Will Fiber Ever Replace Copper Cable?
The question of whether fiber
will replace copper cable was first proposed to me more than a decade ago and certainly
has become a popular topic in cabling industry. Has this been verified by
actual market performance? Based on CommScope's observation in China, it is true
that the application fields for fiber have significantly extended; however copper
cable remains vital in several key applications.
To keep things simple, let’s
divide the cabling market into two major application fields: data center and intelligent
building. Currently, we are witnessing a growing trend of fiber in data center
market. According to the industry research report by China Cabling Team
(C-TEAM), the normal proportion of fiber and copper cable implementation in the
data center is 40 percent and 60 percent respectively. Data center’s requirement
for bandwidth will increase together with its scale expansion, and finally
result in higher demand for fiber. Moreover, the percentage of fiber in large
data centers (no less than 10,000 square meters) reaches 70 percent, much
higher than the percentage of copper cable.
When it comes to intelligent
buildings, the percentage of fiber implementation is comparatively higher in
vertical backbone networks, while copper cabling still dominates the
applications of voice transmission and in-building networks. This is mainly due
to the high cost of fiber-to-the-desk (FTTD) system as well as fiber’s high requirements
for application environment and routine maintenance. Therefore, in the market
of intelligent buildings, the percentage of fiber usage is only around 30
percent, while copper cabling occupies the remaining 70 percent market share.
As the integrated solution
provider for fiber and copper cable, CommScope believes that both fiber and
copper cable are making progress with fiber developing relatively faster. Since
fiber and copper cable both serve Ethernet connections, their specific
applications are determined by the development and evolvement of Ethernet
interface. In terms of the data center market, fiber indeed holds a larger share
because of its advantages in transmission speed and bandwidth. However, when it
comes to the intelligent buildings market, copper cable is facing new opportunities
brought on by the fast landing of the Power over Ethernet (PoE) application. Since
copper cable is capable of transmitting data as well as supplying electrical power,
its predominant application is to horizontal network transmission and device
With the rapid development
and upgrading of Ethernet technology, its surrounding standards and the segmentation
of application, the future of copper cable is still promising through such
applications as: PoE technology, wireless access, digital camera, LED-based
power system and sensor networks. All of these applications will extend the scope
of copper cable usage. Although fiber is more popular in the data center market,
the advent of 25G and 40G
copper cable standards demonstrate the continuous evolvement of copper cable technology,
which still has a strong presence, particularly in the area of server end access.
This explains why fiber may not necessarily unify the data center cabling market
and the future trend of the cabling industry will be the long term co-existence
and common development of both.
What are your thoughts
regarding the ongoing discussion on whether fiber will completely overtake
copper cabling? Leave a comment below and I will be happy to continue this
About the Author
Chen is Vice President, Enterprise Sales of Greater China for CommScope, a
global leader in infrastructure solutions for communications networks. Ms. Chen
is responsible for all aspects of sales and customer relationships for the
SYSTIMAX® Solutions business in Greater China. In this position, she executes
the sales strategy and deals with key verticals and geographical expansion in
veteran in the industry, Ms. Chen first joined AT&T in 1995, having worked
in the telecommunication and CATV industry. In 2000, she assumed the position
of sub- region sales manager in charge of the East China SYSTIMAX Solutions
business, which she maintained from the company’s transition from Avaya to
CommScope. In 2007, she took on the position of national sales manager in
charge of Greater China sales, where she achieved a revenue growth of 22 per
cent from 2007 to 2008. In 2010, Ms. Chen assumed the position of regional
sales director of Greater China. In 2015, Laura is promoted as VP, Enterprise
Sales of Greater China. An outstanding team player, Ms. Chen has been
awarded the AP Coach of the Year award in 2007 and the Strategic Sales
Initiative Person of the Year in 2009.
2015, Laura earned a master’s degree in business administration from The University of Hong
Kong. In 1990, she graduated from Shanghai University, receiving
a bachelor’s degree in telecommunication. She also holds an e-business program
certification from CEIBS, a China executive marketing program diploma from
Shanghai Jiaotong University and a strategic leadership program diploma from
INM (International Negotiation & Management Co.) in the United States.
2 comments for "Will Fiber Ever Replace Copper Cable?"
Sunday, August 07, 2016 6:27 PM
Stephen Fry says:
I believe this report unfairly weights the viability of copper. Obviously coexistance is a necessity since we all need to communicate in the NOW. However the cost of relying on copper is much higher than is initially perceived due to general high maintenance, susceptibility to water, and VDSL requiring mains power to operate. Any Government with vision would be installing as much fibre to the premises as possible. Yes copper integrated until it can be replaced with fibre which is far more reliable, lower latency, impervious to water, increase bandwidth and likely good for 100 years with further compression technologies on the horizon. Anyone installing copper afresh is a luddite lacking in vision in my opinion.
Wednesday, August 10, 2016 4:55 AM
Laura Chen says:
Thank you for your comment. You have a good point of view for future of fiber. But everything has its strength and weakness. If we consider equipment cost, fiber equipment is much more expensive. Regarding maintenance, fiber has its shortage in dusty environment. In some situation, copper is more flexible and cost effective. So back to current reality, copper is still a necessity for many applications and markets.