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Difference between Twisted pair cable, Co-axial cable and Optical fiber cable

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Twisted Pair Cable:

Wires are twisted together in pairs. Each pair would consist of a wire used for the positive data signal and a wire used for the negative data signal. Any noise that appears on the positive/negative wire of the pair would occur on the other wire. Because the wires are opposite polarities, these are 180 degrees out of phase (180 degrees or definition of opposite polarities). When the noise appears on both wires, it cancels or nulls itself out at the receiving end. 

There are two types of twisted pair cable – 

  1. Shielded Twisted Pair Cable – 
    Twisted pair cables are most effectively used in a system that uses a balanced line method of transmission. Cables with shields are called Shielded twisted pair cables and commonly abbreviated STP. 
  2. Unshielded Twisted Pair Cable – 
    Cables without shields are called unshielded twisted pair cables or UTP. Twisting the wires together results in characteristics impedance for the cable. UTP cable is used on Ethernet. 

Advantages

  • Cost-effective: Twisted pair cables are the most cost-effective option for communication and networking.
  • Easy to install: They are easy to install and terminate, making them ideal for small to medium-sized networks.
  • Flexibility: Twisted pair cables come in different categories, including Cat5, Cat6, and Cat7, offering different levels of performance and flexibility.
  • Suitable for short distances: Twisted pair cables are suitable for communication over short distances, making them ideal for use in homes and small businesses.


Disadvantages:

  • Limited bandwidth: Twisted pair cables have limited bandwidth, which can restrict data transfer rates and performance.
  • Susceptible to interference: Twisted pair cables are susceptible to interference from other electrical equipment, leading to data errors and loss.
  • Limited distance: Twisted pair cables are limited in terms of distance, making them less suitable for larger networks.

Co-axial Cable:

 It consists of two conductors. The inner conductor of the coaxial cable is contained inside the insulator with the other conductor weaves around it providing a shield. An insulating protective coating called a jacket covers the outer conductor. The outer shield protects the inner conductor from outside electrical signals. Distance between the outer conductor and inner conductor plus the type of material used for insulating the inner conductor determine the cable properties. 

Advantages:

  • Better bandwidth: Co-axial cables offer better bandwidth than twisted pair cables, allowing for faster data transfer rates and improved performance.
  • Longer distance transmission: Co-axial cables can transmit data over longer distances than twisted pair cables.
  • Resistance to interference: Co-axial cables are resistant to electromagnetic interference, improving signal quality and reducing data loss.


Disadvantages:

  • More expensive: Co-axial cables are more expensive than twisted pair cables, making them less cost-effective for some applications.
  • Difficult to install: Co-axial cables are more difficult to install than twisted pair cables, requiring specialized equipment and expertise.
  • Limited flexibility: Co-axial cables are less flexible than twisted pair cables, limiting their use in some applications.

Optical Fiber Cable:

 It consists of thin glass fiber that can carry information at frequencies in the visible light spectrum. Typical optical fiber consists of a very narrow strand of glass called cladding. The typical core diameter is 62.5 microns. 

Typically cladding has a diameter of 125 minors. Coating the cladding is a protective coating consisting of plastic, it is called the jacket. The device generating the message has it in electromagnetic form (electrical signal). This has to be converted into light to send it on an optical fiber cable. 

Advantages:

  • High-speed data transmission: Optical fiber cables can transmit data at very high speeds, up to several gigabits per second. This makes them ideal for applications that require fast and reliable data transmission, such as video conferencing, online gaming, and cloud computing.
  • Immunity to electromagnetic interference: Optical fiber cables are immune to electromagnetic interference, making them ideal for use in environments where electromagnetic interference is a concern. This includes industrial settings and medical applications, where sensitive electronic equipment must be shielded from electromagnetic interference.
  • Lower power consumption: Optical fiber cables use less power than traditional copper cables, which means they are more energy-efficient and cost-effective to operate over the long term.

Disadvantages:

  • Cost: Optical fiber cables are more expensive to install than traditional copper cables. This can make them less attractive to companies and organizations that are looking for cost-effective solutions.
  • Fragility: Optical fiber cables are fragile and can be damaged easily if they are bent or twisted too much. This makes them less suitable for applications that require cables to be frequently moved or repositioned.
  • Difficult to splice: Optical fiber cables are more difficult to splice than traditional copper cables, which can make them more challenging to install and maintain.

Difference Between Twisted pair cable, Co-axial cable, and Optical fiber

CharacteristicsTwisted pair cableCo-axial cableOptical fiber cable
Signal transmissionTakes place in the electrical form over the metallic conducting wires.Takes place in the electrical form over the inner conductor of the cable.Takes place in an optical form over glass fiber.
Consists ofPair of insulated copper wires

Requires 4 components from inner to outer-

  • Solid conductor wire
  • Layer of insulation
  • Grounding conductor 
  • Layer of exterior insulation.  
Bundling of very thin optical fibers made up of glass or plastic in a single cable.
Installation and ImplementationSimple and easyRelatively difficultDifficult
External magnetic fieldAffected due to external magnetic field.The external magnetic field is less affected.The external magnetic field is not affected.
Cause of powerPower loss due to conduction and radiation.Power loss due to conduction.power loss due to absorption, scattering, and bending.
DiameterLarge diameter than Optical fiber cable.Large diameter than Optical fiber cable.Small diameter
BandwidthThe twisted-pair cable has low bandwidth.Co-axial cable has moderately high bandwidth.Optical fiber cable has a very high bandwidth.
Electromagnetic interference(EMI)EMI can take place.EMI is reduced to shielding.EMI is not present.
InstallationEasy installation.Fairly easy installation.Difficult to install.
AttenuationIn twisted pair cable has very high attenuation.In coaxial cable has low attenuation.In optical fiber cable has very low attenuation.
Data rateTwisted pair cable supports a low data rate.Moderately high data rate.Very high data rate.
Noise immunityTwisted pair cable has low noise immunity.Co-axial cable has higher noise immunity.Optical fiber cable has the highest noise immunity.
CostThe cost is very low.Cost is moderateCost is expensive.
Repeater SpacingRepeater spacing is 2-10 km.Repeater spacing is 1-10 km.Repeater spacing is 10-100 km.
SecuritySecurity is not guaranteed of the transmitted signal.Security is not guaranteed of the transmitted signal.Security is guaranteed of the transmitted signal.
Types
  • Unshielded Twisted Pair (UTP)
  • Shielded Twisted Pair (STP)    
  • RG59 
  • RG6
  • Single mode fiber (SMF) 
  • Multimode fiber (MMF)  
Power lossReasons-conduction and radiation Reasons- absorption, scattering dispersion and bendingReasons-conduction

 Conclusion:

each type of cable has its own unique features and is used for different purposes. Twisted Pair Cable is the most common and cheapest option, Co-axial Cable has a higher bandwidth and is used for high-speed connections, and Optical Fiber Cable is immune to electromagnetic interference and has a very high bandwidth. Choosing the right type of cable depends on the application, distance, and budget.



Last Updated : 19 Mar, 2023
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