Copper Vs. Fiber Optic Cabling – Pros and Cons for 2023

Date: May 9, 2023
Author: Barry Preusz


Low Voltage Cabling


Copper wire and fiber optic cables are common cables for modern data transmission. For decades, copper wire ruled as the standard for Network Cabling. Fiber optic wiring is the newcomer that increasingly becomes the cable of choice for many businesses. However, some companies transmitting large amounts of data find that older copper systems are no match for the requirements of modern technology. Both approaches have positive and negative considerations.

Numerous studies have examined the advantages and disadvantages of copper and fiber data wiring. For example, one study in Mdantsane, South Africa published in the Journal on Innovation and Sustainability found the initial cost of deploying fiber optic networks was the biggest hurdle in choosing fiber cabling.1  Another study by Logeshwaran in the Journal on Communication Technology indicates some essential considerations in choosing the best network cabling system—first, versatility in accommodating data, voice, and video, second, compatibility with active equipment, third, ease of maintenance when updating the configuration, and 4) reliability during the entire service life of the system.2  In our research of the two cable network systems, most indicate the high cost of fiber as a prohibitive factor for implementation. However, a study by Jim Hayes published in the Electrical Contractor concluded that you should consider the cost of a complete network, not just its cabling costs to determine its cost-effectiveness. When doing so, fiber cabling systems are comparable to those of Cat 6 copper cabling.3  This article explores the pros and cons of fiber and copper and the virtues of using one cabling system over the other. Below are the pros and cons of the two wiring systems.


Copper Ethernet Cabling


Top 4 Pros and Cons for Copper vs. Fiber


Best 4 Copper Wire Pros



Copper wire is less expensive, making it more economical for small businesses or home networks.


Copper wire is reliably available from local retailers, making it a popular choice for network applications.


Copper wire is compatible with most existing infrastructures, providing an easy upgrade for outdated networks.


Copper wire is durable and a reliable option for outdoor applications.


Top 4 Copper Wire Cons


Limited bandwidth

Copper wire has a restricted bandwidth, which is unsuitable for transmitting large amounts of data over long distances.

Electromagnetic interference

Copper wire is susceptible to electromagnetic interference, which can cause data loss or corruption.

Signal degradation

Copper wire can experience signal degradation over long distances, which can cause data loss or errors.

Limited transmission distance

Copper wire has a short transmission distance, often less than 300 feet, which is unsuitable for long-distance data transmission.


Best 4 Fiber Optic Pros


High bandwidth

Fiber optic cables possess an elevated bandwidth over copper wire, making them desirable for transmitting large amounts of data over long distances.

Immune to interference

Fiber optic cables are immune to electromagnetic interference, making them more reliable in noisy environments.

High signal quality

Fiber optic cables provide high-quality signal transmission, reducing the risk of data loss or errors.

Distance transmissions

Fiber optic cables transmit data over long distances without signal degradation, making them superior for long-distance transmissions.


Top 4 Fiber Optic Cons



Fiber optic cables are generally more expensive than copper wire, making them a less economical choice for small businesses or home networks.

Specialized installation

Fiber optic cables require specialized installation and handling, which can increase installation costs.


Fiber wiring, connections, and network equipment are more difficult to obtain, are often out of stock, and are often prioritized for large bulk orders.


Fiber optic cables are incompatible with existing copper wire infrastructure, making them a more difficult upgrade for older networks.


Fiber Optic Cabling


Top Selection Considerations for Network Cabling


Copper Cabling Top Selection Considerations

  • Cheaper
  • Slow transmission speed
  • Heavier and thicker
  • More difficult to install
  • The most common type of cabling
  • More widely available
  • Easier to cut and spliced
  • Susceptible to interference from EMI
  • Signal loss
  • Distortion
  • Disruptions
  • Limited bandwidth
  • Easily subject to becoming outdated b/c of technological advances
  • Lower installation price currently
  • Tensile strength of 25 pounds
  • Copper is subject to corrosion, degrades with age, and may need replacement in as little as 5 years
  • Weight per 1000 ft = 39 lbs
  • Loses 90% of its transmission signal at 100 meters
  • Low security, easily tapped
  • Higher maintenance, interference, risk of tampering, and replacement cost


Fiber Optic Cabling Top Selection Considerations

  • Faster transmission speed
  • Longer distances
  • More reliable
  • Most durable 50 years
  • Thinner and more lightweight
  • Weight per 1000 ft = 4 lbs
  • Higher security
  • Tensile strength of 200 pounds
  • Not affected by EMI (electric motors, power lines, and microwaves
  • Less susceptible to signal loss, distortion, or disruption
  • Less likely to become outdated b/c of technology
  • More likely to meet the heavy demands of growing businesses
  • May be a lower cost option for the long run
  • Loses only 3% of its transmission signal per 100 meters
  • Better for supporting a LAN
  • Higher upfront price
  • High security (does not carry electrical signals)
  • Easily submerged in water


The chart below compares the 14 most important differences between copper and fiber wiring. Fiber has the advantage in all comparisons regarding performance. Copper has the edge with lower cost, accessibility, and compatibility with existing networking systems in many established business enterprises. However, the high price for improved technology can often outweigh the advantages of increased performance. For high-tech companies with high bandwidth requirements, performance is a necessity.


Comparison Chart Copper vs. Fiber Optic Cables


FeatureCopper CablesFiber Optic Cables
SpeedLimited to a few Gbps over short distancesCan transmit data at speeds of up to 400 Gbps over long distances
Distance300 Ft. @ 1 Gbps12 Miles+ @ 10 Gbps
Bandwidth10 Gbps60 Tbps +
InterferenceProne to electromagnetic interference, RFI, crosstalk, noise, and voltage surgesFull immunity
SecurityVulnerable to tapping and interceptionDifficult to tap or intercept without specialized equipment
SizeRelatively large and bulkyMuch smaller
FlexibilityFlexible, but experiences signal loss with significant bendingHighly flexible, low signal loss with bending
Weight (per 1,000 ft)39 lbs.4 lbs.
InstallationThicker diameter, more routing issues, low pulling strengthEasy to install and maintain, thin diameter, strong pulling strength
EnergyConsumption >10W per user2W per user
Lifecycle5-years30 to 50-years
Future ProofContinues to fall short of the increasing network demands and technological advancesExpected to stay ahead of technology advances for some time
CompatibilityMost compatible with the pre-existing network and communication systemsOften requires replacing old networking communication systems
AvailabilityEasily accessible and almost always in stockMore challenging to find the correct item in stock
CostLess expensive compared to fiber optic cablesMore expensive compared to copper cables


Fiber optic cables offer superior performance compared to copper cables, especially over long distances. They provide higher data transmission rates, larger bandwidths and are immune to electromagnetic interference. Copper cables, however, are still widely used for short-distance networking since they are less expensive. In addition, network devices that require more bandwidth, higher speeds, and more reliable internet connectivity, such as security cameras, digital signage, and VoIP phone systems, make fiber optic cable the obvious choice for those who provide telecommunications and internet. To determine the best option for your business, it is best to have a Low Voltage Cabling Expert to visit your office and assess your specific networking needs. Call Les Olson IT at 801-922-5060 to schedule a free network analysis.







Barry PreuszAuthor posts

Born on a U.S. military base in Europe, Barry moved almost yearly while growing up. He graduated with an undergraduate degree from Brigham Young University and later earned a graduate degree in business and marketing through City University. As a student, he interned in the Utah legislature and with the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington D.C., preparing issue briefs for members of Congress. Currently, Barry works for Les Olson IT, as a digital marketer for printers, copiers, and IT services.When Barry is not working, you will find him enjoying his family, riding mountain bikes and dirt bikes throughout the state of Utah, and traveling anywhere that sounds interesting.