Types of network cables

There are three types of network cables used in a communication system, which are twisted pair, coaxial, and fiber optic cable. Each one of them holds different features and are suitable for different application.

In this blog, we are going to these three major types of network cables in terms of their features, capacity, and performances.

1. Twisted pair cable

Twisted pair cable is made by putting two insulated copper wires together in a single parallel pattern to reduce Electromagnetic interference (EMI). This network cable is used to connect a variety of Ethernet devices to routers and servers. Twisted pair cable can be unshielded twisted pair (UTP) or shielded twisted pair (STP). UTP cable is more suitable for Ethernet networks.

There are two different types of twisted pair used in Local Area networks (LAN), which are Ethernet crossover cable and straight cable (Ethernet cable). The latter is used to connect two similar devices together directly without using a network switch, Ethernet hub or router. A straight cable is used to connect dissimilar devices together such as; Computers to hubs, switchers, routers or modems.

There are seven different categories of Ethernet twisted pair cables, which are Cat 3, Cat 5, Cat 5e, Cat6, Cat 6a, Cat 7 and cat 8.

Performance

The major advantage of twisted pair cables is their simple installation and implementation. Their second advantage is when a portion of a twisted pair cable is broken it does not affect the entire network.

Limitation

 This cable type can support only 10 Mbps for 100 meters distance, for example, this Ethernet cable cannot be used in CATV (community antenna television) distribution, which requires over 500MHz bandwidth, so it is optimum performance is meet for a short distance only.

2. Coaxial cable

Coaxial cables are used to carry high-frequency electrical signals for a long distance with less signal interference. This resistance to Electromagnetic interference (EMI) is due to the cable shielding, which includes an outer shield that protects the inner conductor from outside electrical signal sound, a copper conductor, and then three layers of insulation to prevent crosstalk.

Performance

Coaxial cables have a very good high frequency and broadband performance. They are still greatly used for video transmissions in CATV (community antenna television) or cable TV systems for the distribution of television and music programs. Coaxial cables can support a higher bandwidth signal transmission compared to twisted pair cables. The EMI is also reduced due to its shielding. 

Limitation

However, Coaxial cables are being replaced by fiber optics for carrying out voice signals, since fiber optics have a much higher bandwidth capacity. In addition, coaxial cable can be difficult to install because of its larger and stiffer construction 

3. Fiber optic cable

Fiber optic is an advanced type of Ethernet cable, which makes it the method of choice for reliable delivery of high-bandwidth data. It consists of a very thin strand of glass that transmits data as pulses of light. The transmission capacity of optical fiber cable is 26,000 times higher than that of twisted pair cable. Optical fibers are also unaffected by electromagnetic interference and have the highest noise immunity.

Performance

It is the most efficient data transmission cable in terms of the speed it can achieve, and the distance it can travel when compared to twisted pair and coaxial cables. The longest distance is 500m for copper (e.g twisted pair cables and coaxial cable ) while fiber can go up to 2km with only 3% of signal loses within a distance greater than 100meters, compared to copper’s 94% loss of signal.

Although copper is perfectly adequate for a voice signal, it has very limited bandwidth while fiber provides standardized performance up to 60 Tbps and beyond. A fiber optic cable is not susceptible to Electromagnetic due to its physical properties. 

The maximum bandwidth of cables made is 10Gbps, while fiber-optic bandwidth is 60 Tbps and beyond.

Limitation

However, Fiber optic are fragile, they are thinner and lighter that wires made of copper, they can susceptible to break or damaged when bend too much during installation. A one affected fiber could disrupt the whole network.

The table below summarizes the main features of these three network cables.

Features Twisted pair cable Coaxial cable Fiber optic
Speed
Up to 10 Gbps
-
60 Tbps and beyond
Brandwidth
Up to 4700 MHz
750 MHz
Up to 4700 MHz
Distance
100m
500m
12 miles (20 km)
Noise
Twisted pair cable has low noise immunity.
Co-axial cable has higher noise immunity.
Optical fiber cable has highest noise immunity.

At Starz Electronics, we assemble Fiber optic cables as well as twisted pair and coaxial cables.

Stretching over a surface of 3000 square meters, our facility encompasses the needed equipment, hand tools, and materials to deliver simple and complex cable assemblies and subassemblies of network cables. Learn more about our cable assemblies and industrial solutions

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