In some ways, the AV industry is bipolar. We love new technology, always wanting to see what’s new and what’s next. But at the same time, we love what’s comfortable and continue to return to “the ways we’ve always done it” when designing and installing AV systems. While we all desire to be on the cutting edge of technology, we secretly fear getting cut by the bleeding edge of technology. When it comes to the use of fiber optic cabling and equipment in a project, this certainly rings true. But should it?
Historically, AV contractors have been slow to adopt fiber communications. Here are the three main fiber myths we continue to tell ourselves in the AV industry.
Myth #1: Fiber is too expensive. This is usually the number-one response when the topic of fiber is brought up. Yet, the price for fiber optic cabling has been consistently falling over the years. Advancements in fiber termination and tooling have, in some cases, made using fiber faster and easier than category cabling. This provides a savings on labor costs. When you add in the fact that conduit pathways can be downsized and readily available, a fiber solution can actually be a cost saver in many cases.
Myth #2: Fiber is too fragile. Many years ago, the installation of fiber optic cabling used to be an adventure in tediousness. It required sweeping radius bends in conduit paths and large swooping service loops to get the fiber to gently face the right direction for its termination. Actually pulling on a fiber cable down a path during installation was tedious and stressful. The fear of “breaking the glass” was at the forefront of everyone’s attention. Today, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Modern fiber optic cabling can be turned in tight radiuses and, in some cases, tied in a knot while maintaining full functionality. It is category cabling that is the more fragile of the bunch in this area. While the allowed pulling tension on fiber optic cabling can be in excess of 200 pounds of force, standard category cable is down around 25 pounds.
Myth #3: You can’t send power over fiber. Up until recently, this was a large hurdle in the decision to move over to fiber in some situations. The need to have an outlet nearby and plug in a “wall wart” to power the transmitting and/or receiving units was just a hassle and seemed messy. It’s just much easier to use POE power through a category cable. Signal + power = simple. The fiber optic answer to that situation is combination or Siamese cabling. Fiber optic cabling with an added low voltage “power pair” is now readily available. By terminating this cabling into a locking style connector, you’ve got your power and signal in one connection. Clean and simple, the way we like it.
While the battle between fiber optic and category cabling is not over, our insatiable need for high bandwidth AV is definitely pushing us toward the benefits that utilizing a fiber optic infrastructure has to offer. Utilizing fiber optic products in your AV designs and installations is less cutting than it used be and more “why haven’t I done it like this before.”