Fiber Optic Cable Vs. Coaxial Cable

By Richard Asmus

When connecting data signals between components in a computer network, you may choose between fiber 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

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

Distance

Low-loss fiber 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

Fiber optic cables carry far more information than coaxial cables. A fiber 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.