For well over a century, businesses, organisations and the wider industrial and now digital world have been seeking a durable, reliable solution for the transmission of electrical signals – and coaxial cables have been evolving ever since British pioneer Oliver Heaviside made that 1880 breakthrough.
After studying standard telegraph lines and recognising the issue of weakness, signal loss and interference, he found that the simple act of wrapping them in insulation solved both problems. Yet it wasn’t until the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin that the first clear TV images were transmitted with the humble coaxial cable’s help – the same year the first underwater coaxial cables for phone transmissions were laid underwater. From that moment, coaxial cable really took off across the world, leading to the product we know so well today.
The word ‘coaxial’ refers to the way the conductor and shield share a single axis, and has today expanded from phone, radio and TV to the transmission of internet and computer data. The dawn of fibre optic cable, however – transmitting data with light rather than electrical pulses – posed a challenge to coaxial’s dominance in this space, promising more bandwidth, faster speeds and greater fidelity.
So why do so many businesses, organisations and applications continue to rely on coaxial cable rather than the ultra-modern optic alternatives?
Why you may still need coaxial cable in your business
While fibre optics are impressive in performance, the primary material is glass – and we all know what happens to that if we’re not careful. Coaxial cables, though, are fundamentally made of metal – notably copper – and plastic, which is why it’s so easy to splice and install.
Optics might seem impressive, and they are, but sometimes your business might simply be looking for the easiest and most practical way to do something very quickly and very simply – like extending a TV signal from one room to another. In that way, coaxial is often the more popular pick even than ethernet. It’s also important to note that coaxial can transmit power as well as signals, in stark contrast to the non-conductive properties of fibre, making it flexible for operations that need to be power outage resistant.
No business, organisation or profit-motivated entity on earth ignores the performance:cost ratio, and coaxial cable wins the day for so many reasons in so many scenarios on this score, too. Optic fibre simply costs more, and while the headline performance is impressive, it’s much more prone to breakage or damage – and even slight damage can kill the signal completely. Coaxial, though, is tough and chunky, easier to source, easier to install, and resistant to common application troubles such as cable bending.
Sure, in a 100m sprint at the Olympics, fibre beats coaxial every day. But that doesn’t mean coaxial cable doesn’t perform well – and, in fact, it’s quite the opposite. The latest-generation coaxials handle multiple Gbps (Gigabytes per second) both downstream and upstream, and work continues to be done to extend the operating frequencies beyond multiple GHz (gigahertz) and open the door to massive bandwidth.
Does coaxial cable sound like the better option for your organisation’s next project? The basic idea may have its footprint in the 19th century, but it’s an often-overlooked fact that it remains the best option for so many business and industrial applications. For that reason, the coaxial cable market remains vast and constantly evolving, so always double-check that every one of your particular boxes are checked as you browse the extensive range ahead of your next project.