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What are the advantages of a UTP over a coax, and how do the two networks differ?

Chris Partsenidis takes us through some networking history and explains what the advantages of a UTP computer network are over a coax computer network and how the two networks differ, in this expert response.

Dear Chris,

I want to know what the difference is between a coax and a UTP computer network, and what the advantages or benefits are for using UTP.


Dear Patrick,

In the old days of networking, UTP networks were considered to be a privilege whereas today, they are a requirement!

If we turned back 15 years, you would discover that most networks were Coaxial-based, also known as "Thin Ethernet" (RJ-58) and described by the 10Base-2 and 10Base-5 specification. These networks supported speeds up to 10Mbps (1.2Mbytes/sec) in a bus-type topology and required 50 Ohm terminating resisters on each end. If any part of the bus was damaged or disconnected, the whole network would fail, causing company-wide network outages and problems.

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Today's networks are mainly compromised of UTP and Fiber optic cables. UTP (Cat 5e and 6) have now become the standard cabling for networks across the globe because of its flexibility, compatibility, low cost and high speed it supports (up to 1 Gbps -- 120Mbytes/sec). UTP cabling is based on the Star-type topology which eliminates the possibility of a network outage should one end of the cable fail. All ends of the network are gathered in one central cabinet, where a high-end switch is usually placed, to allow each host to communicate with the rest. 

As you can appreciate, UTP is by far superior to the older Coaxial cabling and preferred amongst network engineers and designers in today's networks.


This was last published in January 2007

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