Whether you’re a home internet user hoping for faster streaming and download speeds or a small business owner who needs to stay connected in the office, chances are you’ve wondered what the best kind of internet connection to get is. There are plenty of options, but in most cases, people have two main varieties to choose between; ethernet and fibre optic. Fibre optic cables are faster and safer in almost all cases, but what causes that and how do they measure up side by side?
‘Capacity’, in this context, refers to how much data the cable can carry at once. Capacity–like bandwidth, which is closely related–has a huge impact on how fast you can download and how smoothly you can stream.
- Most ethernet cables are made of copper, which is usually quite thick. This limits the number of wires in every cable ‘bundle’; if your cable needs to be 22-gauge, you’ll only be able to fit a certain number of copper strands within that size.
- Optical fibre strands are much smaller, meaning you can get far higher capacity in the same gauge of wire.
It’s extremely rare for a data cable to begin a fire, but it has on a scant handful of occasions been known to happen.
- Ethernet cables run at a sufficiently low voltage that they are very, very unlikely to be able to cause a fire. It’s theoretically possible, though, as electricity is always running through the cable.
- Fibre cables aren’t transmitting electricity as they aren’t made of metal, and therefore aren’t flammable.
Sometimes, electronic devices can interfere with each other. One example of this that many people are familiar with is the sound that computer speakers sometimes make when a nearby mobile phone is about to receive a text message; another is the way that using a microwave can temporarily decrease the strength of a local WiFi signal.
- Electromagnetic interference can disrupt anything that uses electricity to work, and this includes ethernet cables. It’s possible to buy a shielded cable to limit this, but they’re more expensive and the shielding isn’t completely effective.
- Fibre cables, on the other hand, don’t contain an electric charge and are therefore invulnerable to electromagnetic interference.
Many businesses and private individuals are concerned about their digital security, and it’s true that there are a few ways of intercepting internet connections that start with the cabling.
- It’s possible to ‘tap into’ an ethernet cable and intercept some of the data being transmitted along it. While users can manage this using ethernet switches, these are really designed for larger offices and aren’t generally suitable for small networks.
- Data is sent through fibre cabling in a completely different way, and therefore they are a great deal more difficult to intercept.
Speed is a major concern for many internet users. In the modern world, most want their connection to run as quickly and smoothly as possible!
- There are some new ethernet cables that can give fibre optic a run for their money, but these are expensive! In general and on average, ethernet is always a little slower than fibre.
- Fibre cables are swift and efficient, and dollar-for-dollar they’re still faster than ethernet. Some fibre cables have the capacity to transmit data up to 100TB per second, which is in fact so fast it’s not yet necessary! Over time, however, speeds of that nature will become more and more useful as technology develops.
If your main priority is saving money as getting your internet connection up and running as quickly as possible, an ethernet cable might be for you. By and large, though, you want to go for fibre optic: they offer better performance pretty much across the board, no matter what your priority is.