Types of Transmission Media

Updated on July 23, 2019
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Ninjacraze writes about networking, data communications, computer languages, and refrigerators.

Wrapped coaxial cable used to transmit data.
Wrapped coaxial cable used to transmit data. | Source

Transmission Media

The physical means by which data is transmitted from one geographic or electronic location to another is called transmission, or "communication" media. There are two categories of transmission media used in network communications.

  • Bounded or guided media
  • Unbounded or unguided media

Bounded Media

Bounded media are physical cables that signals travel through on a narrow path. Also known as guided media, bounded media are made up of an external conductor (usually copper) wrapped in a jacket made of nonconductive material. Bounded media are great for in-lab communications because they offer high speeds, are more secure than unbounded media and are low-cost. A downfall of bounded media are distance constraints; one can only use bounded media as far as they can afford cable, and attenuation can prevent connections over longer distances. Three common types of bounded media are used in data transmission. These are:

  1. Coaxial Cable
  2. Twisted-Pair Cable
  3. Fiber Optic Cable

1. Coaxial Cable

Coaxial cable is a widely used type of transmission media. For example, a TV wire is usually coaxial.

Coaxial cable is named after the two conductors that run parallel to each other. The center conductor in the cable is usually copper, which is usually either a solid wire or stranded, twisted copper.

Outside this central conductor is a non-conductive material called a dielectric insulator. It is usually a white, plastic material used to separate the inner conductor from the outer conductor. The other conductor is a fine mesh made from braided copper. It is used to help shield the cable from electromagnetic interference, or EMI.

Wrapped outside the copper mesh is the final non-conductive protective cover.

The actual data travels through the center conductor in the cable. EMI is "caught", or redirected, by the outer copper mesh. There are different types of coaxial cable that vary by gauge and impedance.

"Gauge" is the thickness of a given cable. It is measured by the radio guide measurement or RG number. The higher the RG number, the thinner the central core conductor. The lower the RG number, the thicker the core conductor.

The following are the most common coaxial standards:

  • 50-Ohm RG-7 or RG-11: Used for thick Ethernet or "thicknet".
  • 50-Ohm RG-58: Used for thin Ethernet, or "cheapernet".
  • 75-Ohm RG-59: Used for cable television.
  • 93-Ohm RG-62: Used for ARCNET.

Coaxial cable
Coaxial cable

Characteristics of Coaxial Cabling

Advantages of Coaxial Cable

  • low cost
  • easy to install
  • easy to expand
  • up to 10 Mbps (megabits of data per second) capacity
  • medium resistant to EMI

Disadvantages of Coaxial Cable

  • Single cable failure, also known as a single point of failure, can take down an entire network.
  • Coaxial cable is an attenuating medium that results in a gradual weakening of transmission the further data gets from the point of origin.

STP
STP
UTP
UTP

Crosstalk

Crosstalk is the unintentional transfer of signals from one channel to another channel, creating interference.

2. Twisted-Pair Cabling

The most popular network cabling is twisted-pair cabling. It is light-weight, easy to install, inexpensive, and supports a variety of networks. In addition, it supports a data speed of up to 100 Mbps. Twisted-pair cabling is made of pairs of solid or stranded copper twisted along each other. The twists are to reduce vulnerability to EMI and crosstalk. The number of pairs in the cable depends on the type of cable.

The copper core is usually 22-AWG or 24-AWG, as measured by the American Wire Gauge standard. AWG is the U.S. measurement standard for the gauge of the conductive core in wiring. There are two types of twisted-pair cables:

1. Unshielded twisted-pair (UTP)

2. Shielded twisted-pair (STP)

2.1 Unshielded Twisted-Pair (UTP)

UTP wiring is more common than STP. UTP can be either voice-grade or data-grade. UTP cable normally has an impedance of 100 Ohms. UTP cost less than STP and is easily available due to its many uses. There are five levels of data cabling for UTP cabling:

Category 1: These are used in telephone lines and low-speed data systems.

Category 2: These cables can support up to 4 MPS implementation.

Category 3: These cables support up to 16 MPS and are mostly used in 10 MPS environments.

Category 4: These are used for larger distances and high speeds. It can support 20 MPS.

Category 5: This is the highest rating for UTP cable and can support up to 100 MPS.

UTP cables consist of two or four pairs of twisted cable. Cable with two pairs uses RJ-11 connectors and four-pair cables use an RJ-45 connector.

Characteristics of UTP

  • low cost
  • easy to install
  • high-speed capacity
  • high attenuation
  • effective to EMI
  • 100-meter limit

Advantages of UTP

  • easy installation
  • capable of high speed for LAN
  • low cost

Disadvantages of UTP

  • short-range capability due to attenuation

2.2 Shielded Twisted-Pair (STP)

STP is similar to UTP but has a mesh shielding that protects transmissions from EMI. This allows for a faster transmission rate.

IBM has defined categories for STP cable:

Type 1: STP features two pairs of 22-AWG.

Type 2: This type includes type 1 with 4 telephone pairs.

Type 6: This type features two pairs of standard shielded 26-AWG.

Type 7: This type of STP consists of 1 pair of standard shielded 26-AWG.

Type 9: This type consists of shielded 26-AWG wire.

Characteristics of STP:

  • medium cost
  • easy to install
  • higher capacity than UTP
  • higher attenuation, but same as UTP
  • medium immunity from EMI
  • 100-meter limit

Advantages of STP:

  • shielded
  • faster than UTP and coaxial

Disadvantages of STP:

  • more expensive than UTP and coaxial
  • more difficult installation
  • high attenuation rate

Cladding

Cladding is a layer or multiple layers of a material with a lower refractive index in contact with the core material of the transmission media to eliminate EMI and increase the speed of data transmission.

Fiber Optics

Fiber optic cable uses light signals to transmit data. In fiber optics, light only moves in one direction, so for two-way communication to take place a second connection must be made between the two devices. To accomplish this, fiber optics are manufactured with two strands of cable running in parallel. Each strand is responsible for one direction of communication. A laser on one device sends pulses of light through this cable to the other device. These pulses translated into “1’s” and “0’s” at the other end. A response is sent from the receiving computer through the parallel cable.

In the center of fiber cable is a glass strand or core. The light from the laser moves through this glass to the other device. Around the internal core is a reflective material known as cladding. No light escapes the glass core because of this reflective cladding.

Fiber optic cable has a bandwidth of more than 2 Gbps (gigabytes per second).

Characteristics Of Fiber Optic Cable:

  • expensive
  • very hard to install
  • capable of extremely high speed
  • extremely low attenuation
  • no EMI interference

Advantages Of Fiber Optic Cable:

  • fast
  • low attenuation
  • no EMI interference

Disadvantages Fiber Optics:

  • very costly
  • hard to install

As you can see, transmission media can seem complex but can really be broken down into neat categories. Please leaves questions or comments below regarding the transmission of data and media!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

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    • profile image

      kuma 

      4 months ago

      that cool

    • profile image

      Lil j 

      8 months ago

      Good info

    • profile image

      Bright 

      9 months ago

      please the authors details... i want to cite this article

    • profile image

      gudmankinga 

      10 months ago

      Good Work

    • profile image

      silly mshamu 

      10 months ago

      how about unguided

    • profile image

      chandrakantraval9599@gmsil.com 

      10 months ago

      easy to understand.........and also very clear concept.thanks.

    • profile image

      Fari 

      12 months ago

      Easy to understand

      Thanks...

    • profile image

      John ojwang 

      12 months ago

      smart notes

    • profile image

      nikhil 

      13 months ago

      good notes

    • profile image

      Ayushi 

      15 months ago

      Perfect answer

    • profile image

      Vedansh 

      16 months ago

      Perfect explination

    • profile image

      ria 

      16 months ago

      easy to understanding...thank you for the notes

    • profile image

      manju 

      16 months ago

      Good

    • profile image

      Adeel 

      16 months ago

      helpful

    • profile image

      manas 

      17 months ago

      good explain..

    • profile image

      Addis berhanu 

      17 months ago

      what about unbounded data transfer

    • profile image

      harsh AWANA 

      17 months ago

      I need information about transmission media ,not their type. It is need to write more about transmission media. but other content are good .

    • profile image

      percy st 

      17 months ago

      good notes

    • profile image

      leo 

      18 months ago

      good explaining...

    • profile image

      peter 

      18 months ago

      good

    • profile image

      Aghdngth 

      19 months ago

      Awesome

    • profile image

      Tuwee 

      19 months ago

      Awesome

    • profile image

      kkkmm 

      19 months ago

      Really............

      it is very help full

      thank u very much............

      it is very outstanding explanation............

    • profile image

      sour candy 

      19 months ago

      nice notes they are helping

    • profile image

      learner 

      19 months ago

      plz what does EMI stands for !!

    • profile image

      jj 

      19 months ago

      nice

    • profile image

      muthu 

      21 months ago

      Excellent

    • profile image

      karkik 

      21 months ago

      awesome

    • profile image

      jamshid 

      22 months ago

      nice note thanks

    • profile image

      kk 

      22 months ago

      nice

    • profile image

      timmo 

      2 years ago

      great site

    • profile image

      ahmad 

      2 years ago

      where is unbounded media

    • profile image

      2 years ago

      Nice

    • profile image

      harshitabansal 

      2 years ago

      where is unbounded media define?

    • profile image

      ken 

      2 years ago

      nice

    • profile image

      Sharan Shrestha 

      2 years ago

      Great Answers,It was the best .And, I like it very much.

    • profile image

      GASPER ANDREW BAKARI 

      2 years ago

      NICE ANSWER

    • profile image

      swaggy 

      2 years ago

      Where is the defination of unbounded

    • profile image

      radadiyagopi13@gmail.com 

      2 years ago

      nice to transmission media and very easy contain

    • profile image

      radikhukhwane 

      2 years ago

      not bad all

    • profile image

      Bedahn Niwampa 

      2 years ago

      its so nyc and it makes one understand much better,thx alot

    • profile image

      baalagajakreedan 

      2 years ago

      Nice notes

    • profile image

      blob:54B52A6A-3840-4DFE-A74F-9759EFDA8A16 

      3 years ago

      nice

    • profile image

      saruni 

      3 years ago

      cheers..simle and clear

    • profile image

      ankita 

      3 years ago

      Simple n grt notes

    • profile image

      Saniya memon 

      3 years ago

      Very nice explanation..

    • profile image

      s samridha 

      3 years ago

      good explanation

    • profile image

      Singh Sneha 

      3 years ago

      Nice answer! It is very easy to understand transmission media in networking..

    • profile image

      Pradeep 

      3 years ago

      A good tute.. butr doesn't have unguided media as it mentioned in the topic

    • profile image

      m dodo 

      3 years ago

      thanks

    • profile image

      Levis Andrew sui 

      3 years ago

      Thanks finding very useful,,, but information about Unbounded is not being added

    • profile image

      bbvines 

      3 years ago

      thank u

    • profile image

      piyush singh 

      3 years ago

      It is good but give full information

    • profile image

      killer982839429994392293939920993939 

      3 years ago

      thnx

    • profile image

      Rush....! 

      4 years ago

      Bro, this is so small information can u plz give us a full information....?

    • profile image

      Rushikesh Mane 

      4 years ago

      Bro, this is so small information can u plz give us a full information....?

    • profile image

      cinna 

      4 years ago

      it was good in terms of understanding but u seriously need to work on ur english

    • profile image

      mark 

      4 years ago

      nice

    • profile image

      Ibtu 

      4 years ago

      This is awesome

    • profile image

      nikhitha 

      5 years ago

      Really it helped me a lot. Thanks

    • profile image

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      5 years ago

      useless and does not help at all!!

    • profile image

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      5 years ago

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      5 years ago

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      5 years ago

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      5 years ago

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      5 years ago

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      5 years ago

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      5 years ago

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      5 years ago

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      5 years ago

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      5 years ago

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      6 years ago

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      6 years ago

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      6 years ago

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      6 years ago

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      6 years ago

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      6 years ago

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      6 years ago

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      6 years ago

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      6 years ago

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      6 years ago

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      6 years ago

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      6 years ago

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      6 years ago

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      6 years ago

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      6 years ago

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      6 years ago

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      6 years ago

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      6 years ago

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      6 years ago

      gud, but not full information....

    • profile image

      Basharat Toori 

      6 years ago

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      thanks a lot......,,,.,.,.,

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      6 years ago

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