Computer – Transmission Media : Wired and Wireless

Computer – Transmission Media : Wired and Wireless

Transmission media for computer network. Study about wired and wireless transmission media.

Transmission Media

The transmission media is nothing but the physical media over which communication takes place in computer networks.

Twisted Pair Cable

A twisted pair cable is made of two plastic insulated copper wires twisted together to form a single media. Out of these two wires, only one carries actual signal and another is used for ground reference. The twists between wires are helpful in reducing noise (electro-magnetic interference) and crosstalk.

There are two types of twisted pair cables:

  • Shielded Twisted Pair (STP) Cable
  • Unshielded Twisted Pair (UTP) Cable

STP cables comes with twisted wire pair covered in metal foil. This makes it more indifferent to noise and crosstalk.

UTP has seven categories, each suitable for specific use. In computer networks, Cat-5, Cat-5e, and Cat-6 cables are mostly used. UTP cables are connected by RJ45 connectors.

Coaxial Cable

Coaxial cable has two wires of copper. The core wire lies in the center and it is made of solid conductor.The core is enclosed in an insulating sheath.The second wire is wrapped around over the sheath and that too in turn encased by insulator sheath.This all is covered by plastic cover.

Because of its structure,the coax cable is capable of carrying high frequency signals than that of twisted pair cable.The wrapped structure provides it a good shield against noise and cross talk. Coaxial cables provide high bandwidth rates of up to 450 mbps.

There are three categories of coax cables namely, RG-59 (Cable TV), RG-58 (Thin Ethernet), and RG-11 (Thick Ethernet). RG stands for Radio Government.

Cables are connected using BNC connector and BNC-T. BNC terminator is used to terminate the wire at the far ends.

Power Lines

Power Line communication (PLC) is Layer-1 (Physical Layer) technology which uses power cables to transmit data signals.In PLC, modulated data is sent over the cables. The receiver on the other end de-modulates and interprets the data.

Because power lines are widely deployed, PLC can make all powered devices controlled and monitored. PLC works in half-duplex.

There are two types of PLC:

  • Narrow band PLC
  • Broad band PLC

Narrow band PLC provides lower data rates up to 100s of kbps, as they work at lower frequencies (3-5000 kHz).They can be spread over several kilometers.

Broadband PLC provides higher data rates up to 100s of Mbps and works at higher frequencies (1.8 – 250 MHz).They cannot be as much extended as Narrowband PLC.

Fiber Optics

Fiber Optic works on the properties of light. When light ray hits at critical angle it tends to refracts at 90 degree. This property has been used in fiber optic. The core of fiber optic cable is made of high quality glass or plastic. From one end of it light is emitted, it travels through it and at the other end light detector detects light stream and converts it to electric data.

Fiber Optic provides the highest mode of speed. It comes in two modes, one is single mode fiber and second is multimode fiber. Single mode fiber can carry a single ray of light whereas multimode is capable of carrying multiple beams of light.

Fiber Optic also comes in unidirectional and bidirectional capabilities. To connect and access fiber optic special type of connectors are used. These can be Subscriber Channel (SC), Straight Tip (ST), or MT-RJ.

Wireless Transmission

Wireless transmission is a form of unguided media. Wireless communication involves no physical link established between two or more devices, communicating wirelessly. Wireless signals are spread over in the air and are received and interpreted by appropriate antennas.

When an antenna is attached to electrical circuit of a computer or wireless device, it converts the digital data into wireless signals and spread all over within its frequency range. The receptor on the other end receives these signals and converts them back to digital data.

A little part of electromagnetic spectrum can be used for wireless transmission.

Radio Transmission

Radio frequency is easier to generate and because of its large wavelength it can penetrate through walls and structures alike.Radio waves can have wavelength from 1 mm – 100,000 km and have frequency ranging from 3 Hz (Extremely Low Frequency) to 300 GHz (Extremely High Frequency). Radio frequencies are sub-divided into six bands.

Radio waves at lower frequencies can travel through walls whereas higher RF can travel in straight line and bounce back.The power of low frequency waves decreases sharply as they cover long distance. High frequency radio waves have more power.

Lower frequencies such as VLF, LF, MF bands can travel on the ground up to 1000 kilometers, over the earth’s surface.

Radio waves of high frequencies are prone to be absorbed by rain and other obstacles. They use Ionosphere of earth atmosphere. High frequency radio waves such as HF and VHF bands are spread upwards. When they reach Ionosphere, they are refracted back to the earth.

Microwave Transmission

Electromagnetic waves above 100 MHz tend to travel in a straight line and signals over them can be sent by beaming those waves towards one particular station. Because Microwaves travels in straight lines, both sender and receiver must be aligned to be strictly in line-of-sight.

Microwaves can have wavelength ranging from 1 mm – 1 meter and frequency ranging from 300 MHz to 300 GHz.

Microwave antennas concentrate the waves making a beam of it. As shown in picture above, multiple antennas can be aligned to reach farther. Microwaves have higher frequencies and do not penetrate wall like obstacles.

Microwave transmission depends highly upon the weather conditions and the frequency it is using.

Infrared Transmission

Infrared wave lies in between visible light spectrum and microwaves. It has wavelength of 700-nm to 1-mm and frequency ranges from 300-GHz to 430-THz.

Infrared wave is used for very short range communication purposes such as television and it’s remote. Infrared travels in a straight line hence it is directional by nature. Because of high frequency range, Infrared cannot cross wall-like obstacles.

Light Transmission

Highest most electromagnetic spectrum which can be used for data transmission is light or optical signaling. This is achieved by means of LASER.

Because of frequency light uses, it tends to travel strictly in straight line.Hence the sender and receiver must be in the line-of-sight. Because laser transmission is unidirectional, at both ends of communication the laser and the photo-detector needs to be installed. Laser beam is generally 1mm wide hence it is a work of precision to align two far receptors each pointing to lasers source.

Laser works as Tx (transmitter) and photo-detectors works as Rx (receiver).

Lasers cannot penetrate obstacles such as walls, rain, and thick fog. Additionally, laser beam is distorted by wind, atmosphere temperature, or variation in temperature in the path.

Laser is safe for data transmission as it is very difficult to tap 1mm wide laser without interrupting the communication channel.