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Conducted and Wireless Media

Chapter 3

Learning Objectives
After reading this chapter, you should be able to:

Outline the characteristics of twisted pair wire, including the advantages and disadvantages,
and the differences between Category 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 5e, 6, and 7 twisted pair wire
Describe when shielded twisted pair wire works better than unshielded twisted pair wire
Outline the characteristics of coaxial cable, including the advantages and disadvantages
Outline the characteristics of fiber-optic cable, including the advantages and disadvantages.
Outline the characteristics of terrestrial microwave systems, including the advantages and
disadvantages
Outline the characteristics of satellite microwave systems, including the advantages and
disadvantages and the differences between low-Earth orbit, middle-Earth orbit, and
geosynchronous Earth orbit satellites
Describe the basics of cellular telephones, including all the current generations of cellular
systems
Outline the characteristics of short-range transmissions, including Bluetooth
Outline the characteristics of broadband wireless systems, including the advantages and
disadvantages
Apply the media selection criteria of cost, speed, distance and expandability, environment,
and security to various media in a particular application

Chapter Outline
1. Introduction

2. Conducted Media
a. Twisted Pair Wire
b. Coaxial Cable
c. Fiber-Optic Cable

3. Wireless Media
a. Terrestrial microwave transmission
b. Satellite microwave transmission
c. Cellular telephones
d. Infrared transmissions
e. Broadband wireless systems
f. Bluetooth
g. Wireless local area networks
h. Free space optics and ultra-wideband
i. ZigBee

4. Media Selection Criteria


a. Cost
b. Speed
c. Distance and expandability
d. Environment
e. Security

5. Conducted Media In Action: Two Examples

6. Wireless Media In Action: Two Examples

7. Summary

Lecture Notes
Introduction
All communications media can be divided into two categories: physical or conducted media,
such as wires, and radiated or wireless media, which use radio waves. Conducted media include
twisted pair wire, coaxial cable, and fiber-optic cable. In wireless transmission, various types of
electromagnetic waves, such as radio waves, are used to transmit signals. This chapter examines
seven basic groups of wireless media used for the transfer of data: terrestrial microwave
transmissions, satellite transmissions, cellular radio systems, personal communication systems,
pagers, infrared transmissions, and multichannel multipoint distribution service.

Twisted Pair Wire


The oldest, simplest, and most common type of conducted media is twisted pair wires. Twisted
pair is almost a misnomer, as one rarely encounters a single pair of wires. To help simplify the
numerous varieties, twisted pair can be specified as Category 1-6 and is abbreviated as CAT 1-6.
If you determine that the twisted pair wire needs to go through walls, rooms, or buildings where
there is sufficient electromagnetic interference to cause substantial noise problems, shielded
twisted pair can provide a higher level of isolation from that interference than unshielded twisted
pair wire, and thus a lower level of errors.
Coaxial Cable
Coaxial cable, in its simplest form, is a single wire wrapped in a foam insulation, surrounded by
a braided metal shield, and then covered in a plastic jacket. The braided metal shield is very good
at blocking electromagnetic signals from entering the cable and producing noise. Because of its
good shielding properties, coaxial cable is very good at carrying analog signals with a wide range
of frequencies. There are two major coaxial cable technologies, depending on the type of signal
each carries: baseband or broadband. Coaxial cable also comes in two primary physical types:
thin coaxial cable and thick coaxial cable.

Fiber-Optic Cable
Fiber-optic cable (or optical fiber) is a thin glass cable approximately a little thicker than a
human hair surrounded by a plastic coating. A light source, called a photo diode, is placed at the
transmitting end and quickly switched on and off. The light pulses travel down the glass cable
and are detected by an optic sensor called a photo receptor on the receiving end. Fiber-optic
cable is capable of transmitting data at over 100 Gbps (thats 100 billion bits per second!) over
several kilometers. In addition to having almost error-free high data transmission rates, fiber-
optic cable has a number of other advantages over twisted pair and coaxial cable. Since fiber-
optic cable passes electrically nonconducting photons through a glass medium, it is immune to
electromagnetic interference and extremely difficult to wiretap.

Introduction to Wireless Transmissions


All wireless systems employ radio waves at differing frequencies. The FCC strictly controls
which frequencies are used for each particular type of service. The services covered in this
section will include terrestrial microwave transmissions, satellite transmissions, cellular radio
systems, personal communication systems, pagers, infrared transmissions, and multichannel
multipoint distribution service. Terrestrial microwave transmission systems transmit tightly
focused beams of radio signals from one ground-based microwave transmission antenna to
another. Satellite microwave transmission systems are similar to terrestrial microwave systems
except that the signal travels from a ground station on Earth to a satellite and back to another
ground station on Earth, thus achieving much greater distances than line-of-sight transmission.
Satellites orbit the Earth from three possible ranges: low-Earth orbit (LEO), middle-Earth orbit
(MEO), and geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO). Infrared transmission is a special form of radio
transmission that uses a focused ray of light in the infrared frequency range. A broadband
wireless system is one of the latest techniques for delivering Internet services into homes and
businesses. ZigBee is a short-range, low-power transmission system often employed in mesh
networks to allow controlling equipment to talk to each other.

Media Selection Criteria


When designing or updating a computer network, the selection of one type of media over another
is an important issue. The principal factors you should consider in your decision include cost,
speed, expandability, distance, environment, and security.
In Action Examples
Three In Action examples are introduced in this chapter. The first demonstrates how conducted
media might be used in a local area network installation. The second demonstrates possible
solutions to running a wire between two buildings. The third example is a wireless media
example of a company considering satellite microwave transmissions between two locations,
while a fourth example demonstrates a terrestrial microwave solution between two branch
offices.

Quick Quiz
1. What is the advantage of using twisted pair wiring? Coaxial cable? Fiber optic?

Twisted pair is inexpensive and easy to work with. Coaxial cable is good for wide bandwidth
signals such as video applications. Fiber optic carries high amounts of traffic and has much lower
error rates.

2. List two major uses of terrestrial microwave.

Long-haul telecommunications and building-to-building data transfer

3. What are the different ways to categorize satellite microwave?

LEO, GEO, MEO, HEO; bulk, single-user, multiplexed

4. List the different forms of wireless technologies.

Terrestrial microwave, satellite microwave, infrared, cellular, PCS, pager systems, Bluetooth,
wireless LANs, ZigBee, and broadband wireless

Discussion Topics
1. Why did the Iridium mobile telephone system fail?

2. While most of Europe and Asia use one form of cellular telephone technology, why cant the
U.S. decide on a single cellular protocol?

3. What is the potential for broadband wireless systems?

Teaching Tips
1. Bring some wire samples to class when discussing conducted media.
2. Have students visit the Web site Decide.com (or similar sites) and examine what wireless
calling plans are available in their area.

3. Use as a wiring example a portion of a lab or building on campus. Maybe you can locate
actual wiring schematics.

Solutions to Review Questions


1. Why is twisted pair wire called twisted pair?

It very often contains one or more pairs of wires, and they are twisted around each other.

2. How does crosstalk occur in twisted pair wire?

Electromagnetic radiation is emitted from one wire, which is picked up by a second wire.

3. What are Categories 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 5e, 6, and 7 twisted pair wire used for?

Cat 1, 2, and 3: telephone lines; Cat 3, 4, 5, 5e, 6, and 7: LANs.

4. What are the advantages and disadvantages of shielded twisted pair?

Advantage: provides better level of isolation from noise; Disadvantage: cost

5. What is the primary advantage of coaxial cable compared to twisted pair?

It can carry a signal or signals with a wide range of frequencies; less noise.

6. What is the difference between baseband coaxial and broadband coaxial cable?

Baseband: digital signals; Broadband: analog signals

7. Why is fiber-optic cable immune to electromagnetic interference?

Cable is made of glass.

8. What are the advantages and disadvantages of fiber-optic cable?

Advantage: high speeds, long distances, low noise; Disadvantage: cost

9. What is the difference between terrestrial microwave and satellite microwave?

Terrestrial is land-based; satellite is not.


10. What is an average distance for transmitting terrestrial microwave?

Line of sight, which is roughly 20 to 25 miles, depending upon intervening obstacles

11. What kind of objects can interfere with terrestrial microwave transmissions?

Trees, mountains, buildings, bad weather

12. List a few common applications for terrestrial microwave.

Long haul telecommunications and building-to-building communications

13. What are the four orbit levels for satellite systems?

LEO, MEO, GEO, and HEO

14. List a few common application areas for each orbit level satellite system.

LEO: mobile phones, pagers; MEO: GPS systems; GEO: cable and direct television; HEO for
military and science

15. What is the sequence of events when placing a call from a cellular telephone?

Phone turned on, phone locates nearest tower, phone number dialed, tower passes phone number
to CTSO, CTSO checks account, phone number passed to central office (if necessary),
connection established

16. What is the function of a cellular telephone switching office?

Handles all cellular telephone calls, assigns channels, makes connections, performs billing

17. What is the primary difference between AMPS and D-AMPS cellular systems?

AMPS: older analog system; D-AMPS: newer digital features added onto AMPS

18. What is the primary difference between AMPS (or D-AMPS) cellular systems and the
newer PCS mobile telephones?

PCS is all digital.

19. What are the differences between the 2.5 generation cell phone services such as GPRS
and 1xRTT and the newer UMTS, 1xEV, and EV-DO?

The most noticeable difference is that data transfer rates are higher in the newer technologies.
20. What is a hybrid mobile telephone?

It can support multiple technologies.

21. What are the WiMAX protocols used for?

High-speed wireless connections between users and the Internet

22. What is the advantage of IEEE 802.20 over IEEE 802.16e?

802.20 is designed for moving vehicles; 802.16e is used for stationary transmitters.

23. Infrared transmission can be used for which type of applications?

Short distance device-to-device data transfer

24. What are the main advantages and disadvantages of ZigBee?

Advantage: low power, mesh design; Disadvantage: short distance, low speeds

25. Broadband wireless service supports what kind of applications?

The most popular right now is Internet access.

26. What are the main advantages and disadvantages of Bluetooth?

Advantage: wireless, reasonable data transfer speed, many possible applications; Disadvantage:
short distance

27. List three possible application areas of Bluetooth.

Automobiles, wireless home audio systems, wireless computer peripheral interconnections

28. What are the different wireless local area network protocols?

IEEE 802.11b, a, and g (bag)

29. In what situation might we use free space optics?

Between buildings, clear line of sight, high data transfer speeds

30. What are the different costs of a conducted media?

Initial cable costs, costs of supporting devices, and maintenance costs


31. What is the difference between data transmission speed and propagation speed?

Data transmission speed is the time between successive bits; propagation speed is the time for
one bit to traverse from one end of the medium to the other end.

32. What is meant by right-of-way?

The ability to install your own cables or wires over yours or someone elses property

Suggested Answers to Exercises


1. Table 3-1 shows Category 1 wire transmitting a signal for 5 to 6 kilometers (3 to 4 miles)
but Category 5e for only 100 meters (328 feet). Is Category 1 the best wire for long-distance
transmissions? Explain.

No. Cat 1 can go 2 to 3 miles, but only at very low data transfer rates.

2. List three different examples of crosstalk that dont involve wires and electric signals.
(Hint: Look around you.)

Hearing the students or instructor in the next classroom; hearing traffic on the road outside;
many separate conversations in the same room

3. What characteristics of Category 5/5e unshielded twisted pair make it the most
commonly used conducted wire?

Data transfer rates of 100-125 Mbps per wire; reasonably low noise; inexpensive cost per foot

4. Can you transmit a video signal over twisted pair wire? Explain. Be sure to consider
multiple scenarios.

More than likely you can, but noise is going to be a serious factor. The signal may be very fuzzy
or distorted, making it impractical.

5. The local cable TV company is considering removing all the coaxial cable and replacing
it with fiber-optic cable. List the advantages and disadvantages of this plan.

Higher data rates, more channels, less noise

6. The local cable TV company has changed its mind. It is now going to replace all the
existing coaxial cable with unshielded twisted pair. List the advantages and disadvantages
of this plan.

Bad choice; too much noise


7. Rank the following five media examplestwisted pair, coaxial cable, fiber-optic cable,
microwave, and satellitein order from highest data transmission speed to lowest data
transmission speed.

Fiber, satellite, microwave, coaxial cable, twisted pair (satellite might be first under some
conditions)

8. Using the same five media examples from the previous exercise, rank them in order from
least noisy transmission to most noisy transmission.

Fiber, microwave/satellite, coaxial, twisted pair

9. Using the same five media examples from the previous exercise, rank them in order from
most secure transmission to least secure transmission.

Fiber, satellite, microwave, coaxial, twisted pair; or satellite, microwave, fiber, coaxial, twisted
pair

10. Terrestrial microwave is a line-of-sight transmission. What sort of objects are tall
enough to interfere with terrestrial microwave?

Buildings, trees, and mountains

11. Your company has two offices located approximately one mile apart. There is a need to
transfer data between the two offices at speeds up to 100 Mbps. List as many solutions as
possible for interconnecting the two buildings. Is each solution technically feasible?
Financially feasible? Politically feasible? Defend your position.

Twisted pair and coax: too great a distance for 100 Mbps
Fiber optic: might work; expensive; do you have right-of-way?
Microwave: might work; expensive; do you have a clear line of sight?
Satellite: might work, but really expensive
Bluetooth or infrared: too great a distance

12. Given that a satellite signal travels at the speed of light, exactly how long does it take for
a signal to go from the Earth to a satellite in geosynchronous orbit, and back to Earth?
Show your calculations.

22,300 miles / 186,428 miles per second = 0.12 seconds, times two

13. How long does it take a signal to reach a satellite in low-Earth orbit?

500 miles (average) / 186,428 miles per second = 0.0027 seconds


14. You are walking down the street and your cell phone rings. What was the sequence of
events that allowed a person with a conventional telephone to call you on your cellular
telephone?

Your cell phone must be turned on, which means the system recognizes what cell you are
currently in. Someone places a call, it goes to the cellular switching office, the call goes to the
cell you are in, and your cell phone rings.

15. Which of the wireless technologies can transmit through solid objects. Which wireless
technologies cannot?

Can: Bluetooth, wireless LANs


Cannot: infrared, microwave, satellite, MMDS/LMDS

16. You are talking on your cellular telephone as you pass from one cell to another. Will
your cellular telephone use the same set of frequencies in the new cell as it was using in the
previous cell? Explain.

No. Any two adjacent cells use different frequencies.

17. Why do cellular telephone systems only need seven sets of frequencies in a metropolitan
area?

If you draw a set of cells like a honeycomb pattern, you will only need seven sets of frequencies
before you can start to reuse them.

18. What is one potentially serious problem with using your personal digital assistant and
Bluetooth to unlock doors wirelessly? Explain.

What if someone steals your Bluetooth-enabled device? Will he or she be able to access your
locked devices? Or did you use some form of security code?

19. There is a company in your community that is starting to offer a WiMAX service for
Internet access. The company promises 2-Mbps downloads. If the company predicts that
this new service will attract 2000 customers, what is the bandwidth necessary to support
this service?

A big part of the answer depends on what type of signal encoding they are using. For example, to
transmit 2 Mbps, what is the baud rate of the signal? As a simple example, lets assume the baud
rate is one-hundredth the data rate. That would require a baud rate of 20,000 Hz. To support
2000 customers, you will need to support 2000 times 20,000 baud.

20. A T-1 service offered by voice and data communications companies is capable of
supporting 1.5 Mbps of continuous data transfer over a high-quality telephone wire. What
are the advantages and disadvantages of such a service when compared to services such as
WAP, Bluetooth, and terrestrial microwave?
T-1 is installed by the phone company, so they worry about right-of-way. You dont have to
worry about obstructions of signal.

Disadvantages of T-1 are its relatively low speed and recurring monthly cost.

21. You are considering replacing your terrestrial microwave transmission system with a
free space optics system. What are the advantages and disadvantages of doing this?

Free space optics can have very high data transfer rates and may be a simpler system to maintain.
But free space optics, like microwave, are line of sight. Neither are cheap.

Thinking Outside the Box


1. Definitely needs to be shielded, or fiber optic; wireless might be an interesting solution.

2. First solution might be a small twisted pair small office/home office LAN; secondly, you
might want to consider wireless.

3. Satellite microwave; GPS; cellular phones; other radio technologies

5. Wireless LAN would be the first choice; could also consider running twisted pair (might be
hard to do physically); also consider data transmission systems that send signals over electrical
outlets in the walls.

6. Bluetooth peer-to-peer; wireless LAN peer-to-peer; infrared