In order to connect different physical devices, we need cables. Similarly, when designing a network connectivity for a building, we need to select the most suitable type of cable depending on the location, operation environment, distance and other factors. Let us first start by exploring the most common types of cables used in cabling infrastructure and they are:
- Unshielded Twisted Pair (UTP)
- Shielded Twisted Pair (STP)
- Fiber Optics
Unshielded Twisted Pair (UTP)
UTP cables are the most common cables used in both horizontal cabling and backbone cabling in office, homes and indoor areas where there is no signal interference. The most popular types of UTP are Cat 5e and Cat 6/a.
Pro tip: When deploying either Cat 5e or Cat 6/a, you should keep in mind, that depending on the standards followed by your organisation, you shall use all cables from the same brand in order to avoid degrading the performance.
Shielded Twisted Pair (STP)
STP cables are made up of a conducting foil encasing the twisted pair. The shielding layer is used to block the electromagnetic interferences that is emitted from near by devices. Hence, STPs are mainly used in an outdoor environment. One of their advantage is the fact that they are enable to transmit data at a faster rate in comparison to UTP in areas where signal interference is present.
Important notes to consider when deploying STP
- Should be properly grounded otherwise the noise cancelling feature is greatly compromised.
- Both end of the connection shall use STP, otherwise the performance is significantly degraded.
UTP Vs. STP
There are few difference between STP and UTP that would govern the choice of the cable you decide to deploy in your network and they are:
- If noise is generated from power lines, radar systems or other high power electromagnetic signals causes imbalance in the current flowing which interfere with the signal, in this case, it is recommend that you select STP over UTP.
- STP is larger in size compared to UTP.
- STP is more expansive than UTP.
- STP is more fragile than UTP.
There are two main types of fiber optics cables that are widely used in network infrastructure today, namely the Single-mode and Multi-mode. The difference between Single-mode and Multi-mode fiber patch cables are:
- Single-mode fiber patch cables: Suitable for long distance transmitting and mainly used for connections over large areas. Single-mode fiber cables have a higher bandwidth in comparison to the Multi-mode cables which delivers twice the throughput.
- Multi-mode fiber patch cables: Suitable for transmitting data and voice signals over shorter distance. Their main usage is designated for audio and visual applications in LAN. They have higher throughput than the single-mode but can transmit over a shorter distances.
Understanding the different types of cables will enable you to select the best cable for your network. In an indoor environment, where there is no interference, UTP would be a cost effective solution. However, if an anti-interference cabling solution is required, then STP is the one to go for. Finally, when the area covered is very large and high transmission speed is required, fiber optic cabling would be a suitable option in comparison to both UTP and STP.
Hope you found this post helpful!