Transmission medium

Last updated

A transmission medium is a material substance (solid, liquid, gas, or plasma) that can propagate energy waves. For example, the transmission medium for sounds is usually a gas, but solids and liquids may also act as a transmission medium for sound.

Solid solid object

Solid is one of the four fundamental states of matter. In solids molecules are closely packed. It is characterized by structural rigidity and resistance to changes of shape or volume. Unlike liquid, a solid object does not flow to take on the shape of its container, nor does it expand to fill the entire volume available to it like a gas does. The atoms in a solid are tightly bound to each other, either in a regular geometric lattice or irregularly. Solids cannot be compressed with little pressure whereas gases can be compressed with little pressure because in gases molecules are loosely packed.

Liquid liquid object

A liquid is a nearly incompressible fluid that conforms to the shape of its container but retains a (nearly) constant volume independent of pressure. As such, it is one of the four fundamental states of matter, and is the only state with a definite volume but no fixed shape. A liquid is made up of tiny vibrating particles of matter, such as atoms, held together by intermolecular bonds. Water is, by far, the most common liquid on Earth. Like a gas, a liquid is able to flow and take the shape of a container. Most liquids resist compression, although others can be compressed. Unlike a gas, a liquid does not disperse to fill every space of a container, and maintains a fairly constant density. A distinctive property of the liquid state is surface tension, leading to wetting phenomena.

Gas gaseous object

Gas is one of the four fundamental states of matter. A pure gas may be made up of individual atoms, elemental molecules made from one type of atom, or compound molecules made from a variety of atoms. A gas mixture would contain a variety of pure gases much like the air. What distinguishes a gas from liquids and solids is the vast separation of the individual gas particles. This separation usually makes a colorless gas invisible to the human observer. The interaction of gas particles in the presence of electric and gravitational fields are considered negligible, as indicated by the constant velocity vectors in the image.


The absence of a material medium in vacuum may also constitute a transmission medium for electromagnetic waves such as light and radio waves. While material substance is not required for electromagnetic waves to propagate, such waves are usually affected by the transmission media they pass through, for instance by absorption or by reflection or refraction at the interfaces between media.

Vacuum Space that is empty of matter

Vacuum is space devoid of matter. The word stems from the Latin adjective vacuus for "vacant" or "void". An approximation to such vacuum is a region with a gaseous pressure much less than atmospheric pressure. Physicists often discuss ideal test results that would occur in a perfect vacuum, which they sometimes simply call "vacuum" or free space, and use the term partial vacuum to refer to an actual imperfect vacuum as one might have in a laboratory or in space. In engineering and applied physics on the other hand, vacuum refers to any space in which the pressure is lower than atmospheric pressure. The Latin term in vacuo is used to describe an object that is surrounded by a vacuum.

Light electromagnetic radiation in or near visible spectrum

Light is electromagnetic radiation within a certain portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. The word usually refers to visible light, which is the visible spectrum that is visible to the human eye and is responsible for the sense of sight. Visible light is usually defined as having wavelengths in the range of 400–700 nanometres (nm), or 4.00 × 10−7 to 7.00 × 10−7 m, between the infrared and the ultraviolet. This wavelength means a frequency range of roughly 430–750 terahertz (THz).

Radio wave type of electromagnetic radiation

Radio waves are a type of electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths in the electromagnetic spectrum longer than infrared light. Radio waves have frequencies as high as 300 gigahertz (GHz) to as low as 30 hertz (Hz). At 300 GHz, the corresponding wavelength is 1 mm, and at 30 Hz is 10,000 km. Like all other electromagnetic waves, radio waves travel at the speed of light. They are generated by electric charges undergoing acceleration, such as time varying electric currents. Naturally occurring radio waves are emitted by lightning and astronomical objects.

The term transmission medium also refers to a technical device that employs the material substance to transmit or guide waves. Thus, an optical fiber or a copper cable is a transmission medium. Not only this but also is able to guide the transmission of networks.

A transmission medium can be classified as a:

Superposition principle fundamental physics principle stating that physical solutions of linear systems are linear

The superposition principle, also known as superposition property, states that, for all linear systems, the net response caused by two or more stimuli is the sum of the responses that would have been caused by each stimulus individually. So that if input A produces response X and input B produces response Y then input produces response.

Coaxial cable, one example of a transmission medium RG-59.jpg
Coaxial cable, one example of a transmission medium

Electromagnetic radiation can be transmitted through an optical medium, such as optical fiber, or through twisted pair wires, coaxial cable, or dielectric-slab waveguides. It may also pass through any physical material that is transparent to the specific wavelength, such as water, air, glass, or concrete. Sound is, by definition, the vibration of matter, so it requires a physical medium for transmission, as do other kinds of mechanical waves and heat energy. Historically, science incorporated various aether theories to explain the transmission medium. However, it is now known that electromagnetic waves do not require a physical transmission medium, and so can travel through the "vacuum" of free space. Regions of the insulative vacuum can become conductive for electrical conduction through the presence of free electrons, holes, or ions.

Electromagnetic radiation form of energy emitted and absorbed by charged particles, which exhibits wave-like behavior as it travels through space

In physics, electromagnetic radiation refers to the waves of the electromagnetic field, propagating (radiating) through space, carrying electromagnetic radiant energy. It includes radio waves, microwaves, infrared, (visible) light, ultraviolet, X-rays, and gamma rays.

An optical medium is material through which electromagnetic waves propagate. It is a form of transmission medium. The permittivity and permeability of the medium define how electromagnetic waves propagate in it. The medium has an intrinsic impedance, given by

Optical fiber light-conducting fiber

An optical fiber is a flexible, transparent fiber made by drawing glass (silica) or plastic to a diameter slightly thicker than that of a human hair. Optical fibers are used most often as a means to transmit light between the two ends of the fiber and find wide usage in fiber-optic communications, where they permit transmission over longer distances and at higher bandwidths than electrical cables. Fibers are used instead of metal wires because signals travel along them with less loss; in addition, fibers are immune to electromagnetic interference, a problem from which metal wires suffer excessively. Fibers are also used for illumination and imaging, and are often wrapped in bundles so they may be used to carry light into, or images out of confined spaces, as in the case of a fiberscope. Specially designed fibers are also used for a variety of other applications, some of them being fiber optic sensors and fiber lasers.


A physical medium in data communications is the transmission path over which a signal propagates.

Many transmission media are used as communications channel.

For telecommunications purposes in the United States, Federal Standard 1037C, transmission media are classified as one of the following:

Federal Standard 1037C, titled Telecommunications: Glossary of Telecommunication Terms, is a United States Federal Standard issued by the General Services Administration pursuant to the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949, as amended.

One of the most common physical medias used in networking is copper wire. Copper wire to carry signals to long distances using relatively low amounts of power. The unshielded twisted pair (UTP) is eight strands of copper wire, organized into four pairs. [1]

Another example of a physical medium is optical fiber, which has emerged as the most commonly used transmission medium for long-distance communications. Optical fiber is a thin strand of glass that guides light along its length. Four major factors favor optical fiber over copper- data rates, distance, installation, and costs. Optical fiber can carry huge amounts of data compared to copper. It can be run for hundreds of miles without the need for signal repeaters, in turn, reducing maintenance costs and improving the reliability of the communication system because repeaters are a common source of network failures. Glass is lighter than copper allowing for less need for specialized heavy-lifting equipment when installing long-distance optical fiber. Optical fiber for indoor applications cost approximately a dollar a foot, the same as copper. [2]

Multimode and single mode are two types of commonly used optical fiber. Multimode fiber uses LEDs as the light source and can carry signals over shorter distances, about 2 kilometers. Single mode can carry signals over distances of tens of miles.

Wireless media may carry surface waves or skywaves, either longitudinally or transversely, and are so classified.

In both communications, communication is in the form of electromagnetic waves. With guided transmission media, the waves are guided along a physical path; examples of guided media include phone lines, twisted pair cables, coaxial cables, and optical fibers. Unguided transmission media are methods that allow the transmission of data without the use of physical means to define the path it takes. Examples of this include microwave, radio or infrared. Unguided media provide a means for transmitting electromagnetic waves but do not guide them; examples are propagation through air, vacuum and seawater.

The term direct link is used to refer to the transmission path between two devices in which signals propagate directly from transmitters to receivers with no intermediate devices, other than amplifiers or repeaters used to increase signal strength. This term can apply to both guided and unguided media.

Types of transmissions

A transmission may be simplex, half-duplex, or full-duplex.

In simplex transmission, signals are transmitted in only one direction; one station is a transmitter and the other is the receiver. In the half-duplex operation, both stations may transmit, but only one at a time. In full duplex operation, both stations may transmit simultaneously. In the latter case, the medium is carrying signals in both directions at same time.

There are two types of transmission media: guided and unguided.

Guided Media:

Unguided Media: Transmission media then looking at analysis of using them unguided transmission media is data signals that flow through the air. They are not guided or bound to a channel to follow. Following are unguided media used for data communication:

Digital encoding

Transmission and reception of data typically is performed in four steps.

  1. The data is coded as binary numbers at the sender end
  2. A carrier signal is modulated as specified by the binary representation of the data
  3. At the receiving end, the incoming signal is demodulated into the respective binary numbers
  4. Decoding of the binary numbers is performed [3]

See also

Related Research Articles

In telecommunication, a communications system or communication system is a collection of individual communications networks, transmission systems, relay stations, tributary stations, and data terminal equipment (DTE) usually capable of interconnection and interoperation to form an integrated whole. The components of a communications system serve a common purpose, are technically compatible, use common procedures, respond to controls, and operate in union.

Multiplexing method by which multiple analog or digital signals are combined into one signal over a shared medium

In telecommunications and computer networks, multiplexing is a method by which multiple analog or digital signals are combined into one signal over a shared medium. The aim is to share a scarce resource. For example, in telecommunications, several telephone calls may be carried using one wire. Multiplexing originated in telegraphy in the 1870s, and is now widely applied in communications. In telephony, George Owen Squier is credited with the development of telephone carrier multiplexing in 1910.

Network topology arrangement of the various elements of a computer network; topological structure of a network and may be depicted physically or logically

Network topology is the arrangement of the elements of a communication network. Network topology can be used to define or describe the arrangement of various types of telecommunication networks, including command and control radio networks, industrial fieldbusses, and computer networks.

Repeater Relay station

In telecommunications, a repeater is an electronic device that receives a signal and retransmits it. Repeaters are used to extend transmissions so that the signal can cover longer distances or be received on the other side of an obstruction.

Data transmission is the transfer of data over a point-to-point or point-to-multipoint communication channel. Examples of such channels are copper wires, optical fibers, wireless communication channels, storage media and computer buses. The data are represented as an electromagnetic signal, such as an electrical voltage, radiowave, microwave, or infrared signal.

Signal reflection

Signal reflection occurs when a signal is transmitted along a transmission medium, such as a copper cable or an optical fiber. Some of the signal power may be reflected back to its origin rather than being carried all the way along the cable to the far end. This happens because imperfections in the cable cause impedance mismatches and non-linear changes in the cable characteristics. These abrupt changes in characteristics cause some of the transmitted signal to be reflected. In radio frequency (RF) practice this is often measured in a dimensionless ratio known as voltage standing wave ratio (VSWR) with a VSWR bridge. The ratio of energy bounced back depends on the impedance mismatch. Mathematically, it is defined using the reflection coefficient.

Fast Ethernet Ethernet standards that carry traffic at the nominal rate of 100 Mbit/s

In computer networking, Fast Ethernet physical layers carry traffic at the nominal rate of 100 Mbit/s. The prior Ethernet speed was 10 Mbit/s. Of the Fast Ethernet physical layers, 100BASE-TX is by far the most common.

Frequency-division multiplexing

In telecommunications, frequency-division multiplexing (FDM) is a technique by which the total bandwidth available in a communication medium is divided into a series of non-overlapping frequency bands, each of which is used to carry a separate signal. This allows a single transmission medium such as a cable or optical fiber to be shared by multiple independent signals. Another use is to carry separate serial bits or segments of a higher rate signal in parallel.

Communication channel refers either to a physical transmission medium such as a wire, or to a logical connection

A communication channel or simply channel refers either to a physical transmission medium such as a wire, or to a logical connection over a multiplexed medium such as a radio channel in telecommunications and computer networking. A channel is used to convey an information signal, for example a digital bit stream, from one or several senders to one or several receivers. A channel has a certain capacity for transmitting information, often measured by its bandwidth in Hz or its data rate in bits per second.

The velocity factor (VF), also called wave propagation speed or velocity of propagation, of a transmission medium is the ratio of the speed at which a wavefront passes through the medium, to the speed of light in a vacuum. For optical signals, the velocity factor is the reciprocal of the refractive index.

Power-system automation is the act of automatically controlling the power system via instrumentation and control devices. Substation automation refers to using data from Intelligent electronic devices (IED), control and automation capabilities within the substation, and control commands from remote users to control power-system devices.

Ethernet physical layer

The Ethernet physical layer is the physical layer functionality of the Ethernet family of computer network standards. The physical layer defines the electrical or optical properties of the physical connection between a device and the network or between network devices. It is complemented by the MAC layer and the logical link layer.

Fiber-optic communication method of transmitting information from one place to another by sending pulses of light through an optical fiber

Fiber-optic communication is a method of transmitting information from one place to another by sending pulses of light through an optical fiber. The light forms an electromagnetic carrier wave that is modulated to carry information. Fiber is preferred over electrical cabling when high bandwidth, long distance, or immunity to electromagnetic interference are required.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to telecommunication:

Telecommunications engineering engineering science that deals with the recording, transmission, processing and storage of messages

Telecommunications engineering is an engineering discipline centered on electrical and computer engineering which seeks to support and enhance telecommunication systems. The work ranges from basic circuit design to strategic mass developments. A telecommunication engineer is responsible for designing and overseeing the installation of telecommunications equipment and facilities, such as complex electronic switching systems, and other plain old telephone service facilities, optical fiber cabling, IP networks, and microwave transmission systems. Telecommunication engineering also overlaps with broadcast engineering.

Telecommunications cables are a type of guided transmission mediums. Cables are usually known to transmit electric energy (AC/DC); however, cables in telecommunications fields are used to transmit electromagnetic waves; they are called electromagnetic wave guides.

Networking cables are networking hardware used to connect one network device to other network devices or to connect two or more computers to share printers, scanners etc. Different types of network cables, such as coaxial cable, optical fiber cable, and twisted pair cables, are used depending on the network's physical layer, topology, and size. The devices can be separated by a few meters or nearly unlimited distances.

Fiber media converter

A fiber media converter is a simple networking device that makes it possible to connect two dissimilar media types such as twisted pair with fiber optic cabling. They were introduced to the industry in the 1990s, and are important in interconnecting fiber optic cabling-based systems with existing copper-based, structured cabling systems. They are also used in metropolitan area network (MAN) access and data transport services to enterprise customers.

Physical media refers to the physical materials that are used to store or transmit information in data communications. These physical media are generally physical objects made of materials such as copper or glass. They can be touched and felt, and have physical properties such as weight and color. For a number of years, copper and glass were the only media used in computer networking.


  1. Agrawal, Manish (2010). Business Data Communications. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. p. 37. ISBN   0470483369.
  2. Agrawal, Manish (2010). Business Data Communications. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. pp. 41–43. ISBN   0470483369.
  3. Agrawal, Manish (2010). Business Data Communications. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. p. 54. ISBN   0470483369.