Network Media

Whatever type of network is used, some type of network media is needed to carry signals between computers. Two types of media are used in networks: cable-based media, such as twisted pair, and the media types associated with wireless networking, such as radio waves.

In networks using cable-based media, there are three basic choices:

  • Twisted pair

  • Coaxial

  • Fiber-optic

Twisted-pair and coaxial cables both use copper wire to conduct the signals electronically; fiber-optic cable uses a glass or plastic conductor and transmits the signals as light.

For many years, coaxial was the cable of choice for most LANs. Today, however (and for the past 10 years), twisted pair has proved to be far and away the cable media of choice, thus retiring coax to the confines of storage closets. Fiber-optic cable has also seen its popularity rise butbecause of costhas been primarily restricted to use as a network backbone where segment length and higher speeds are needed. That said, fiber is now increasingly common in server room environments as a server to switch connection method, and in building to building connections in what are termed as metropolitan area networks (MANs).

The following sections summarize the characteristics of each of these cable types.