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6 Reasons To Use Fiber On Your Next Project

Connecting the right cable in the right place is obviously essential for pro AV systems integrators, but choosing the right type of cabling for the job can be just as important. We've all heard the stereotypes, as the fiber versus copper debate has been raging for more than a decade.

Connecting the right cable in the right place is obviously essential for pro AV systems integrators, but choosing the right type of cabling for the job can be just as important. We've all heard the stereotypes, as the fiber versus copper debate has been raging for more than a decade.

For most, the main argument against using optical fiber is straightforward: It's just too expensive. But cost isn't the only factor to consider in selecting the right cable for specific AV applications. Sometimes the additional advantages of using fiber can justify the extra initial cost. Here are six reasons why you should consider choosing fiber on your next project.

1 Fiber can cover longer distances.

Distance is fiber's No. 1 advantage, says David Hall, manager of marketing plans and systems at Corning Cables Systems, a division of Corning Inc., in Corning, NY. “That's probably the main reason people are forced into going with fiber,” he says. “We always get called in for the longer distances.”

Of course, distance doesn't always matter. Michael Laiacona, president of Whirlwind Music Distributors, an audio equipment manufacturer in Rochester, NY, points out that if you want to install many drops throughout a facility and will never need to run more than 330 feet — a distance to which Cat5 cabling is limited between switches or repeaters — then copper works as well as fiber. For short cable runs, either will do.

<em xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml">Size, one of the advantages of fiber over copper, speaks for itself.</em>

Size, one of the advantages of fiber over copper, speaks for itself.

On the other hand, for a broadcast crew covering a golf tournament or downhill ski event, for example, distance can be important, says Joe Commare, vice-president of sales and marketing at Telecast Fiber Systems Inc., in Worcester, MA. Hall says cable runs to surveillance cameras may justify fiber, depending on their locations, and many media events call for cable runs that make fiber the logical choice.

True, it's not that copper cable can't be made to work over longer distances. But doing so requires switches or repeaters at intervals. That adds significantly to the cost compared to a single fiber run, and each one of those creates a potential point of failure, Hall adds.

2 Fiber offers greater bandwidth.

Comparing the bandwidth of fiber and copper cables is trickier than it seems because bandwidth increases as distance decreases, and there are different types of fiber and copper cabling. While data-transmission standards are in the works that might allow high-quality twisted-pair copper cable to carry 10 Gb of data more than 300 feet, single-mode fiber can carry the same load a couple of miles. For short distances, fiber's capacity is practically unlimited.

More bandwidth means it takes fewer fibers to carry the same information. That means when conduit is required, you can use smaller conduit, says John Lopinto, president and chief executive officer of Communications Specialties Inc., located in Hauppauge, NY. It may reduce installation costs as well. For instance, union rates for installations are sometimes based on length times number of strands times a fixed amount. Fewer strands means lower labor costs.

Carrying several different signals over copper usually means running separate cables, Hall explains. “With fiber, if you run a bunch of different devices into a multiplexer, then you can drop in one single fiber,” he says.

Even if current requirements don't make a compelling case for fiber, there's the future to consider. Expanding video applications, such as videoconferencing and surveillance systems, are likely to increase capacity needs in the future, and replacing cable can be costly and disruptive.



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