Twisted Pair Cable vs Braided Cable

Written by: Tektel Team

There is a vast variety of cable types. Different cables are designed for different uses and purposes.

Twisted pair cables and braided cables (also referred to as coaxial cables) are both used to create a basic connection for network cabling. The data transmitted between computers connected to a wired network travels through network cables.

 

This data, or information, is passed through cables to networks’ nodes through connectors, and every type of cable is designed specifically to support the integrity for data transmission and reduce any possible data interference. The different cables are designed to achieve the same objective in different ways.

 

A network may be designed with a combination of both twisted pair cables and braided cables in different sections on it. 

 

Each of these two cables has specific properties that will make it best suited for different conditions. For example, the size of a network (number of devices connected to the network and/or the distance over which the network extends) will influence the cable type selection per project. Let’s take a look at twisted pair cable vs. braided cable to understand the differences between these cables and how they are each used in a network.

 

Braided / Coaxial Cable

Braided cables are coaxial cables. They are constructed of four internal layers including an inner conductor at the core.  The inner conductor is covered by a dielectric insulator layer, above which a second conductive layer made of braided wires covers the inner insulation layer. Over the braiding is a thin insulating outer layer.

 

The signal transfer in braided cables goes both ways. The inner conductor transfers signal one way serving as the forward circuit, while the braided conductive layer allows signal to travel the opposite direction, acting as the return circuit.

 

One of the braided cable’s advantages over other cable types of radio transmission lines is that it can be installed next to metal objects without power loss, that occur in other types of transmission lines. Another advantage is that braided cable provides signal protection from external electromagnetic interference.

 

Typically, braided cables are less expensive than twisted pair cables. Braided cables are widely used for cable television services and video connections, but are no longer widely used in computer networks.

Twisted Cable

Twisted pair cable is a cable type used for telecommunications. Its name comes from the twisted pairs of insulated wire inside the cable. Twisted pair cables are available in shielded and unshielded forms. Unshielded twisted pair cable (UTP) is the less expensive of the two, but due to the lack of a shield, it is also more susceptible to interference from electronic devices in its vicinity.

All category cables are twisted pair, but not all twisted pair cables are category cables. In other words, some twisted pair cables will be of another type.

 

Connectors

 

Braided / coaxial cables need BNC connectors in order to be connected to a network; those connectors may be male/female connectors or T connectors. Twisted pair cables use RJ connectors such as RJ45 for Ethernet networks, and RJ11 for telephone cables.

 

Durability

 

Both twisted pair cable and braided / coaxial cable are vulnerable to signal interference. Due to its standard design, braided cable varies but a bit in its susceptibility to interference. On the other hand, twisted pair cable’s resistance to interference depends on the twisting scheme to remain in place, and so may vary.

Twisted pair cables come in two main categories: unshielded twisted pair (UTP) and shielded twisted pair (STP).

Unshielded Twisted Pair (UTP) Cable

Unshielded twisted pair cables are the most common type of twisted pair cables and find extensive use in both residential and commercial settings. They consist of pairs of insulated copper wires twisted together without any additional shielding. UTP cables offer cost-effective solutions for applications like Ethernet networking, telephone lines, and audio transmission. The absence of shielding makes UTP cables more flexible and easier to install, but they are more susceptible to external interference.

Shielded Twisted Pair (STP) Cable

Shielded twisted pair cables, on the other hand, incorporate a metallic foil or braided shielding around the twisted wire pairs. This shielding adds an extra layer of protection against external interference, making STP cables more suitable for environments with high levels of EMI and RFI. STP cables are commonly used in industrial settings, data centers, and areas where electromagnetic noise is prevalent.

Delving into Braided Cables

Braided cables are a different breed altogether. Instead of the twisting mechanism employed in twisted pair cables, braided cables utilize a woven design where individual wires are interlaced diagonally. This braiding not only enhances the cable's durability and strength but also provides a level of protection against physical damage.

Braided cables are often used in applications that require flexibility, mechanical robustness, and resistance to abrasion. These cables are frequently found in scenarios where they might experience bending or stretching, such as robotics, automotive wiring, and medical equipment.

A Comparative Analysis

Now, let's take a deeper dive into the comparison between twisted pair cables and braided cables across various parameters:

EMI and RFI Protection:

Twisted pair cables have a clear advantage in this category due to their design that cancels out electromagnetic and radio frequency interference. The twisting mechanism ensures that the signals transmitted through the wires remain relatively immune to external noise sources. Braided cables, while offering some degree of protection due to their physical shielding, might not be as effective as twisted pair cables in environments with high levels of interference.

Flexibility and Durability:

Braided cables have the upper hand when it comes to flexibility and durability. The interwoven design provides inherent flexibility, allowing the cables to bend and twist without risking damage to the wires inside. This characteristic makes braided cables suitable for applications where constant movement or frequent bending is expected. Twisted pair cables, while reasonably flexible, might be more prone to wear and tear over time.

Signal Integrity:

Twisted pair cables excel in maintaining signal integrity, especially over longer distances. The twisting pattern reduces crosstalk between wire pairs, ensuring that data signals remain clear and distinguishable. In contrast, while braided cables offer some level of protection against signal degradation, they might not match the stringent signal integrity standards set by twisted pair cables.

Cost and Accessibility:

Twisted pair cables, particularly UTP cables, are often more cost-effective and widely accessible than braided cables. The simpler manufacturing process and materials used in UTP cables contribute to their affordability. Braided cables, due to their intricate design and added shielding, tend to be pricier, making them a less economical choice for certain applications.

Applications

Twisted pair cables find their niche in networking, telecommunications, and scenarios where signal accuracy is critical. Ethernet connections, telephone lines, and audio systems benefit from the reliable signal transmission provided by twisted pair cables. On the other hand, braided cables thrive in physically demanding environments, such as automotive wiring harnesses, industrial machinery, and medical devices.

Making the Right Choice

The decision between twisted pair cables and braided cables depends on several factors, including the specific application, budget constraints, and the surrounding environment. Here are a few considerations to keep in mind when making this choice:

Interference Sensitivity: If your application is sensitive to electromagnetic or radio frequency interference, twisted pair cables, with their effective shielding against these interferences, might be the preferred choice.

 

Flexibility Requirements: If your application involves constant movement, bending, or stretching, braided cables would likely offer better durability and flexibility.

 

Signal Distance: For applications requiring signal transmission over longer distances without compromising data integrity, twisted pair cables should be strongly considered due to their superior crosstalk reduction.

 

Budget Constraints: If cost-effectiveness is a primary concern, UTP twisted pair cables are the way to go. They provide reliable performance at a lower price point compared to their braided counterparts.

 

Physical Protection: If your cables are at risk of being subjected to physical stress, abrasion, or environmental hazards, braided cables' robust construction might be more suitable for ensuring longevity.

Applications and Scenarios

In the ongoing tug-of-war between twisted pair cables and braided cables, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Each type has its own strengths and weaknesses that cater to distinct applications and scenarios. Twisted pair cables shine in providing reliable signal transmission, especially in noise-prone environments, while braided cables offer durability and flexibility for physically demanding situations.

Ultimately, the choice between these two cable types should be guided by a thorough understanding of the specific requirements of your project or application. By considering factors such as interference sensitivity, signal distance, flexibility needs, and budget constraints, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your goals for efficient and reliable data transmission. So, whether you're building a network infrastructure or wiring up an industrial machine, the cable you choose will play a crucial role in shaping the success of your endeavor.