Copper and Fiber: Active in Ethernet communication

Copper and Fiber: Active in Ethernet communication

By Enterprise Networking Mag | Friday, March 29, 2019

Ethernet Communication

In a mobile military and airborne platform, the transition is taking place from a mechanical system to electronic control. As electronic content continues to grow lately, the processing loads happen on every platform. Traditional protocols such as USB and IEEE 1394 are still having a bequest application on these platforms. But, most new platforms are now turning to Ethernet as a communication protocol in reality, because it supports 1 Gbps (Gigabits per second) and sometimes it grows up to 10 Gbps in certain payloads. There is always a great confusion to understand the technology behind Ethernet. This is the time to step back and learn about its physical medium. The difference and complexities of using copper and fiber on the same platform would aid to understand clearly.

When it comes to size, fiber-optic cable offers approximately 25 percent space-saving and 50 percent weight-saving over traditional Cat 5 cable. But, fiber tends to be a bit more fragile; it is lighter and more efficient than copper counterparts. The maximum transmission rate of twisted-pair copper cables is 10 Gbps. The answer for fiber is quite incredible because so far fiber supports the transmission speed of 100 Gbps and even sometimes 400 Gbps has also experienced. Even though the effective limit of a copper run is only about 100 meters, yet the copper Ethernet cable will experience signal loss over long distance. But, a Single Mode Fiber can support up to 10 Km without any signal loss. Since the copper cable is transferring electrical signals, it is susceptible to crosstalks and both EMI (electromagnetic interference), and radio-frequency, but fiber optic cables are immune to such interferences because it does not carry electricity. Still, it is hard to notice fiber optic cables everywhere, because of some reasons such as expensive, fragility, difficult to install, Attenuation & Dispersion.

Meanwhile, there are numerous ways to handle such transition, because lately, most Ethernet switches have designed to support both copper and fiber. The physical media converters with various configurations have employed to ease the communication. Even though enterprise data centers and service providers have led the way to replace copper with fiber, still mobile and airborne platforms have lagged behind this evolution because of various reasons.

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