Optical fibre gives copper a run for the money

While copper cable remains the standard for connecting PCs to LAN hubs and switches, optical fibre may soon be the preferred way to make 10Mbps (megabits per second) and 100Mbps. Ethernet connections to corporate desktops, according to a recent study completed in July by The Tolly Group in Manasquan, N.J.

The problem in using optical fibre has been the cost, said Kevin Wilcox, assistant vice-president of technology at financial services company Fiserv Inc. in Brookfield, Wis.

But in a recent major upgrade to the LAN that connects 1,100 PCs and other devices on Fiserv’s two-building headquarters campus, Wilcox discovered that the cost to install optical fibre throughout, including horizontal runs directly to desktops and vertical cable runs to connect different floors, was about the same as using Category 5 copper Ethernet cable.

Wilcox’s installers used optical fibre and connectors from 3M Co. in St. Paul, Minn.

The Tolly Group study supports Wilcox’s experience.

Tolly Group analyst John Curtis, who completed the study in July, said choosing optical fibre over copper means you don’t have to install workgroup switches and routers on each floor of a building. Instead, networked devices in any given area are connected by optical fibre to an optical patch panel nearby. Other optical fibre runs connect these individual patch panels to a central network wiring closet in the building.

In the new optical model, Curtis said, network managers replace switches and routers with patch panels and centralize functions of the latter in a single wiring closet; there’s no need to duplicate them in several intermediate wiring closets, according to Curtis. That means less equipment to maintain and the flexibility to make more network connections in less space.

Gus Jones, director of technology information at George Washington University in Washington, said that before he revamped the university’s network, he hired an outside firm to compare the cost of using optical fibre and a centralized LAN architecture to that of installing distributed architecture over copper.

The cost of installing a copper-cabled LAN in the university’s administration building worked out to approximately US$250,000, Jones said. But using optical fibre was only US$5,000 more.

In the end, it took 11 closets to create an optically connected LAN covering 80 buildings on the George Washington campus, Jones said, compared with an estimated 160 wiring closets had he used copper.

“Initially, it was difficult to find manufacturers who would put fibre ports on their LAN switches,” Jones said. But Paris-based Alcatel finally came through with switches that were optical-ready.

Another reason Wilcox and Jones chose optical over cable was distance. The maximum distance for sending Ethernet signals over copper is about 100 meters, compared with 325 to 500 meters over fibre, said Mike Lynch, a 3M spokesman.

Would you recommend this article?


Thanks for taking the time to let us know what you think of this article!
We'd love to hear your opinion about this or any other story you read in our publication.

Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

Featured Download

Featured Articles

Empowering the hybrid workforce: how technology can build a better employee experience

Across the country, employees from organizations of all sizes expect flexibility...

What’s behind the best customer experience: How to make it real for your business

The best customer experience – the kind that builds businesses and...

Overcoming the obstacles to optimized operations

Network-driven optimization is a top priority for many Canadian business leaders...

Thriving amid Canada’s tech talent shortage

With today’s tight labour market, rising customer demands, fast-evolving cyber threats...

Staying protected and compliant in an evolving IT landscape

Canadian businesses have changed remarkably and quickly over the last few...

Related Tech News

Tech Jobs

Our experienced team of journalists and bloggers bring you engaging in-depth interviews, videos and content targeted to IT professionals and line-of-business executives.

Tech Companies Hiring Right Now