Coaxial Cable vs. Fiber Optic Cable
Modern information networks provide many possible ways to pass information between computers, servers, network hubs, televisions, radios, and telephones. Both of these types of cable can be used for carrying video, audio, and other forms of data, and both can offer you distinct advantages and disadvantages in setting up the data network of your dreams.
They both transmit data, so, which one is right for your particular job?
Modern information networks provide many possible ways to pass information between computers, servers, network hubs, televisions, radios, and telephones. Two of the most popular options for making these connections are coaxial cable and fiber optic cable. Both of these types of cable can be used for carrying video, audio, and other forms of data, and both can offer you distinct advantages and disadvantages in setting up the data network of your dreams.
Coaxial cable has been in common use since roughly the beginning of the twentieth century. It's a testament to the cable's resilience and quality that its ubiquity has been able to remain more or less unchallenged throughout its remarkably long lifetime. The key to the coaxial cable's success has been its shielded design, which allows the cable's copper core to transmit data quickly, without succumbing to interference or damage from environment factors.
All coaxial cables are composed of a copper core, which is in turn surrounded by a dielectric insulator, then a woven copper shield, and finally a plastic sheath. These four layers allow coaxial cables to be deployed in almost any conceivable setting, and for most of the twentieth century, coax cables were the cable of choice of setting up almost every variety of communications network.
Originally, coax cable was used by the military to transmit radio and telephone signals. Different types of coaxial cable are still differentiated today by the designation RG-a shortened version of the term Radio Guide, which was the military's choice nomenclature for differentiating different types of cable.
With the advent of terrestrial and cable television, coaxial cable came into more common everyday use. When the internet became widely available, coax cable became the go-to medium for transmitting signals between computers the world over.
Though coaxial cable has proven to be a resilient means of data transfer, it does have its drawbacks. Coax cables often fall victim to a phenomenon known as signal leakage, wherein imperfections in a cable's shielding lead it to provide a weak signal that is subject to interference (this is how you wind up getting a fuzzy signal from your cable television connection).
Many different kinds of coaxial cables are currently available and it's important to figure out which type best suits your data needs, if coax cable is what you choose to use for your network project.
Fiber Optic Cable
Whereas coaxial cable relies on copper as a medium in which to pass data, fiber optic cables opt instead for cores made of an ultra-fine glass known as silica. Fiber optic cables are still a fairly recent invention, having only come into widespread use during the 1980s. Though generally more expensive than coaxial cables, fiber optics offer several advantages that any high-volume, digital data network would be wont to ignore.
Instead of using electricity as a medium in which to pass information (as is the case with coaxial cables), fiber optic cables employ light to carry remarkably large amounts of data at a remarkably fast speed. Fiber optic cables will often contain several silica "cores", the proliferation of which offers the cables an ever-increasing capacity for data transmission.
Fiber optic cables are available in both single-mode and multi-mode varieties, single-mode cables offering a single propagation path along which data can pass, and multi-mode cables offering several such paths. Duplex fiber optic cables can transmit data in two directions, whereas simplex fiber optic cables can transmit data in only a single direction.
Because of their expense, relative novelty, and sophisticated design, fiber optic cables are found less frequently in residential and consumer settings than coaxial cables. Coax cables have earned a deserving reputation for being easy to install and more than able to take a beating. While fiber optic cables offer a higher quality of data transfer than coaxial cables, they are probably best employed for large-scale professional networks, such as those found within an academic or business campus. If home installation or medium-capacity data transfer is your goal, then you'd probably be better off sticking with coaxial cable.
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