pairs
Package Easy Pull Box Easy Pull Box Wood Spool
Colors Black, Blue, White, Red, Green, Yellow Black, Blue, White, Red, Green, Yellow Black, Blue, White, Red, Green, Yellow
Jasper Tanner

Jasper Tanner, our fiber optic guru, simplifies the intricacies of high-speed connectivity. Count on his blogs to navigate the world of fiber optics effortlessly.

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