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Department of Information Technology

Computer Networks
Program: BSCS 2
January Semester 2013

4. Transmission Media

Lecturer: Rebecca Asiimwe
Phone Number:+256 712-997- 544 /0704 522 081

Transmission Media
What is Transmission Media?
Material over which a signal travels as it moves from
one network component/device to another.
actual path over which an electronic signal travels as it
moves from one component to another or one device to

Classes/ Categories of Transmission Media
Media Specifications
Different media types have different specifications
and expectations relating to performance:

Speed: Data transmission speeds are achieved using a
particular type of cable. The bit transmission speed is
extremely important.
affected by the kind of conduit used.
May affect the cost of the cable too

Transmission being considered: Whether digital or
digital or baseband transmission and
analog or broadband transmission are the two choices

Baseband Vs Broadband
Digital signals are used
Frequency division multiplexing is not possible
Baseband is bi-directional transmission
Short distance signal travelling
Entire bandwidth of the cable is consumed by a single signal i
n a baseband transmission.
Analog signals are used
Transmission of data is unidirectional
Signal travelling distance is long
Frequency division multiplexing is possible
The signals are sent on multiple frequencies and allow all the
multiple signals are sent simultaneously in broadband transmi

Media Specifications
Distance: Distance through which a signal travels
through a particular type of cable before attenuati
on of the signal.

The distance traveled by a signal through a cable
directly affects attenuation of the signal.

Degradation of the signal is directly related to the
distance the signal travels and the type of cable

The choice of medium depends on:

- Distance to be covered.
-Desired Bit Rate (in bits per second, bps)
-Cost Considerations

Numerous transmission media types are
used for Data Communication
Guided Transmission Media
a) Guided Transmission Media uses a "cabling"
system that guides the data signals along a specific
path. The data signals are bound by the "cabling"
system. Guided Media (also known as Bound)

Guided Transmission Media include:
Fiber optics
Twisted pair cables
Coaxial cables

Coaxial Cable
It has a single copper conductor at its center. A
plastic layer provides insulation between the center
conductor and a braided metal shield. The metal
shield helps to block any outside interference from
fluorescent lights, motors, and other computers.

Coaxial Categories:
RG-59 (Cable TV)
RG-58 (Thin Ethernet/ thinnet)
RG-11 (Thick Ethernet/ thicknet)

Coaxial cable
Coaxial Cable
Braided copper shielding
Outer jacket
Copper condu
Plastic Insulation
Coaxial Cable
Advantages of coaxial cable on LANs:

can be run over longer distances than shielded twisted
pair (STP) and unshielded twisted pair (UTP) cable
without the need for repeaters;
less expensive than fiber-optic cable;
the technology is well known;
has been used for many years for many types of data
communication including cable television.

It is important to consider its size; as the thickness
of the cable increases, so does the difficulty of
working with it.
Thicknet Coaxial Cable
Different sizes of coaxial cable.

Thicknet: The largest diameter specified f
or use as Ethernet backbone cable
Greater transmission length
Noise rejection characteristics.
generally, the more difficult the network m
edia is to install, the more expensive it is t
o install.
more expensive to install than twisted-pair
cable-too thick to be bent.
Thinnet Coaxial Cable

Thinnet: Especially useful for cable install
ations that demanded the cable to make
many twists and turns.

Easier to install

Coaxial Cable Connectors
Coaxial Cable Connectors: The most common type of co
nnector used with coaxial cables is the Bayone-Neill-Con
celman (BNC) connector.

Different types of adapters are available for BNC connecto
rs, including a T-connector, barrel connector and
terminator. Connectors on the cable are the weakest point
in any network. To help avoid problems with your network,
it is advisable to use the BNC connectors that crimp,
rather than screw, onto the cable.
Twisted-Pair Cable
Twisted-pair cable is a type of cable that consists
of insulated pair wires twisted around one another.
The number of twists per unit length of the cable
varies along the cable length.

Twisted-pair cable comes in several varieties:
Unshielded Twisted Pair (UTP),
Shielded Twisted Pair (STP),
Screened Shielded Twisted Pair (S/STP),
Foiled Twisted Pair (FTP),
Screened Unshielded Twisted Pair (S/UTP), and
Screened Foiled Twisted Pair (S/FTP).
Twisted-Pair Cable
The purpose of the twisting is to cancel out effects of
electromagnetic interference (EMI) from external sour-
ces, and reduce crosstalk from the neighboring pairs.

When electrical current flows through a wire, it creates
a small, magnetic field around the wire. When two
wires in an electrical circuit are placed close together,
their magnetic fields are the exact opposite of each
other. Thus, the two magnetic fields cancel each
other out.

They also cancel out any outside magnetic fields. Twi-
sting the wires can enhance this cancellation effect.

Twisted-Pair Cable

The greater the number of twists, the more crosst
alk is reduced. The number of twists per meter
makes up part of the specification for a given type
of cable.

Data transmission at low frequencies may not be
a problem but at high frequencies, it poses an ob
vious problem noise and crosstalk.


STP combines the techniques of shielding, cancellation a
nd twisting of wires.
Each pair of wires is wrapped in metallic foil. The four pair
s of wires are wrapped in an overall metallic braid or foil.
It reduces electrical noise within the cable such as pair
to pair coupling and crosstalk.
It reduces electronic noise from outside the cable EMI
and RFI (Radio Frequency Interference).
It affords greater protection from all types of external in
terference, but is more expensive and difficult to install
than UTP

Widely used in a variety of networks. The cable relies ent
irely on the cancellation effect produced by the twisted
wire pairs, to limit signal degradation caused by EMI and

Crosstalk between the pairs is further reduced by varying t
he number of twists. Like STP cable, it follows exact speci
fications as to how many twists are permitted per foot of c
Easy to install
Less expensive than other types of networking media.
Because of its small size (small external diameter), UTP d
oes not fill up wiring ducts as rapidly as other types of ca
When installed using an RJ-45 connector, potential sourc
es of network noise are greatly reduced and a good solid
connection is practically guaranteed.

More prone to electrical noise and interference than oth
er types of networking media.
The distance between signal boosts is shorter for UTP th
an it is for coaxial and fiber optic cables.
UTP Implementations
Types of cable connections used between internet
work devices:

Straight-through cable: used to connect a
LAN switch to a computer. (Different devices)

Crossover cable: used to connect two
switches. (Similar devices)

Rollover cable: used to connect a RJ-45 adapt
er on the com port of the computer to the conso
le port of the router or switch.
The cables are defined by the type of connection
s, or pinouts, from one end to the other end of the

Straight through cables have both ends with identical c
olor patterns.
For a cross-over cable, the color of pins #1 and #2 will
appear on the other end at pins #3 and #6, and vice-ve
rsa because the transmit and receive pins are in differe
nt locations.
On a rollover cable, the color combination from left to ri
ght on one end should be exactly opposite to the color
combination on the other end.

UTP Implementations



1. Blue Sky
2. Orange Sun
3. Green Vegetation
4. Brown Earth
UTP Implementations
T568A T568B
3 2
1 2 1 3
4 4
Networking Media Tools
Crimper - The most essential tool and critical to
the cable making process.

Cable Tester (Optional) - Having a good cable te
ster can prevent and solve cable wiring configura
tion and installation problems.

RJ45 Connectors
Boots (optional but preferred)
Straight edge wire cutter
The Cable itself
Making a Network Cable
1. Unroll the required length of network cable and adding a
little extra. If a boot is to be fitted, do so before stripping
away the sleeve and ensure the boot faces the correct

2. Carefully remove the outer jacket of the cable, exposing
just over 1 (one inch) of the twisted pairs. Be careful
when stripping the jacket as to not nick or cut the internal
wiring. After removing the outer case, you will notice 8
wires twisted in 4 pairs.

Making a Network Cable
Each pair will have one wire of a certain color and ano
ther wire that is white with a colored stripe matching
its partner (this wire is called a tracer). Sometimes a
rip cord (white thread) is also present.

3. Untwist the pairs to lie flat between your fingers. The
white piece of thread can be cut off even with the jac-
ket and disposed. For easier handling, cut the wires
so that they are 3/4 long from the base of the jacket.

4. Arrange the wires based on the wiring specifications
you are following, either the TIA 568A or the 568B.

Cable Categories

Cat 1: Currently unrecognized by TIA/EIA. Previou
sly used for POTS telephone communications, ISD
N and doorbell wiring.

Cat 2: Currently unrecognized by TIA/EIA. Previo-
usly was frequently used on 4 Mbit/s token ring

Cat 3: Currently defined in TIA/EIA-568-B, used fo
r data networks using frequencies up to 16 MHz. H
istorically popular for 10 Mbit/s Ethernet networks.

Cat 4: Currently unrecognized by TIA/EIA. Provide
d performance of up to 20 MHz, and was frequentl
y used on 16 Mbit/s token ring networks.

Cat 5: Currently unrecognized by TIA/EIA. Provide
d performance of up to 100 MHz, and was frequen
tly used on 100 Mbit/s Ethernet networks. May be
unsuitable for 1000BASE-T gigabit Ethernet.

Cat 5e: Currently defined in TIA/EIA-568-B. Provi
des performance of up to 100 MHz, and is frequen
tly used for both 100 Mbit/s and Gigabit Ethernet n


Cat 6: Currently defined in TIA/EIA-568-B. Provid
es performance of up to 250 MHz, more than dou
ble category 5 and 5e.

Cat 6a: Currently defined in ANSI/TIA/EIA-568-B.
2-10. Provides performance of up to 500 MHz, do
uble that of category 6. Suitable for 10GBase-T.

Cat 7: An informal name applied to ISO/IEC 1180
1 Class F cabling. This standard specifies four ind
ividually-shielded pairs (STP) inside an overall shi
eld. Designed for transmission at frequencies up t
o 600 MHz.
Fiber Optic Cable
An optical fiber cable has a cylindrical shape and consists
of three concentric sections:

1. the core,
2. the cladding, and
3. the jacket

The core is the innermost section and consists of one or
more very thin strands, or fibers, made of glass or plastic
where light travels. Each fiber is surrounded by its own cl
adding, a glass or plastic coating that has optical pro
perties different from those of the core. The interface bet
ween the core and cladding acts as a reflector to confine l
ight that would otherwise escape the core.
Fiber Optic Cable
The outermost layer, surrounding one or a bundle of
cladded fibers, is the jacket / buffer jacket.

The jacket is composed of plastic and other material
layered to protect against moisture, scratching and
crushing, and other environmental dangers. This makes
it ideal for certain environments that contain a large amo-
unt of electrical interference. It has also made it the stan-
dard for connecting networks between buildings, due to
its immunity to the effects of moisture and lighting.

Parts of fiber optics

Fiber Optic Cable
Fiber optic cable has the ability to transmit signals
over much longer distances than coaxial and
twisted pair. It also has the capability to carry infor-
mation at vastly greater speeds. This capacity
broadens communication possibilities to include
services such as video conferencing and interact-
ive services.

The cost of fiber optic cabling is comparable to
copper cabling; however, it is more difficult to
install and modify.
How fiber optics operate
The light in a fiber-optic cable travels through the
core (hallway) by constantly bouncing from the cla
dding (mirror-lined walls), a principle called total
internal reflection. Because the cladding does not
absorb any light from the core, the light wave can t
ravel great distances
Transmission is through electroluminescence(an
optical phenomenon and electrical phenomenon in
which a material emits light in response to the
The emitted light is incoherent with a relatively
wide spectral width of 30-60 nm.

Receivers- the main component of an optical recei-
ver is a photo-detector that converts light into elec-
tric signals through the photoelectric effect .

Transmitter-the most commonly used optical
transmitters are semiconductor devices such
as light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and laser
Fiber-Optic Cable
Two types of fiber-optic cables
a) Single-mode
Allows only one mode of light to propagate thr
ough the fiber. Capable of higher bandwidth, a
nd it is often used as a backbone - (10kms).
b) Multi-mode
Multimode fiber cable allows multiple modes o
f light to propagate through the fiber. It uses li
ght-emitting diodes (LEDs) as a light-generati
ng device (2km)

Signals and Noise in Optical Fibers
Not affected by external noises that cause
problems on copper media since external light can
not enter the fiber except at transmitter ends.

Light on one fiber in a cable does not generate
interference disturbances on any other fiber. No
crosstalk like copper media.

Fiber-optic transmission allows the Ethernet
protocol to be used on MANs and WANs.
Signals and Noise in Optical Fibers
Attenuation of the signal due to factors of the
nature of fiber itself:

Scattering caused by microscopic non-uniformity
(distortions) in the fiber that reflects and scatters
some of the light energy.

Absorption is another cause of light energy loss.
Parts of energy are absorbed by impurities when
light rays strike impurities in a fiber. This light
energy is lost as heat energy, making the light
signal dimmer.
Signals and Noise in Optical Fibers
Manufacturing irregularities/roughness in the
core-to-cladding boundary. Power is lost from
the light signal because of the less than perfect
total internal reflection in that rough area of the
fiber. Any microscopic imperfections in the thick
ness or symmetry of the fiber cuts down on total
internal reflection and the cladding absorbs
some light energy.

Dispersion of a light flash - the spreading of
pulses of light as they travel down the fiber
also limits transmission distances on a fiber.
Fibers do not leak light and are quite difficult to tap
Handles much higher bandwidth than copper wires.
The loss of signal in optical fiber is less than in
copper wire. Repeaters are needed at 30 km Vs 5 for
Not affected by electromagnetic interference. Unlike
electrical signals in copper wires, light signals from
one fiber do not interfere with those of other fibers
in the same cable.

They are quite difficult to install
Its an expensive technology. Its expensive
to install.
Very delicate / fragile.

Wireless communication
Is the transfer of information over a dista-
nce with the use of electromagnetic waves
Electromagnetic waves are formed when
an electric field couples with a magnetic

Does not use cables Wireless

Examples of unguided media
1. Radio wave transmission
2. Micro wave transmission
3. Light wave transmission
4. Infrared

1. Radio transmission
Omnidirectional no need for dish-shaped
antennas and no need for them to be rigidly
mounted to a precise alignment unlike microwave
which is directional.

Radio-term used for frequencies in the range of
3Hz to 300GHz

Range covers FM radio and
UHF and VHF television

Types of Radio Frequency Propagation

There are 3 types of RF (Radio Freque
ncy) Propagation:

1. Ground Wave
2. Ionospheric and
3. Line of Sight (LOS) Propagation.
i) Ground Wave Propagation
Follows the curvature of the Earth. Ground
Waves have carrier frequencies up to 2M-
Hz. AM radio is an example of Ground
Wave Propagation.
Radio, television and micro-waves are
types of electromagnetic waves. They diff-
er from each other in wavelength.

Ground Wave Propagation
ii) Ionospheric Propagation
Bounces off of the Earths Ionospheric Layer in the
upper atmosphere. It is sometimes called Double Hop
Propagation. It operates in the frequency range of
30 - 85 MHz
Signal from earth based antenna is reflected from
ionised layer (ionsphere) of upper atmosphere back
down to earth, effect caused by refraction and not as
though the waves were reflected from some hard
Also known as Sky Wave Propagation

Sky Wave Propagation
iii) Line of Sight Propagation
Line of Sight Propagation transmits exactly in the
line of sight. The receive station must be in view of
the transmit station. It is sometimes called Space
Waves or Tropospheric Propagation.

Not reflected by ionosphere so signal can be tran-
smitted between an earth station and a satellite
overhead that is not beyond the horizon.

Examples of Line of Sight Propagation are: FM
Radio, Microwave and Satellite.
Line of Sight Propagation
Characteristics of radio transmission
Easily generated.
Omni-directionally travel a long distan
Can penetrate buildings.
Frequency dependant.
Relatively low bandwidth for data com
Tightly licensed by governments.

2. Microwaves Transmission
Frequency of above 100MHz,
Travel in straight lines
Can be narrowly focused.
Use a parabolic antenna.
Both the transmitting and the receiving
antennas should be accurately aligned
with each other.


Its used for long distance communication
Can not easily pass through strong buildi
ngs and can easily be absorbed by the ra
Affected by rain, vapor, dust, snow, cloud
s, mist and fog, heavy moisture, dependi
ng on chosen frequency.
Its used for long distance communicatio

2. Microwaves Transmission
3. Bluetooth and infrared
Bluetooth uses radio waves to transmit between
microchip devices like mobile phone and a Hands
free device.
Infrared (IR) uses electromagnetic waves for trans
mission as a smaller wavelength than radio. A TV
remote control is an example of an Infrared appli-
Wireless Personal Area Networks (WPANs) are
able to communicate using technologies like Bluet
ooth (IEEE and infrared.

Infrared signals can be used for short range comm-
Modulate noncoherent infrared light
Transceivers must be within Line of sight (or reflecti
on) of each other directly or via reflection from light
colored surfaces such as the ceiling of a room.
e.g. TV remote control
Infrared signals, having high frequencies, cannot
penetrate walls unlike microwave which does . This
helps to prevent interference between one system
and another.

Security and interference problems encountered in
microwave systems are not present in infrared.
Furthermore there are no frequency allocation issues
with infrared because no license is required.

There are a number of computer devices which are
used to send data through infrared medium e.g. a
key board, mouse, PCs, phones and printers. There
are some manufacturers who provide a special part
called the IrDA (Infrared Data Association) port that
allows a wireless keyboard to communicate with the

4.Light wave transmission
Unguided optical signal such as laser.
Connect 2 LANS in two buildings via a laser
mounted on their roof.
Unidirectional, easy to install, dont require
Laser beams can be used for communication
but can not penetrate rain or thick fog.
Laser beams can easily be diverted by
turbulent air.

Gamma Rays (above 30GHz)
Ultra-Violet Light
Visible Light
Infrared Light
EHF - Extremely High Frequencies 30 GHz Radar
SHF - Super High Frequencies 3 GHz Satellite &
UHF - Ultra High Frequencies 300 MHz, UHF TV

VHF - Very High Frequencies 30 MHz FM & TV
HF - High Frequencies 3 MHz Short Wave Radio
MF Medium Frequencies 300 kHz (kilo = 10^3) AM
LF - Low Frequencies 30 kHz Navigation
VLF - Very Low Frequencies 3 kHz Submarine Commu-
VF - Voice Frequencies 300 Hz Audio
ELF - Extremely Low Frequencies 30 Hz Power Transmi-

2GHz to 40GHz
Microwave frequencies
Highly directional
Suitable for Point to point transmission
Also used for Satellite communication
30MHz to 1GHz
Suitable for Omnidirectional applications
This range is referred to as radio range
3 x 10
to 2 x 10

For Local applications
Point to point and multipoint within confined areas
single room
For unguided media, transmission and reception are
achieved by means of an antenna.
Electrical conductor (or system of conductors) used to
radiate electromagnetic energy or collect electroma-
gnetic energy
For Transmission of a Signal
Electrical energy from transmitter is converted into ele
ctromagnetic energy by the antenna and Radiated
into surrounding environment (space, water...)
For Reception
Electromagnetic energy impinging on antenna
Converted to electrical energy
Fed to receiver
Same antenna often used for both
Radiation Pattern
An antenna will radiate power in all directions but
typically does not perform equally well in all directions.
A common way to characterize the performance of an
antenna is the radiation pattern.

Simplest pattern produced by an idealized antenna
known as the isotropic antenna
Radiates power in all directions.
Actual radiation pattern is a sphere with the
antenna at the centre.
Parabolic Reflective Antenna
An important type of antenna is the parabolic reflective
antenna, which is used in terrestrial microwave and
satellite applications.

A parabolic dish antenna is based on the geometry of a
parabola: Every line parallel to the line of symmetry (line
of sight) reflects off the curve at angles such that all the
lines intersect in a common point called the focus.

The parabolic dish works as a funnel, catching a wide
range of waves and directing them to a common point.
In this way, more of the signal is recovered than would
be possible with a single-point receiver.

Such surfaces are used in headlights, optical
and radio telescopes, and microwave
antennas because of the following property:

If a source of electromagnetic energy (or soun
d) is placed at the focus of the paraboloid, and
if the paraboloid is a reflecting surface, then
the wave will bounce back in lines parallel to
the axis of the paraboloid

Figure (b) in the next slide shows this effect in cr
oss section. In theory, this effect creates a parall
el beam without dispersion. In practice, there will
be some dispersion, because the source of ener
gy must occupy more than one point.

The larger the diameter of the antenna, the more
tightly directional is the beam. On reception, if in
coming waves are parallel to the axis of the refle
cting paraboloid, the resulting signal will be conc
entrated at the focus.

Parabolic Reflective Antenna
Terrestrial Microwave
Most common type of microwave antenna is a Para-
bolic dish
Antenna fixed rigidly and focuses a narrow beam to
achieve Line of sight transmission
Located above ground level to extend range between
antennas and be able to transmit over intervening
For long distance transmission, a series of microwave
relay towers are used and point to point microwave
links are strung together over the desired distance
Higher frequencies give higher data rates

Satellite Microwave
Satellite is a microwave relay station
Links two or more ground based microwave trans-
mitter/receivers known as earth stations.
Satellite receives on one frequency band (uplink),
amplifies or repeats signal and transmits on
another frequency (downlink)
A single orbiting satellite will operate on a number
of frequency bands called transponder channels
or simply transponders.

Satellite Point to Point Link
Satellite Broadcast Link

For a communication satellite to function
effectively, it is generally required that it remain
stationary with respect to its position over the
earth; otherwise it would not be within the line of
sight of its earth stations at all times.

To remain stationary, the satellite must have a
period of rotation equal to the earths period of
The communications satellite is a technological
revolutions as important as fiber optics. Among
the most important applications for satellites are
the following:

Television distribution, Long distance telephone
transmission and private business networks.
Programs are transmitted to the satellite and
then broadcast down to a number of stations
which then distribute the programs to individual

Another application for satellite is based on busin-
ess data. The satellite provider can divide the total
capacity into a number of channels and lease
these to individual business users.
A user equipped with the antenna at a number of
sites can use the satellite channel for private

Such applications are very expensive and limited
to large organizations with high-volume
A recent development is the very small aperture
terminal (VSAT) systems which provide low cost

A number of subscriber stations are equipped with
low cost VSAT antennas, these stations share a
satellite transmission capacity for transmission to
a hub station that can then exchange messages
with each of the subscribers and can relay
messages between suscribers.

Advantages associated to wireless
Its ideal for non-reachable places.
Its ideal for temporary network setups.
It supports more users unlike the wired
Its neat and easy to install.
Its flexible/can be moved easily.
Its cheaper to maintain.
Relatively lower speed - example: although currently 802.11/n
could reach 128 Mbps, some UTP cable categories can reach
1 Gbps. And more user mean each bandwidth get smaller.
That is why currently wired backbone network is still preferred

The network can be less stable. Wireless reception may be
impaired by a number of factors including large distances or
objects between wireless devices, and other wireless

The speed and the viability of the wireless signals drop as
more and more users use the same frequency

Health implications related with radio waves/EMF

Because signals are spread in the air, it is convenient
for hackers to catch wireless signals. Wireless networks
require very tight security so that the unauthorized
users cannot exploit the information. As more and users
are making use of the wireless technologies, the risk
of data being lost is increasing.

Read from the following link for more disadvantages
Read about wireless security protocols and wireless
standards from books given. (

Required Reading

Chapter 7 of
Behrouz A. Forouzan & Sophia Chung Fegan
s book on Data Communications and Networ

Introduction to Local Area Networks:

LAN protocol Architecture
LAN Devices
High speed LANS
Token Ring
Fibre Channel