Transmission Media - Guided - Online Article

There are 2 basic categories of Transmission Media:

  • Guided and
  • Unguided.

Guided Transmission Media uses a "cabling" system that guides the data signals along a specific path. The data signals are bound by the "cabling" system. Guided Media is also known as Bound Media. Cabling is meant in a generic sense in the previous sentences and is not meant to be interpreted as copper wire cabling only.

Unguided Transmission Media consists of a means for the data signals to travel but nothing to guide them along a specific path. The data signals are not bound to a cabling media and as such are often called Unbound Media.

There 4 basic types of Guided Media:

  • Open Wire
  • Twisted Pair
  • Coaxial Cable
  • Optical Fibre

Open Wire

Open Wire is traditionally used to describe the electrical wire strung along power poles. There is a single wire strung between poles. No shielding or protection from noise interference is used. We are going to extend the traditional definition of Open Wire to include any data signal path without shielding or protection from noise interference. This can include multiconductor cables or single wires. This media is susceptible to a large degree of noise and interference and consequently not acceptable for data transmission except for short distances under 20 ft.

Twisted Pair

The wires in Twisted Pair cabling are twisted together in pairs. Each pair would consist of a wire used for the +ve data signal and a wire used for the -ve data signal. Any noise that appears on 1 wire of the pair would occur on the other wire. Because the wires are opposite polarities, they are 180 degrees out of phase (180 degrees - phasor definition of opposite polarity). When the noise appears on both wires, it cancels or nulls itself out at the receiving end. Twisted Pair cables are most effectively used in systems that use a balanced line method of transmission: polar line coding (Manchester Encoding) as opposed to unipolar line coding (TTL logic).

The degree of reduction in noise interference is determined specifically by the number of turns per foot. Increasing the number of turns per foot reduces the noise interference. To further improve noise rejection, a foil or wire braid shield is woven around the twisted pairs. This "shield" can be woven around individual pairs or around a multi-pair conductor (several pairs).

Cables with a shield are called Shielded Twisted Pair and commonly abbreviated STP. Cables without a shield are called Unshielded Twisted Pair or UTP. Twisting the wires together results in a characteristic impedance for the cable. A typical impedance for UTP is 100 ohm for Ethernet 10BaseT cable.
UTP or Unshielded Twisted Pair cable is used on Ethernet 10BaseT and can also be used with Token Ring. It uses the RJ line of connectors (RJ45, RJ11, etc..)
STP or Shielded Twisted Pair is used with the traditional Token Ring cabling or ICS - IBM Cabling System. It requires a custom connector. IBM STP (Shielded Twisted Pair) has a characteristic impedance of 150 ohms.

Coaxial Cable

Coaxial Cable consists of 2 conductors. The inner conductor is held inside an insulator with the other conductor woven 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. The distance between the outer conductor (shield) and inner conductor plus the type of material used for insulating the inner conductor determine the cable properties or impedance. Typical impedances for coaxial cables are 75 ohms for Cable TV, 50 ohms for Ethernet Thinnet and Thicknet. The excellent control of the impedance characteristics of the cable allow higher data rates to be transferred than Twisted Pair cable.

Optical Fibre

Optical Fibre consists of thin glass fibres that can carry information at frequencies in the visible light spectrum and beyond. The typical optical fibre consists of a very narrow strand of glass called the Core. Around the Core is a concentric layer of glass called the Cladding. A typical Core diameter is 62.5 microns (1 micron = 10-6 meters). Typically Cladding has a diameter of 125 microns. Coating the cladding is a protective coating consisting of plastic, it is called the Jacket.

An important characteristic of Fibre Optics is Refraction. Refraction is the characteristic of a material to either pass or reflect light. When light passes through a medium, it "bends" as it passes from one medium to the other. An example of this is when we look into a pond of water.

If the angle of incidence is small, the light rays are reflected and do not pass into the water. If the angle of incident is great, light passes through the media but is bent or refracted.

Optical Fibres work on the principle that the core refracts the light and the cladding reflects the light. The core refracts the light and guides the light along its path. The cladding reflects any light back into the core and stops light from escaping through it - it bounds the media!

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