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Fiber optic cable vs. coaxial cable

Updated February 21, 2017

When connecting data signals between components in a computer network, you may choose between fibre optic or coaxial cable. Deciding which is more appropriate for your use depends on the distance of your connection and the amount of data you will send.

Construction

Fibre optic cables contain a tiny strand of fibreglass about the size of a human hair, with an outer covering to protect it. Coaxial cables have a copper centre conductor surrounded by an insulating material, a braided shield and a protective covering.

Distance

Low-loss fibre optic cables carry a signal for several miles before needing a repeater. Signal losses are high in coaxial cable, however, so you should use it only for short distances.

Amount of Data

Fibre optic cables carry far more information than coaxial cables. A fibre optic system can carry up to 10 giga, or billion, bits per second. Coaxial cable is limited to only 50 mega, or million, bits per second.

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About the Author

Richard Asmus was a writer and producer of television commercials in Phoenix, Arizona, and now is retired in Peru. After founding a small telecommunications engineering corporation and visiting 37 countries, Asmus studied broadcasting at Arizona State University and earned his Master of Fine Arts at Brooklyn College in New York.