Two Coppers and a Light: The Three Cable Types


cablesWe live in a world where people can talk to each other across the globe, and bring the most amazing fantasies to life. This is only possible because of the intricate and complex systems that act behind the scenes. Ironically, the one thing that perfectly represents the information age is the most underrated piece of technology in the world – the cable.

Cables aren’t the most mind-boggling of devices; in fact, they’re quite straightforward. But, though there is little difference in the function between different cables, how they go about their duties is worlds apart.

A quick look at tech and IT website like, will quickly show that there are actually three different cable types. Knowing which is which will drastically change how a business operation functions.

The Twisted Line

The Twisted Pair is the simplest type of the three; it’s commonly found in telecommunications and computer networks. It got its name from the dual copper cores, each with its own plastic insulation, twisted together to form a single cable. One of the wires carries the signal, while the other serves as the ground reference.

The twists in the cable actually help protect the data communication from signal degradation up to a certain point. The average length for a twisted pair before degradation begins is 300 meters, which is more than enough for a normal computer system.

Coaxing the Line

A Coax (coaxial) cable is like a twisted pair, but it has a higher bandwidth, allowing it to carry higher frequency signals. The central core conductor is a solid wire wrapped in an insulator, enclosed by an outer conductor, and then protected by a plastic cover. This makes coax perfect for digital telephone networks, as a single cable can carry up to 600 Mbps.

The only pitfall for coax cables is that they require special BNC connectors that have different radio government (RG) ratings. This severely limits their adaptability and the applications an individual cable can perform.

The Speed of Light

Fiber Optics is by far the most popular type as it’s used to connect people to the internet. Unlike the two copper core types, fiber optic cables transmit data in the form of light. This method is made possible because of the two parts that make up an optic cable – the core and the cladding.

The optic core serves as the channel through which light travels, and the cladding keeps the data intact by reflecting it back to the core instead of refracting it. This means there’s no signal degradation, but this type is much more sensitive to damage because of its glass parts.


  1. In regards to the RG rating of the coax cables. RG-59 are the ones used for TVs, while RG-58 and RG-11 are the ones for Ethernet.

    • To be more specific RG-58 is for thin ethernet, and RG-11 are the thick Ethernet connectors. Honestly, electricians and their codes.

  2. Mark my words, everything will become fiber optics in a few years and copper will turn into the next battery.

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