Optical vs Coaxial Cable | Which One to Choose

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Computers and other electronic systems use a communication medium to send data from one device to another in the form of signals. The transmitting media can be divided into two categories: directed and unguided.

Both the optical fiber and the coaxial cable are guided media forms. However, there are some significant differences between the two. The main distinction between the optical fiber and coaxial cable is that optical fiber is used for optical signal delivery. A coaxial cable, on the other side, is used to relay an electrical signal.


Differences Between Optical and Coaxial Cable

In optical cable, the transmission is done in the optical form, and on the other side in coaxial cable, the transmission is done in the electrical form. That is the core difference and this is stated earlier.

Build Type

The optical cable consists of glass and plastics. Optical fiber uses the concept of absolute internal reflection to direct light across the tube. The internal structure of the optical fiber consists of glass or ultrapure fused silica, surrounded by less thick glass or plastic cladding. The coating is coated with a buffer, either loose or tight, to shield it from moisture.

The density of the two materials is preserved in such a way that the light beam, which passes through the center, is reflected off the cladding rather than refracted through it. In the optical fiber, the information is stored in the shape of a light beam as a series of on and off flashes, which means 1’s and 0’s.

The fiber optic cable is made of glass and is brittle, making it difficult to install. The repeater is mounted at a distance of 2 km to 20 km depending on the form of fiber. optical fiber is of two types, multimode and single-mode. Multimode fiber has two variations, a phase index, and a graded-index fiber. LEDs and lasers can be used as optical cable light sources.

But the coaxial cable is a composition of plastic, metal foil, metal wire, especially copper wire. That is why it can be spliced. It consists of a conductor (usually copper) located at the center of the heart, surrounded by an insulating sheath. The sheath is often enclosed in the outer conductor with a metal braid, a foil, or a mixture of the two. External metallic covering serves as a noise barrier and completes the circuit as a second conductor.

The outer metallic conductor is often wrapped in a plastic cover to shield the entire wire. Coaxial cable is a good alternative to Ethernet cables. The most common use of coax cables in cable TV is the distribution of TV signals. You can also extend cable TV to another room.

In the optical fiber cable, energy leakage happens as the light passes from one location to another, known as attenuation. Attenuation is caused by absorption, dispersion, bending, and dispersion of the following phenomena.

Advantages of Fiber Optic

Noise is not a concern for fiber optic cable since it uses light rather than electricity. External light will potentially cause some interference, but the outer jacket is still shielded from the channel. But in the coaxial cable, the transmission occurs through electricity and that’s why there is a severe noise problem in the coaxial cable. You can test the coax cable by reading this article.

The transmitting signal in an optical fiber is unaffected by the external magnetic field. In the case of a coaxial cable, the transmitting signal is impacted by the actual magnetic field to some degree.

Another significant distinction is that an optical fiber cable has a high propagation speed. Coaxial cable, on the other hand, has a relatively slow signal propagation speed. Though you can get enough speed using different types of coaxial cable like cat5 or cat6.

As compared to coaxial cable, optical fibers facilitate signal propagation over longer distances.

The propagation wavelength is much longer than most other guided mediums. A pulse in an optical fiber cable can fly for miles without having to be regenerated. On contrary, When communications devices are positioned at a greater distance, a repeater is needed for every kilometer.

Advantages of Coaxial Cables

As compared to twisted-pair wire, coaxial cable has a greater frequency characteristic. Because of the cable’s concentric construction, it is less vulnerable to interruption and crosstalk. Both analog and digital signaling are supported by coax cable. It is less expensive than optical fiber. You can also connect the coaxial cable to the TV if the TV doesn’t have any coax input.

On the other hand, Optical fiber is costly and it must be accurately made, and a laser light source is expensive. The light will be diffused and the beam can be lost if the optical fiber’s backbone is damaged or broken. Both of the joints must be flawlessly polished, balanced, and light-tightly sealed. It makes use of crude cutting and crimping materials, making installation and maintenance more complicated. Glass fiber is more fragile than wire and is more easily damaged.

Again, the optical fiber is thin and compact, with limited diameter. A coaxial wire, on the other hand, is thicker and has a larger diameter.

Where Are They Used

An optical cable is used to relay optical frequency signals and hence has uses in HDTVs, airplanes, and the medical field for surgical procedures. On the other hand, coaxial cable is used to transfer radio frequency signals, so it’s used in cable TV signal processing, as well as internet and phone connections.

Our Verdict

In terms of data transfer speed, noise and interference tolerance, dimensions, bandwidth, losses, and other factors, optical fiber outperforms coaxial cable. However, coaxial cable is less costly, more widely available, and easier to install, and bending the cable has little effect on the signaling.

Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

Does optical sound better?

Yes, in terms of sound quality, optical or digital optical cable sound better. In fact, digital optical cables are said to perform way better than HDMI cables.

Does coaxial support Dolby digital?

Yes, a coaxial connection for digital audio output can support PCM, DTS and Dolby Digital surround sound systems.


So here you have got all the information regarding optical cable and coaxial cable. There is a huge difference between coaxial and optical cables. Though they have differences, they do their job quite perfectly in their required position. According to your need, you have to choose one. By going through this informative article, we hope you know all about Optical vs Coaxial cables and their functionalities. So all the best and thanks for visiting our article.

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