What is the Difference Between a 10 Gigabit Copper Switch and a 10 Gigabit Fiber Switch?

NADDOD Neo Switch Specialist Jan 13, 2023

10 Gigabit switches play a critical role in 10 Gigabit Ethernet network cabling solutions. There are two types of 10 Gigabit switches typically used to build 10 Gigabit links: 10 Gigabit copper (10GBASE-T) switches and 10 Gigabit fiber switches. So what’s the difference between the two? How should you choose? You will find the answer in this article.

What is a 10 Gigabit Copper (10GBASE-T) Switch?

The 10 Gigabit Copper (10GBASE-T) switch (i.e., full RJ45 port 10 Gigabit switch) provides 10 Gigabit transmission over short distances via RJ45 ports on the panel, solving network performance bottlenecks and providing high cost efficiency (i.e., high performance and high ROI). The 10 Gigabit copper (10GBASE-T) switch is backward compatible with existing 100/1000BASE-T connections, and it can be used with existing copper structured cabling systems, providing network administrators with a high degree of flexibility when deploying servers.

What is a 10 Gigabit Fiber Switch?

The 10 Gigabit Fiber Switch provides long-haul 10 Gigabit transmission over 10G SFP+ ports on the panel. With higher throughput and excellent latency performance compared to Gigabit Fiber Switches, the 10 Gigabit Fiber Switch is a cost effective solution. Because of the significant improvements in bandwidth, port density and power consumption, the 10 Gigabit fiber switch has become one of the choices for applications that are more sensitive to transmission latency.

How to Choose between 10 Gigabit Copper (10GBASE-T) Switch and 10 Gigabit Fiber Switch?

10 Gigabit networks are now ubiquitous in data centers, enterprise networks and even home networks. Both 10 Gigabit copper (10GBASE-T) switches and 10 Gigabit fiber switches are solutions for 10 Gigabit networks, and understanding the differences between them can help you make a better choice when shopping. Here’s what you need to know about the differences between 10GBASE-T switches and 10GbE fiber switches and how to choose.

Transmission Distance
10 Gigabit copper (10GBASE-T) switches are mainly connected with Category 6, Super Category 6 and Category 7 network patch cords for network deployments within 100 meters. The 10 Gigabit fiber optic switch uses fiber optic patch cords to connect the optical modules plugged into the ports, enabling transmission distances of up to 100 kilometers, far exceeding the transmission distance of copper cables, making it possible to use the 10 Gigabit fiber optic switch for longer distance network deployments than the 10GBASE-T switch.

Backward Compatibility
While 10 Gigabit copper switches based on 10GBase-T technology are auto-negotiating and backward compatible with 1G and 100M devices, 10 Gigabit fiber switches based on fiber optic technology do not support connections to lower speed devices. In other words, 10 Gigabit copper (10GBase-T) switches are a more economical and viable way to upgrade from earlier 1G and 100M networks to 10G networks, as they require only partial server and switch upgrades.

High-speed Applications
Because of the impressive progress in reducing latency and power consumption, 10 Gigabit fiber switches are well suited for large high-speed network applications. At the same time, 10GbE fiber switches have good port performance and generally have a high port count, which helps build high-density networks. While 10 Gigabit copper (10GBASE-T) switches with fewer ports (e.g., 8 ports) are typically suitable for home and SOHO networks, 10 Gigabit copper switches with more ports (e.g., 48 ports) are suitable for small business networks.

Today, 10 Gigabit copper (10GBASE-T) switches with the same level (e.g., same number of ports) in the switch market are usually priced higher than 10 Gigabit fiber switches. If both types of 10GbE switches are available to meet your needs, then it is recommended that you choose a 10GbE fiber switch to facilitate a later upgrade to a higher speed network.

In fact, whether you choose a 10 Gigabit copper (10GBASE-T) switch or a 10 Gigabit fiber switch, you need to make a choice based on the actual requirements, because only then can you get a cost-effective 10 Gigabit network solution. Usually, 10GbE fiber switches are more suitable for high transmission distance requirements, but 10GbE copper (10GBASE-T) switches can be considered when flexibility and compatibility with existing networks are required.