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Networking Communications

Fiber Optic vs Copper 234

pcnetworx1 writes "Recently companies, such as Verizon with their FIOS service, have begun to migrate from legacy copper to fiber optics. Corning (admittedly one of the largest fiber optic cable makers) is running an article which explains why it is actually cheaper to go for the fiber optics."
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Fiber Optic vs Copper

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  • why it is cheaper. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Saven Marek ( 739395 ) on Sunday November 13, 2005 @06:24AM (#14019473)
    laying fiber is 10x more expensive than copper.

    But fiber carries hundreds to thousands more channels of data than copper.

    that's why it's cheaper.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 13, 2005 @06:32AM (#14019491)
    Yes, in the long run it is really worth it to build fiber infrastructure. Companies like Surewest [] are investing for the future, and will play a big role in competing with the telcos and cable companies. I am lucky enough to live in an area where Surewest offers service, and they have 10Mbps and 20Mbps bi-directional packages available. I know it is nothing compared to the service you can get in other countries, but to have that big of a pipe to the Internet in Northern California is damned good. Surewest equipment is full 100Mbps, and can scale to 1Gbps [] without much upgrading (relatively).
  • by bogaboga ( 793279 ) on Sunday November 13, 2005 @06:33AM (#14019493)
    You forgot to mention that in the case of copper, many folks can do some basic maintenance whereas with fiber, one has to engage an "expert". I have joined 2 copper ethernet cables to get a longer one with a set of pliers before. If it were fiber, I'd be in big trouble since at that time, I was really broke.
  • by ettlz ( 639203 ) on Sunday November 13, 2005 @06:41AM (#14019512) Journal
    Carry on downloading during that thunder and lightning!
  • by bjason82 ( 820735 ) on Sunday November 13, 2005 @06:45AM (#14019519)
    My aunt used to work for this israeli company called actelis who was pioneering an algorithm that would allow fiber speeds to be achieved over existing copper. It was somehow, with a piece of hardware about the size of a microwave, able to reduce the number of errored packets transmitted, improving the efficiency. On the other hand I've also read about a technology called DWDM (Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing [protocol]) which allows each wavelength of light (aka each color) to be it's own data channel on the same fiber line. With this protocol they estimate a single fiber optic wire could transmit 2 GB of data per second. Not sure why it hasn't been widely accepted yet.
  • by Melkman ( 82959 ) on Sunday November 13, 2005 @07:02AM (#14019556)
    Yeah, but they say its cheaper on the premises. Which it won't be until standard business PC's include an optical ethernet connector as they do copper ethernet connectors now. The cost of installing the extra interface card PC's is just too high, 1000BaseSX cards still cost more than a complete office PC, which today include a 1000BaseT NIC as standard. Also ethernet switches with all fiber interfaces are magnitudes more expensive than copper stuff. Conclusion: fiber at the premises is only the way to go if you got loads of money you don't care about.
  • Re:POTS (Score:4, Informative)

    by bernywork ( 57298 ) * <bstapleton@gmail.cMOSCOWom minus city> on Sunday November 13, 2005 @07:25AM (#14019593) Journal
    Lucent / Livingston PortMaster [], Cisco 5200 [], 5300 [], 3600 [] and a T1 line or an E1 line, dependig on country. These days you can do it on a 260 [] as well.

    Essentially, one of the sides of the connection had to be digital, if you ran two analogue signals (Two modems) back to back, you got 36K, but they found out if that one of the sides of the connection was digital, and was essentially guaranteed to be error free, they could push the speed at which that side transmitted. Hence what the other side recieved at. Whether you actually got 56K was also extremely dependent on the quality of your line. I remember being about 200m away from the exchange on the copper run (I worked at an ISP, so we had a line run for testing) and still only getting 52K.

    We used to tell customers it was just the theoretical maximum as nobody in the country at the time had a chance in hell of getting those speeds.

  • the ever multiple-personalitied Anonymous Coward said:
    In some non-US parts of the world, we've had bragging rights about fiber for MANY years now...When will you catch up?
    I was just about to state something to that extent.

    I am currenly on 100Mbps up/down fiber for just about US$50 per month (split among two other roommates equals less than $20/person) just outside of Tokyo. Lots of people say "The US is so broad that we can't do this!", but I fail to see why this kind of connection isn't available in US cities. I am outside of the most dense parts of Tokyo (in fact, I am in a suburb of Kawasaki), but that didn't stop the ISPs (So-Net in my case) from running fibre to apartments.

    Come on, USA! At least in the cities, there is no reason to be so far behind with regards to residential access!

  • by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Sunday November 13, 2005 @07:52AM (#14019651) Homepage Journal
    This is true for today's high-bandwidth glass fibers, but is it necessarily the case? I'm not talking about multi-kilometer signal paths.

    I don't know if you can get away with less quality over short runs. Because it is an optical system I would expect that it will either work or not, there won't be much middle ground.

    Most of my experience with fibre dates back about ten years when I was involved with a large, distributed CCTV system. The cable would enter the building via a large pit (about a metre across) and from there it would be cable tied to mesh cable guides all the way to the network terminating gear.

    Where the cable had to negotiate a corner in a room (for example, wall to ceiling) it would follow a gentle curve from one cable guide to the next with a radius of curvature of about 200mm.

    Fibre cabling around the 19 inch racks which held the equipment was done with a similar amount of care.

    The funniest thing I saw was a contractor who used an auger to bore a hole straight down into one of our main inner city roads. The auger went straight into the pipe holding the fibre for a nearby traffic camera and 100 metres of cable wound itself around the auger bit exactly like pasta aound a fork.

    Needless to day that length of cable was totally stuffed.

  • by DuSTman31 ( 578936 ) on Sunday November 13, 2005 @08:01AM (#14019670)

    Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing isn't so much a protocol as it is an improved method of encoding.

    The main obstacle to adoption, as far as I'm aware, is the crosstalk incurred at the amplifiers.

    Most fiber-optic connections these says make use of amplifying L.A.S.E.R.s wherein the incident EM photons induce the emission of photons of identical frequency from atoms which are in an energetic state. However, due to the finite power of the pumping source, and the finite population of the atoms used as lasing medium, there can be problems with crosstalk - Transmitting a high level on one frequency depletes the population of energised atoms in the lasing medium and causes the amplification ratio of the other frequencies to drop.

    I read a while back about one type of L.A.S.E.R. amplifier where a single frequency was injected transversely to the path of the intended amplified radiation. This would make each frequency have a constant "big" competitor for the energised atoms, and thus drastically decrease the magnitude of this crosstalk.

  • by CPUGuy ( 676781 ) on Sunday November 13, 2005 @08:35AM (#14019723)
    They setup a new box outside your house and transfer your phone lines onto the fiber channel (up to 4), and then run a cat5 cable around your house to where it will be installed inside, drill a whole through the wall, slide it inside, and then fill the whole with silicone.

    For the connection we get (15/2), CAT5 is more then sufficient.
  • by joecr ( 922134 ) on Sunday November 13, 2005 @09:03AM (#14019783) Homepage
    You also forgot that because of the EM field generated by copper it's signal can be read from several feet away, where as fiber doesn't have this problem. The exact distance depends on several variables including, but not limited to the following, What kind of network is going through the copper, how many pairs in the bundle, weather it is shielded or not, etc...

    So this means it is easier to detect a wiretap on a fiber network then on a copper one, because you have to splice the fiber, where as you can just park your device a few feet away & still get the signal with copper.
  • Is that old fiber? (Score:4, Informative)

    by achurch ( 201270 ) on Sunday November 13, 2005 @09:13AM (#14019808) Homepage
    Because when I had fiber installed in my apartment a few months ago, the guy had no problem with taping it against the wall/floor junction (radius of curvature... (goes and measures) 3cm), and I still get close to 100Mbps. Perhaps not quite as good as copper, but not that much worse, either.
  • by Danathar ( 267989 ) on Sunday November 13, 2005 @09:15AM (#14019811) Journal
    I'd love to have fiber drops to the rooms of my house. It was'nt the cost of the fiber which was prohibitive. It was the cost of the Fiber SWITCH!
  • by neildiamond ( 610251 ) on Sunday November 13, 2005 @09:28AM (#14019850)
    here are the problems! 1. Monopoly CONTROL! Verizon isn't just trying to give you high speed Internet, they're trying completely take over your phone. Once your phone is on fibre, you can no longer switch local service providers (unless they allow that for some reason). The reason is that the fibre line is completely theirs and the old copper was financed by govt regulated monopoly. This is a return to the old Bell only days! 2. They do everything possible to cut off copper service to your house even if you tell them not to so as to make it nearly impossible to get a phone line from someone else! (Took me over a month!) 3. Why else would you want a copper phone? POWER OUTAGES! Copper phones usually have their own power and continue to work when the main power goes out. Fibre phones installations come with a battery pack that you have to maintain. They saw the phone can get 4 hours of talk time. Not so good if you run a company or home business on that line. Plus, the only thing that worked during 9/11 was the copper phone line (yes sometimes the lines were busy, but it still mostly worked as cell phones didn't). Internet was pretty slow at that point too. If having a working phone isn't important to you, you could always go with Vonage or whatever, but that's still relying on a single communications channel not to fail in a major emergency. 4. Verizon's customer service sucks. THey know they have you by the balls and once you have fibre, there is no going back! That said, the internet service is pretty sweet. I've been running it since September and not a single burb since then. The 1.5 Mbs upstream speed is really nice too. So my advice is switch your local phone service to someone else and then get Verizon to do your Internet. That way they have to leave your copper phone lines in place. However, they just bought out MCI and the other local phone guys are pretty sucky so beware! Verizon is the next M$ watch out!
  • Re:IPv6 (Score:3, Informative)

    by imroy ( 755 ) <> on Sunday November 13, 2005 @09:52AM (#14019903) Homepage Journal

    I don't know about other countries, but AARNET here in Australia recently upgraded their network [] with 10Gbps fibre connecting major metropolitan centres as well as Seattle and LA in the US. Slower copper links are used for redundancy and connecting not-so-major metropolitan centres. And it supports IPv6 as well as IPv4.

    It's refreshing to see their attitude about IPv6 in their design goals []:

    Therefore IPv6 must be afforded the same priority within the new network as IPv4. A network that treated IPv6 as a second-class citizen was not going to be acceptable and so the type of traffic should not influence performance of the network.

    Also, Australians can use their IPv6 migration broker [] to get a local IPv6 tunnel.

  • by anon mouse-cow-aard ( 443646 ) on Sunday November 13, 2005 @10:24AM (#14019980) Journal
    It's a marketing piece. As such nothing in there is actually false, just a little rose coloured.

    The article says the same cable is used, but it glosses over the terminaors. I've gone through ST & SC, and now LC. Every couple of years they change the connector and then you stuck with frankefibres (patch cable with the new connector type on the patch, and the old on the machine.) It costs big bucks to replace your connectors. I hope they plan to stay with LC for a while, because replacing the connectors is nearly as expensive as replacing all the wiring.

    We have an office building. The copper used to go down several floors
    to a central patch. We figured we'd modernise by having the copper terminate at switches on each floor, and run fibre down. Great except the fibre downlinks blow like popcorn. We were replacing cisco gbics every other week, and they're not cheap.

    For long haul, I'm sure it makes a lot more sense, but in terms of building infrastructure, it would not have saved anybody much in the
    past 10 years if they had stayed with copper. And the end point electronics are still way more expensive.

    Where fibre was a big win was with HIPPI. We had copper HIPPI and those
    cables were about an inch thick with 100 or so pin connectors. The fibre was just plain ST terminated multi-mode. Much easier to run.

    If the phone companies start rolling it out in a big way, maybe the
    price for end point equipment will come down.

  • by tyler_larson ( 558763 ) on Sunday November 13, 2005 @11:27AM (#14020185) Homepage
    The article caims that fiber networks are cheaper based on the the following assumptions:
    • All networks run at 1Gbps or higher. No one needs a slow network.
    • All network installations must be certified, and the certification cost for a fiber network is less than for a copper network.
    • The allowed size of copper networks decreases dramatically with ultra high-speed networks. Fiber links are allowed to be really long. That difference means huge cost savings to the fiber user.
    • With a huge network, the amount of space taken up by switchs and other equipment is smaller for fiber networks. Also, the space taken up by that extra copper switch is extrememly expensive.
    • Fiber has an operating temperature range that's wider than copper's. You have to spend extra money on climate control if you use copper.
    • Fiber networks are more robust and secure: fiber doesn't conduct lightning strikes. That's worth a lot of money.
    • Every so often, a new copper standard comes out, and we all have to upgrade. We've had Cat3, then Cat5, then Cat5e, then Cat6, etc. Boy, that's a lot of copper wires to install! Fiber doesn't go through as many iterations. Fiber users will save billions in future upgrade costs.
    So, despite the fact that fiber equipment is so much more expensive, you can see how the savings really start adding up when you figure out the fiber TCO.
  • by InvalidError ( 771317 ) on Sunday November 13, 2005 @11:48AM (#14020293)
    There are many types of optical fiber.

    The best is single-mode glass (the stuff used for single multi-gigabit 10+ kilometers long stretches with ~2dB/km loss which is highly breakable and fairly expensive, the equally breakable but less expensive multi-mode glass fibers are limited to about 1Gbps and typically less than 5km due to modal dispersion and ~10dB/km losses while bend-tolerant and much less expensive plastic fiber with ~20dB/km losses are limited to only a few hundred meters for applications that need gigabit speeds. For residential 100Mbps service, plastic fiber would be plenty good enough to handle the last km from the nearest back-haul switch to subscriber terminal. (The loss figures are what I remember from a class where they were mentionned nearly 10 years ago.)

    And yes, you can bend most plastic fiber on less than a 3cm radius. Sharp bends do increase losses but plastic fibers at least let you back off with little to no permanent damage instead of spontaneously breaking like glass fibers would if you went a little too far.
  • by SkyDude ( 919251 ) on Sunday November 13, 2005 @12:47PM (#14020594)
    Fiber will not be the media of choice for the last yard until the price drops significantly. In an earlier post, a Slashdotter mentioned the cost of a Gigabit card being more than the price of the PC its attached to. A business class PC can be purchased for under $800, but include a fiber cable and Gigabit card, and it doubles the cost. Very few companies would be able to justify that expense and even fewer home users. When the cost comes close to copper, you'll see DIY repair kits. It's got to happen.
  • by EBorisch ( 530762 ) on Sunday November 13, 2005 @01:28PM (#14020777)
    I've wondered why nobody's developed a fiber standard for things like connecting external disk drives to personal computers?

    It's called Fibre Channel; but it is mainly enterprise class. (And yes, the spelling I just gave is correct.) You can buy portions of it cheap on EBay (Optics for $10 - Search for "Optical SFP" or HBAs for $50 (Host Bus Adapter; PCI card with optical connections) -- search for "Fibre Channel HBA")... but then you need the drive enclosure (typically rack mount) and the drives themselves.

    The optics themselves aren't the expensive part of this system, at least according to the EBay ecosystem.

    I'd love to see cheap plastic fiber replace cat-5 cabling for any runs from 1 to 100 meters.

    Well, plastic fiber won't likely go 100m (too much attenuation) .. but glass optical fiber is fairy flexible -- a little more so than my mouse's cable -- but it is not kind to kinks, especially. There is a post later that indicated it's all or nothing wrt. bend radius -- not true. Increasing tightness will cause increasing attenuation, but true cut-off (no light passed) is difficult to attain, even when you are trying to do so.

    Just my thoughts; not representing any particular company view, yadda, yadda...

Statistics are no substitute for judgement. -- Henry Clay