Types of Ethernet cabling

There are three cable types common in use for Ethernet cabling: coaxial, twisted pair, and fiber-optic cabling. In today’s LANs, the twisted-pair cabling is the most popular type of cabling. Though, the fiber-optic cabling usage is increasing, specially in high performance networks. Coaxial cabling comes into use for cable Internet access. Let’s explain all three Ethernet cabling types in more detail.

Coaxial cabling

A coaxial cable has an inner conductor that runs down the middle of the cable. The conductor is surrounded by a layer of insulation which is then surrounded by another conducting shield. This also makes this type of cabling resistant to outside interference. This cabling cabling comes in two types – thinnet and thicknet. Also, both of these have maximum transmission speed of 10 Mbps.

Coaxial cabling was previously used in computer networks, but today these are largely replaced by twisted-pair cabling (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Coaxial cabling

Twisted-pair cabling

A twisted-pair cable has four pair of wires. These wires are twisted around each other in order to reduce crosstalk and outside interference. This type of cabling is common in current LANs.

Telephone and network cabling use Twisted-pair cabling. This cabling comes in two versions, UTP (Unshielded Twisted-Pair) and STP (Shielded Twisted-Pair). The difference between these two is that an STP cable has an additional layer of insulation that protects data from outside interference whereas the other one doesn’t have one.

Here you can see how a twisted pair cable looks like (Photo credit: Wikipedia):

Twisted-pair cabling

A twisted-pair cable uses 8P8C connector, sometimes wrongly referred to as RJ45 connector (Photo credit: Wikipedia).

Types of Ethernet cabling

Fiber-optic cabling

This type of cabling uses optical fibers to transmit data in the form of light signals. The cables have strands of glass surrounded by a cladding material (Photo credit: Wikipedia):

This type of cabling can support greater cable lengths than any other cabling type (up to a couple of miles). The cables are also immune to electromagnetic interference. As you can see, this cabling method has many advantages over other methods but its main drawback is that it is more expensive.

There are two types of fiber-optic cables:

  • Single-mode fiber (SMF) – uses only a single ray of light to carry data. Also used for larger distances.
  • Multi-mode fiber (MMF) – uses multiple rays of light to carry data and is less expensive than SMF.

Four types of connectors are common in use:

  • ST (Straight-tip connector)
  • SC (Subscriber connector)
  • FC (Fiber Channel)
  • LC (Lucent Connector)

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