How to differentiate between coaxial and optical fiber cable?

How to differentiate between coaxial and optical fiber cable?

How to differentiate between coaxial and optical fiber cable?

Both coaxial cable and optical fiber are the kinds of guided media. But some essential factors exist that differentiates the two. The fundamental difference between the optical fiber and coaxial cable is that an optical fiber is employed to transmit the optical signal. As against, a coaxial cable is utilized for the transmission of an electrical signal.

Definition of Optical fiber

Optical fibers are waveguides that are utilized for sending optical (light) signals from one end to another.

Optical fibers are essentially built of glass or silica, which is a combination of core and cladding. The core is the internal part of the fiber produced of very pure silica glass that is encircled by a glass cladding. And coverage from external wear and tear, this complete fiber assembly is encased in a plastic jacket that is also known as buffer coating.

A signal within an optical fiber is sent through total internal reflection. Essentially, when the light is allowed to transmit by an optical fiber, then to be able to transmit, the signal undergoes continuous reflections from the cladding, thereby traveling through the core.

In the optical fiber, undoubtedly, the refractive index of the core needs to be more than the cladding to have a total internal reflection. 

We know the principle of total internal reflection: when the light gets into a new medium from a denser one with the incident angle more than the critical angle. Then the incident ray gets reflected in the direction of the same medium.

This principle is employed for sending an optical signal through an optical fiber.

The ray is allowed to the incident the core, but because of the variation in the refractive index, the ray despite reaching the cladding reflects towards the core. These constant reflections produce the transmission of light from one end to the other.

How to differentiate between coaxial and optical fiber cable?


Definition of Coaxial Cable

Coaxial cables, also known as coax, are guided media that are employed for transmitting electrical signals to some distances. Coaxial cables are essentially conductors that allow electrons to flow within it. Mainly copper is utilized in the construction of coaxial wires.

It is named coaxial because both; the inner and outer conductor have a common geometric axis.

The electrical signals needed to be transmitted through the coaxial cable are provided at the center conductor.

Also, the insulating medium confines the generated electric and magnetic fields within the conductor.


Critical Differences Between Optical Fiber and Coaxial cable

  • An optically transmitted signal experiences less attenuation as compared to an electrical signal transmitted over a coaxial cable.
  • A significant difference between the two is that an optical fiber cable provides a high transmission speed. On the contrary, the signal transmission speed is relatively low in the case of coaxial cable.
  • Optical fibers enable the signal transmission to longer distances as compared to the coax.
  • In an optical fiber, the transmitted signal is not influenced by the exterior magnetic field. 
  • Setting up an optical fiber is a complicated task in comparison to the installation of any coaxial cable.
  • The bandwidth usage factor for signal transmission is much higher in the case of optical fiber.
  • An optical fiber cable is more resistant to noise and other environmental effects than a coaxial cable.
  • The coaxial cables are low-cost cables while fiber cables are expensive.


If you would like to receive a quote for any of custom cables or connectors, please do not hesitate to contact us by sending an email to [email protected] or calling in the USA this phone number (682-325-1944)

Jessica Cardona


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