Wired and Wireless Networking Explained

Computer networking can be classified into two types: wired and wireless. Wired networking uses wires to connect devices. Wireless networking uses radio spectrums to connect devices.

A computer network is a group of devices connected for sharing resources and information. Computer networking explains the technology and devices we use to build computer networks.

A media connects devices in the computer network. There are two types of media: wired and wireless. If a network uses wires to connect devices, it is known as a wired network. If the network uses radio spectrums, it is called a wireless network.

Wired networking

Wired networking uses three types of cables: coaxial, twisted-pair, and fiber.

Coaxial cables

This cable contains a conductor, insulator, braiding, and sheath. The sheath covers the braiding, the braiding covers the insulation, and the insulation covers the conductor.

There are two types of coaxial cables: thicknet and thinnet.

Thicknet coaxial cables are usually 3/8 inch in diameter and have an impedance of 50 ohms. It can carry signals up to 500 meters. It offers a speed of 10 megabits per second. It uses baseband trasmission. Because of these properties, in ethernet standards, it is specified as the 10Base5 (10 megabits per second Baseband transmission over 5 hundred meters) cable. In a network, it is used as the backbone cable. It connects different network segments.

Thinnet coaxial cables are usually 3/16 in diameter and have an impedance of 50 ohms. It can carry signals up to 200 meters. It offers a speed of 10 megabits per second. It also uses baseband trasmission. In ethernet standards, it is specified as the 10Base5 (10 megabits per second Baseband transmission over 2 hundred meters) cable. In a network, it connects end devices such as PCs and printers to the network segment.

Twisted-pair cables

Twisted-pair cable consists of one to four pairs of color-coded insulated stranded copper wires that are twisted together in pairs and enclosed in a protective outer sheath. Twisting reduces the effects of crosstalk and makes the cable more resistant to electromagnetic interference (EMI), improving signal transmission.

There are two types of twisted-pair cables: UTP (unshielded twisted pair) and STP (shielded twisted pair). The main difference between both is STP uses an extra layer of coating on each pair. The additional layer of coating on each pair improves cable performance but increases the cost.

Unshielded twisted-pair (UTP) cable

It does not shield each pair individually. It uses only an outer cover to keep all pairs together. Since it uses only outer coating, it is much cheaper than STP. Due to low cost, flexibility, and good performance, it is mainly used in LAN networks. Almost all modern LAN networks use it to connect devices to the network. It can carry signals up to 100 meters. It is available in various grades or categories based on data transmission speed.

Shielded twisted-pair (STP) cable

The outer insulated jacket protects the twisted-pair cable only from physical stress or damage. However, it does not protect the cable from electromagnetic interference (EMI). If the network premise contains many electrical appliances, UTP cables do not work. In such a situation, instead of UTP, STP cables are used to connect devices. STP cables are expensive but have an additional layer of coating to protect against EMI.

Fiber-optical cables

Instead of copper, fiber-optical cables use glass to carry signals. Since it uses glass to transport signals, electromagnetic interference (EMI) does not affect it.

It reflects light from one endpoint to another. Based on how many beams of light are transmitted at a given time, there are two types of fiber optical cable: SMF (Single-mode fiber) and MMF(multi-mode fiber).

SMF carries only a single beam of light. It uses a laser as the light source and transmits 1300 or 1550 nano-meter wavelengths of light. It is more reliable and supports much higher bandwidth and longer distances than the MMF cable.

MMF carries multiple beams of light. Since it uses multiple beams, it can carry more data than the SMF cable. It uses an LED as the light source and transmits 850 or 1300 nano-meter wavelengths of light. It is used for shorter distances.

Wireless networking

Unlike wired networking, wireless networking uses radio spectrums to connect devices. In wireless networking, all devices use antennas or sensors to send and receive radio signals. Laptops, mobiles, remotes, satellite receivers, and tablets are examples of wireless devices.

Differences between wired and wireless network

The following table compares wired and wireless networks and lists their differences.

CriteriaWired NetworkWireless Network
Transmission mediaCopper wire, Threads of glassRadio spectrum
Data transfer speedFastSlow
Propagation delayLowHigh
InstallationTake a longer timeInstallation is fast
MaintenanceHighLow
ExpensiveMore expensiveLess expensive
SecurityHighly secureLess secure

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