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What Is A Coax Cable, And What Does It Do?

Coaxial cables (pronounced kow·ak·see·uhl) are now, more than ever, proving essential for individuals and businesses who rely heavily on the internet. It’s everyone’s dream to have a smoothly operating internet with little to no outages. That’s where these cables come in.

Coaxial cable is typically used by internet providers, telephone companies, and cable operators to convey internet and voice and video communications to users. The main component of the cable is a copper wire in the middle, which is wrapped in several layers of insulation made of various materials.

Coax cables are widely popular and play an integral role in cell phones, TVs, the internet, and even CCTVs. How do they work, and how important are they to you and your business? Let’s find out.

What is Coax (Coaxial) Cable and Why Does it Matter?

White Coax cable for satelite cable video audio connections

Coaxial cable (example on Amazon), customarily shortened to coax, is a copper cable used to transmit data, voice, and video communications. It has a thick and round shape thanks to its interior insulation. Because of its size, you can easily distinguish it from other cable types, such as Ethernet.

Coaxial cable has an outer jacket generally made of polyethylene or PVC to protect the interior of the cable.

This industry standard cable is frequently found installed in houses built pre-2000 as a rule, with almost all homes having been networked with COAX cable systems in order to deliver Television.

The COAX cable system has since been used for more exotic and clever purposes, like delivering internet.

While early waves of home internet were relayed through DSL systems, this “Digital Subscriber Line” technology was designed to use existing voice lines. Later, when the overall data transfer rates the internet required started to grow aggressively, augmenting DSL’s abilities through new infrastructure became expensive when compared to innovating a new strategy for delivering internet altogether.

Somewhere in there Cable Internet shook out, which was mainly enabled by the thick copper cable at the core of the COAX cable, which allowed a high throughput of information, or at least higher than existing DSL options. And the Cable was already largely installed and in homes, so the jump was easy.

So, while COAX began as a technology supporting mainly Television, it has sense been used in a lot of interesting ways. This cable is simply very handy, and people keep finding clever uses for it.

Some homeowners even choose to take internet they’ve already brought into their home via fiberoptic, 5G, or some other method, and then use their homes existing cable system to route and deliver the internet locally using MOCA Adapters (example on Amazon).

We’ll look at this and a few other ways COAX is used and why you might want to use it, but go ahead and note that COAX in general has a lot of ways it can be used.

How Do Coax Cables Work?

The design of coaxial cables includes layers of electrical conductors and insulating material. This structure ensures the signal is enclosed and no electrical noise interferes with it.

At the center of the coax cable design is a conductor layer made of thin braided or solid conducting copper. Next to it is a dielectric layer. Finally, a shield layer surrounds the dielectric layer, and the whole assembly is coated in an insulating jacket.

Data is carried in the center conductor while the overlying layers shield and stop any signal loss.

What are the Types of Coax Cables?

There are different types of coax cables. Fully understanding each of them may be slightly tricky, but here is a brief description of the most common ones.

Flexible Coaxial Cable

As the name suggests, flexible coax cables can move to suit the geometry and configuration of the application. These are the most common types of coax cables and are used for televisions and home video equipment.

Hard-Line Coaxial Cable

A distinctive feature of hard-line coax cables is that their diameters are larger than other coax cables. This is to be able to transmit high-strength signals. In addition, their center conductors are constructed using silver, copper, steel, or aluminum materials.

Semi-Rigid Coaxial Cable

Unlike flexible coax, semi-rigid coax cables cannot be flexed or reformed after the first operation. This is because they are designed using a copper outer sheath. This helps provide enhanced high-frequency performance and superior shielding effectiveness.

Formable Coaxial Cable

These are also known as conformable coaxial cables and are alternatives to semi-rigid coax cables. In place of a copper outer sheath, they use metal sheaths instead. Like semi-rigid cables, they can also be flexed or reformed.

Triaxial Cable

Triax coax cables use extra copper braids to act as a shield. As a result, they provide increased bandwidth and offer improved performance.

Twin Axial Cable

Twinax features two central conductors instead of the traditional one. Some advantages of these cables are increased protection from ground loops and reduced cable loss. They are best suited for video and low-frequency applications.

What are the Types of Coax Cable Connectors?

Coax connectors connect the cables to other devices and help maintain the shielding. There are numerous types of coaxial cable connectors, as discussed below.

  • BNC: BNC is used with radio and television signals and for frequencies of 4GHz
  • TNC: TNC is similar to BNC but threaded. It is used in cell phones and transmits up to 12 GHz.
  • SMA: SubMiniature version A is used with radios, microwaves, Wi-Fi systems, and cell phones. It transmits up to 18 Hz.
  • SMB: SubMiniature version B is used for telecommunications hardware.
  • QMA: These connectors are used for communications and industrial hardware.
  • RCA: Radio Corporation of America is used for audio and video. They are grouped in red, yellow, and white and are typically used with older televisions.
  • F Connectors: are used in cable and digital televisions.

What are the Uses of Coax Cables?

Coax cables have many applications, and here are some:

Video

Coax cables are designed with high speed and reliability to effectively transmit television and voice signals. But you need to use a high-quality coax cable for the best reception. Therefore, we recommend RG-6 for television use.

Internet

Coax is also used to transmit the internet. Coax internet is widely available in the US because it is affordable and easy to install. In addition, the cables are shielded, meaning they incur fewer distractions and environmental interference.

CCTV

Coax cables are also used for CCTV cameras. The RG-59 coax cables are the best, although you can use RG-6 for long distances.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Coax Cables

Coax TV Cable

There are both sides to the coin regarding using coax cables. Here are a few of its pros and cons.

Advantages of Coax Cables

  • Coax internet has an asymmetrical speed. This means that its uploading speeds are faster than download speeds. As a result, asymmetrical connections are usually affordable and perfect if downloading isn’t a high priority.
  • You get value for your money with this cable. It provides you with high bandwidth speeds at low costs.
  • Setting up and installing this cable is relatively quick and easy, depending on your location. Moreover, coax is heavily saturated in numerous buildings.
  • It is highly flexible and, thereby, easy to wire and expand.
  • The cable’s structure helps improve effectiveness and attenuation. In addition, the outer protective jacket shields the cable from environmental damage and makes it flameproof.
  • The overall cost of coax cable is low.

Disadvantages of Coax Cables

  • While coax is easy to install over short distances, it can be hectic to do so over long distances. The cable is thick, stiff, and bulky, making the process difficult and expensive.
  • Still, on installation, coax cables must be grounded to prevent interference. It is a fairly difficult task.
  • Typically, one cable is used for signal transmission across an entire network. Therefore, if it fails, the whole network is affected.
  • Coax is not highly secure. Anyone can tap the cable. You only need to break it and insert a T-joint in between.

Is Coax Cable Better Than Fiber Optic Cable?

There is no clear winner when comparing coax and fiber cables. Deciding what’s best for you will depend on your unique situation. You need to weigh factors such as bandwidth needs, location, and budget. However, fiber optics still thrives in a lot of areas.

Here’s how the two compare in different aspects to help you make a well-informed and better purchasing decision.

Speed

As mentioned earlier, coax cable has an asymmetrical speed. This means its uploading speeds are faster than download speeds. On the other hand, Fiber has a symmetrical speed, where its upload and download speeds are equal.

Fiber is excellent for high-volume usage and larger companies. While coax is significantly slower than Fiber, its speeds are still sufficient for low-volume usage and smaller businesses.

Cost

As expected, with high speeds come high costs. The upfront cost of installing and activating Fiber is very expensive. In the long run, however, it may save you money. Coax is widely available, so it is easy to install.

Its implementation is also relatively affordable. And with the television and internet options bundled together, it saves you a lot of money.

Availability

Coax has 90% coverage in the US. It is widely available, especially in multi-tenant buildings. Fiber is growing in popularity but is still not as popular as coax. This makes it slightly difficult and expensive to access it.

Reliability

Coax has an outer insulating jacket to protect it from environmental factors. But this doesn’t make it immune to outages. The overall performance of coax depends heavily on the volume of users. Fiber internet is highly reliable.

It is immune to outages and can withstand heavy usage volume. Because of this, it becomes a dedicated service that meets business needs.