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

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  • Difficulty Level : Basic
  • Last Updated : 16 Aug, 2022
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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. 

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. 

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. 

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.
  • 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
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