Copper cabling has been around and in use since electricity was invented. And the quality of copper wire has continued to improve. Over the past 100 years, copper manufacturers have developed the refining and drawing processes so that copper is even more high quality than when it was first used for communication cabling.
High-speed technologies (such as 155Mbps ATM and 10 Gigabit Ethernet) that experts said would never run over copper wire are running over copper wiring today.
Network managers pick copper cabling for a variety of reasons: Copper cable (especially UTP cable) is as inexpensive as optical fiber and easy to install, the installation methods are well understood, and the components (patch panels, wall-plate outlets, connecting blocks, etc.) are inexpensive. Further, UTP-based equipment (PBX systems, Ethernet routers, etc.) that uses the copper cabling is much more affordable than comparable fiber equipment.
The main downsides to using copper cable are that copper cable can be susceptible to outside interference (EMI), copper cable provides less bandwidth than optical fiber, and the data on copper wire is not as secure as data traveling through an optical fiber. This is not an issue for the typical installation.
Table 1 lists some of the common technologies that currently use unshielded twisted-pair Ethernet. With the advances in networking technology and twisted-pair cable, it makes you wonder what applications you will see on UTP cables in the future.
1000Base-T Gigabit Ethernet
10GBase-T Gigabit Ethernet
4Mbps Token Ring
16Mbps Token Ring
TP-PMD (FDDI over copper)