What is a data cable?
A data cable is a cable that connects two devices for the purpose of transferring data. Data cables can be broken down into three main types.
- Twisted pair cabling.
- Coaxial cabling.
- Fibre optic cabling.
We discuss what each type of data cable is and where they are used most often by breaking them down into these categories.
How to Choose the Right Category of Data Cable
There are a few things you should keep in mind when choosing the right category of data cable:
- The type and quality of cabling is determined by its performance characteristics, such as, speed or power.
- Data cables must be selected based on their intended use. For example, network cables can vary depending on how many applications will run over them at one time. You may also need to consider distance limitations.
- The most common choice is Copper Category Cables which are made up of twisted pair wires covered by an outer sheath (shield). Twisted pair wire conductors consist of two uninsulated copper wires wrapped around each to minimize interference. In addition, 4 pairs are contained in a single cable.
- The higher the category number (CAT), the greater the speed and distance performance of the cable. For instance, a Cat 7 cable is faster and can support longer distances than a Cat 6 cable.
Twisted Pair Cabling
Twisted pair cabling is the most common type of data cable and is made up of two insulated copper wires that are twisted together. This type of cabling is used in a variety of applications such as home networks, office networks and even audio/video applications. The most common types of twisted pair cabling are Cat cables.
- Cat5e Cabling.
- Cat6 Cabling.
- Cat6a Cabling.
- Cat7 Cabling.
- Cat8 Cabling.
Cat-cable or Category cable is the most commonly used and versatile type of copper cabling which has been proven to be extremely reliable. This category was first introduced as Cat5 in 1995 by the Electronic Industries Alliance (EIA). The standard for Cat cables are regularly updated, but their name always remains consistent. The category is usually ratified to the performance the cable is capable of over a set distance of 90 metres of a permanent link.
Shielded Twisted Pair Cables
Twisted pair cables are also available with special shielding, which can help minimize interference from other devices such as microwaves and cell phones. These types of shielded cable are referred to as STP (shielded twisted pair) category cables.
Shielded data cables are typically used in situations where the cabling needs additional protection from EMI (Electrical Magnetic Interference) and RFI (Radio frequency interference).
This type of cabling is often used in industrial or medical settings where there is a greater risk for noise and interference. Shielded cables have a metal foil or braid shield around the conductors to help reduce unwanted signals.
Coaxial cabling consists of one copper wire that surrounds another insulated copper wire. This type of data cable is used mainly in video applications such as CCTV, security systems and satellite TV installations. Coaxial cabling has a higher bandwidth capacity than twisted pair cabling.
Coaxial cabling is a type of data cable that uses an inner conductor surrounded by an insulating layer, covered by a braided shield and finally covered by an outer sheath. This type of cabling is used in home cable services and business networks.
Categories for coax cables are divided into two:
- - Foam Polyethylene Insulation (Foamed PE).
- - High Density Polyethylene Insulation (HDPE).
Uses for Coaxial cabling include
Data Centres, telephone and cable TV systems, and large scale mobile phone booster installations.
Fibre Optic Cabling
Data cables can also be made up of fibre optic cabling. This type of data cable is a glass or plastic core with an insulating layer surrounded by ultra violet light transmitting fibres that are covered in protective materials.
Optical fibre cables work largely the same way that normal twisted pair cables do except for one key difference. Instead of sending electrical signals down the wire they send light pulses through an optical glass tube, otherwise known as an optical core. These signal can travel tens of thousands kilometres.
The main advantage to using fibre optic cables over copper is higher bandwidths which allow for large amounts of data transfer at high speeds without the need for repeaters. This is because they have multi-gigabit capacities . These signals don't degrade as much over long distances. There are less distance limitations on fibre optics compared to copper data cables.
Common uses of data cables
Now that we have discussed what each type of data cable is, let's take a look at where they are used most commonly.
Twisted pair cabling is by far the most popular type of data cable. It can be found in a variety of applications such as home networks, office networks and even audio/video applications. Coaxial cabling is mainly used for video applications. It can be found in products such as televisions and video players. Fibre optic cabling is the most advanced type of data cable. It is often used in high-speed applications such as networking, telecoms and datacentres.
Is Ethernet and data cable the same?
No. Ethernet and Data cabling is not the same thing, although they are closely related to each other in terms of function.
Ethernet was developed as a method for connecting different types of devices together on a network such as computers, printers, routers, etc... However data cables were designed to connect these various Ethernet devices together. This is achieved by sending electrical signals down the wire at high speeds that allow it to send information quickly between them (e.g 1000Mbps).
Data Cables Summary
When selecting category cabling it is important to know which type will work best for your needs. If you have any questions or need help choosing the right type of data cable please don't hesitate to give us call.
Hopefully this blog post has given you a better understanding of what a data cable is and the different types that are available. Stay tuned for our next post which will discuss data cables and associated services in more detail.