The ABCs of LAN and Fiber Optic Cables: Which Performs Better?

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The ABCs of LAN and Fiber Optic Cables: Which Performs Better?

As remote network connections between computers continue to increase in popularity in the home and business world, you have two main options when determining what type of media is the best for your needs; LAN cables or fiber optic cables.  Which type you’ll need is determined by your computing needs.  In this article, we’ll discuss the differences between the two.

What is a LAN Cable?

LAN cables, or local area connection cables, are used to connect a large number of workstations in a given space, such as an office or a household.  LAN cables are also referred to as Unshielded Twisted Pair (UTP) cables.  The basic structure of a LAN cable comes in two forms; solid and stranded.  Solid LAN cables consist of a single, solid wire that serves as the internal conductor of the cable. Stranded LAN cables consist of multiple twisted wires.  Because of their structure, stranded LAN cables provide more flexibility in handling.  Thus, they are better than solid LAN cables if you are planning on connecting and disconnecting the cable frequently.  There is actually very little difference in the overall performance between solid and stranded LAN cables; they are simply used for different reasons.

These cables are differentiated from one another by category.  The most advanced LAN cables currently on the market are categories 5, 5e or 6.  Category 5 LAN cables are comprised of twisted pairs of wires within a sheath.  These cables are better equipped to reduce “noise” interference over the network and provide a cleaner, stronger signal to users of the computer, server, or other workstation.

LAN cables are used for a variety of things such as Ethernet, which is used to carry a variety of digital signals at high speeds.  Used for Ethernet, these LAN cables are capable of transmitting signals of over 100 megabits per second, making it efficient for streaming most live data for home users, as well as downloading with reasonable speed.

Properties of Fiber Optic Cables

Fiber optic cables, which are cables that consist of glass fiber strands as opposed to wires, are the other popular solution for the creation of a local area network.  These strands are bundled and sheathed with a protective covering and transmit light signals. You may wonder how the transmission of light signals leads to the transmission of information over your network and via the Internet, so a brief explanation of how fiber optics works is in order.

How Do Fiber Optic Cables Work?

The method by which fiber optic signals are sent and received is with the use of a transmitter, fiber optic cable, and optical receiver. As the name implies, the transmitter sends the light signal which is then transmitted through the conductive capacity of the thin wire fibers across large distances, these signals are then decoded by the optical receiver, and thus you receive the data transmitted via the fiber optic cable.

The advantage of fiber cables as opposed to traditional wire is that signals can travel a much longer distance at far faster speeds. These cables are more secure, and they are susceptible to less interference than wire LAN cables are.  However, fiber optic cables are much more expensive than traditional wire based LAN cables.  Unless you are running a business or hosting a server, it is doubtful that you will need the transmission capacity of a fiber optic cable.  Fiber optic cables are the cables of choice for internet service providers as they need to be capable of handling the large amount of bandwidth and data transfer that comes from hosting a large number of users over the same network.

Which is the Better Choice?

In conclusion, for home use, most of us can get the transmission speed and quality we need with a wire LAN cable.  However, if you run a business, do a lot of downloading, or simply want to be ahead of the technological curve, fiber optics might be the best option for your networking needs.

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