Overview of Computer Cabling Types
Fiber optic cables have been around since the mid-70's and are gaining in popularity for a number of reasons, the most important of which to many companies is the lack of restrictions on length. This cable provides a unique function as compared with other types of materials, as it transfers data in the form of light. This is done through a cable that is composed of a central core made of flexible, translucent glass. This core is passed through a machine that deposits soot on the outside of the optical fiber. This optical fiber is then encased in a protective plasticized coating which also contains a number of strands of Kevlar which act as a strength member. As a result of the design and function of fiber optics, they are not susceptible to interference by electric and radio interference in the same way that copper is. This allows them to be utilized in unique locations. Fiber optics can achieve very high speeds of data transfer, though it does tend to be more expensive than most other types of cable.
Another popular choice is coaxial cable. This cable is commonly found throughout many homes in the United States and abroad. It is constructed of a single copper core line. The copper conductor is surrounded by a plastic coating that separates it from a braided metal shield that helps to protect it from interference, and the shield is then surrounded by a thick plastic cover to help protect it from interference and grounding. Coaxial cable, most often referred to as coax, is capable of running at fairly high speeds. Coaxial terminations are quick and easy to make and repair, making it the medium of choice for high bandwidth systems such as television.
There are two types of twisted pair cabling that are commonly used. The first is unshielded twisted pair, or UTP cable. This consists of smaller wires fit inside a plastic coating. Those wires are paired off and intertwined around one another to help protect against interference between the pairs. Shielded twisted pair cabling, or STP, involves the inclusion of a metal shield around the individual pairs as well as all of the twisted wires. UTP tends to be less expensive, but STP provides a more secure, interference-resistant connection, which is one reason it is used almost exclusively in banking and financial applications. Both of these are available in high-speed options, with new Category 6, Category 6 Augmented and Category 7 applications capable of a 10 gigabit data rate. The primary benefit of this cable type is the cost, as they are much cheaper to purchase and install than fiber optic cables.
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