The current advancements in technology have made the devices smarter, faster and efficient. Add the factor of mobility in the form of wireless connectivity and you have a complete mobile ecosystem.
Yet we are still far away from achieving complete ‘wireless’ experience; you still need a medium to transfer power, data or information in the form of light or electricity. Due to this fact, network cables are still an integral part while planning out your home or office network set-up. The global structured cabling market size was valued at USD 7.7 billion in 2016 with a predicted growth of 7.5% yearly till 2025.
As different types of cables satisfy different purposes in a networking ecology, choosing the correct type of network cable is important. This article shall act as a detailed guide on network cables and highlight different types of network cables that you may need to use as per your networking requirements.
Core Bifurcation of Network Cables
The overall network cable types can be divided into two broad categories:
1. Copper Core
2. Optical Fiber
The choice depends on the network’s topology, purpose, and size. Copper core cables are the most commonly used owing to low cost, flexibility, and high durability. Copper cables are the best medium for small to medium length communications as prone to electromagnetic interference and self-induced interferences which is not a problem with optical fiber. Optical fibers are ideal for long distance communications without any losses but these cables cannot be bent more than a specific angle to prevent loss of signal.
Let’s learn in detail about different types of cables.
Types of Copper Core Patch Cables
There are two types of Copper core cables: 1) Twisted Pair 2) Co-axial cable
1) Twisted Pair is generally 2 or 4 pair of twisted wires inside a thin plastic cover. The twisting of wires is done to reduce interference. The more twist per inch, the lesser would interference take effect.
a) An additional resin can be sandwiched between the outer cover and internal twisted wire to further reduce the chance of interferences and such cables are called Shielded Twisted Pair.
b) The one without such privileges is called unshielded twisted pair. These are cheaper and so mostly used in closed loop networks.
Mostly 2 pair of twisted wires are used for ethernet. In case of the 4 pair, the remaining two pairs are left blank or used for carrying power for Power over Ethernet protocol.
2) Co-Axial cable is a single copper wire insulated and additional shielding. Based on the thickness of the core there are two variations of co-axial cable. Thinnet (10BASE2) and Thicknet (10BASE5).
Twisted Pair Ethernet patch cables also come in two variants depending on the standards implements:
1) Straight-through cable: These cables are arranged such that pin 1 of one terminal is connected to pin 1 of another terminal. This is generally to connect:
a) Computer to Hub
b) Computer to Switch
c) Router to Hub
d) Router to Switch
In the straight-through cable, the data is transmitted over pins 1 and 2, while pin 3 and 6 is used to receive data.
2) Cross-over cable: In case of a crossover cable, the data transmitted via pin 1 is received by pin 3 of both terminal. This type of configuration is used for connecting two devices where the data is seamlessly sent and received without any hiccups.
Types of Optical Fibre Patch Cables
Optical Fibers work on the phenomenon of reflection of light and so are not affected by electromagnetic interferences. Hence optical fibers are used when data is to be sent over a long distance. Optical Fiber cable consists of a center glass core surrounded by several layers of protective materials along with an outer insulating jacket. Since these cables need to be designed as per specification with little to no margin of error, these are expensive compared to regular Copper core cables.
There are two types of fiber optic patch cables
Single Mode Fiber Optic Patch Cables: These cables have a very small opening for a single beam of laser to bounce across the entire length. Owing to the smaller opening, the light travels a greater distance in less time and so ideal for city-wide cabling.
Multi-Mode Fiber Optic Patch Cables: These cables have a comparatively larger opening for multiple beams to be bounce across. While both cable types have similar bandwidth, multimode has upper hand in terms of the number of simultaneous connections.
Now that we are aware of the different types of network cables, let’s move forward towards identifying different types of network cables based on the nomenclature used for representation.
Representation of type of Ethernet to be used is an IEEE 802.3 standard that is termed as 100Base-X.
Here ‘100’ represents the Megabit transferred per second.
Base denotes baseband transmission
X denotes the type of cable
➔ T stands for Unshielded Twisted Pair
➔ 2 stands for thin co-axial cable for transmission across segment length of 182mtrs without a repeater
➔ 5 stands for thick co-axial cable for transmission across segment length of 500mtrs without a repeater
➔ FX stands for Fiber optic cable
➔ BX stands for single mode fiber optic cable
➔ SX stands for Multimode
So a cable to be used for 100BaseSX is a multimode fiber optic cable that can transmit 100Mb data, 1000BaseT is unshielded twisted pair cable that can transmit 1Gb data
Even though obsolete, the unshielded twisted pair cable has different categories namely:
Currently, only Cat 5e and Cat 6 cables are used for ethernet.
As we stated earlier, the choice of network cable depends on the topology, purpose, and size of the network. Whether you are planning to set up a LAN that is floor-wide or planning a building-wide WAN, selecting the correct type of network tools and cables is important. We hope the above article manages to be a full-fledged guide while choosing the perfect set of network cables.