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Telecoms try to ditch copper at their own peril

By Max Burkhalter
October 17, 2014

Telecommunication companies are leading the movement to phase out copper wires and introduce fiber-optic cables across the country. However, a quick shift may only be in the best interests of Internet and cable providers. Though gigabit cables may someday be the new standard, copper cables still have plenty of potential, both for telecom companies and for the data center sector. A closer look at the twilight of copper cables shows that the technology still carries quite a bit of relevance in today's technological landscape.

Copper closing the broadband gap
Sckipio Technology's G.Fast is leading the charge toward broadband Internet over traditional copper wires. Tech Republic reports that the company was able to achieve downstream speeds of 800 Mbps, with paired upstream speeds of 200 Mbps. Sckipio has recently standardized its technology under the International Telecommunications Union, and has recently prototyped two new chip sets designed to improve the performance of copper connected to fiber-optic wires. The performance of the technology is still limited over 250 meters, notes Network World, but the solution is still optimal for the areas where adding more expensive fiber-optic cable is not feasible.

Cost-effective connections available
Federal Communications Chief Tom Wheeler has recently chastised telecom companies for taking the continued usefulness of copper cables for granted, according to The Washington Post. Instead, Wheeler proposed that telecom companies focus on improving "our copper retirement process to strengthen our core values, including competition." Several high-performance copper network extension devices have been introduced to the market as well, and these devices alleviate the need for businesses with data centers to avoid prematurely uprooting their copper infrastructure.

A few questions must still be answered as new copper applications hit the mainstream. First, standardization must occur before widespread application of new high-performance copper becomes cost effective. Wheeler warns that the retirement of copper must make sense for consumer and corporation alike before the transition hits full throttle. Deployment of the technology to customers is likely years away, thanks to complications including the need to standardize needed for G.FAST and requirement for telecoms operators to install new equipment to enable these connections. This process will helpfully speed up as telecoms and data center owners discuss how long-term copper solutions can work alongside continued rollout of fiber-optic cables.

As the economy recovers, network infrastructures are growing and most buildings have unused copper wiring installations left over from telephones, alarm circuits, serial applications, CATV and other equipment. Perle Ethernet Extenders tap into that existing copper wire to transmit Ethernet frames up to 10,000 feet to devices like routers, switches, PCs, digital sensors, VoIP phones, Wi-Fi Access points and IP cameras.


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