Be it a small home network of 4 computers or a multilevel spiderweb of interconnected devices, everything boils down to how you have planned it. Right from the placement of the routers, repeaters, and other network devices to the space between each, no matter what type of infrastructure you are planning, in order to ensure uninterrupted connectivity, you need a clear understanding of each component involved.
In this article, as the headline suggests, we shall be covering on the different types of network patch cables, the benefits, and the use-case of each.
What Are Network Patch Cables? What Are The Types?
Network patch cables are the medium on which your network runs on. It can be either fiber optic cable, twisted pair or coaxial cable with a set of connectors on both ends. Network patch cables are used pre-dominantly to connect an end device to something else such as a switch or a power source or a wall jack. The general difference between Patch cables and regular ethernet cables are that patch cables are 2mtrs or less in length and hence the term ‘Patch’.
The proper type, specification, manufacturing, installation and evergoing maintenance of the patch cord in your network infrastructures will affect the network experiences as well as the uptime. The classification of the patch cables can be broadly divided into two classes based on the core used and further classification is based on the type of connectors used.
Classification Of Patch Cables Based On Cores
- Copper core Ethernet patch cable: Copper is the best conductor and hence is the most widely used core for ethernet cables. But copper is susceptible to electromagnetic interference, hence the pair of cables need to be twisted in order to prevent the phenomenon.
The cables are categorized as Cat 5, 5e, 6, and 7 based on the number of twists per inch as well as the capability to carry data over varying distance consistently. Additionally, an external aluminum mesh can be added for further interference protection.
- Optical Fiber patch cable: Data in the form of light pulses are a better option compared to the copper core and so the second type of patch cable is the fiber optic cable. Light is transmitted and received at each terminal and translated into data and the medium for transmission is a transparent resin medium that encapsulates the light inside it. Now since light travels in a straight path, optical fibers are not much flexible and also precision & uniformity of the medium needs to be maintained for lossless transmission and hence optic fibers are a costly affair.
Based on the number of light signals traversing in a single cable, the cables are categorized as 1) Single Mode (Single beam of light) 2) Multi Mode (Multiple beams of light)
Classification of Patch Cables Based on Connectors Used
- 8 pin 8 connectors: The 8P8C connector is the most commonly used for copper core ethernet patch cable. It is usually misinterpreted as RJ45 connector but owing to a similar layout. Radio Jack 45 (RJ45) was a connection standard created for voice communication and the 8P8C has a similar layout but created for computer communication.
For places where the cable is not removed once connected, molded cables are used e.g. hard-to-access space such as overhead cabling, rack or server connections
For places where the cable needs to be removed frequently, snagless cables are used. These prevent the cable from being snagged easily from the port from daily wear and tear.
These patch cables can be purchased as either individual cables or as pre-terminated trunk cables.
- MTP/MPO: MPO (Multi-Fiber Push-Out developed by NTT) and MTP (Multi-Fiber Push-Out developed by US Connect) are two connection standards created for optical fiber. Any gap or mismatch can result in the loss of signals and in order for seamless connections between the male and female connector, the male connector has pins for alignment.
- LC connector: LC connector is a 1.25mm ferrule connected to a cable of matching outer diameter. This connector is widely used for single mode transmission. LC connector is a push and latch type connector.
- SC Connector: SC connector is the first type of ceramic ferrule developed by Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT) in mid-eighties. SC has a push-pull coupling end face with a spring loaded ceramic ferrule of 2.5mm thickness. The SC is ideally suited for datacoms and telecoms applications including point to point and passive optical networking.
- FC Connector: Acronym for Fixed Connection, the FC connector is a threaded barrel connector designed for use in high-vibration environments. The tip of the connector is polished to a rounded corner called “physical contact” polish so that two fibers are in connected via the aligned core only.
- MT-RJ connector: MT-RJ connector is one of the newly emerging small form factor connectors whose acronym stands for Mechanical Transfer Radio Jack. The MT-RJ utilizes two fibers and integrates them into a single design that looks similar to an RJ45 connector. Its dimension is slightly smaller than anaverage phone jack but just as easy to remove and plug-in.
While it may look insignificant but the small patch cable jutting out of your workspace holds a lot of significance when you face connectivity issues. As we stated earlier, selecting the correct patch cable format and maintaining it can either make or break your investment in setting an IT infrastructure. We hope this article may have helped you gain some perspective about the different types of network patch cables, it’s benefits and use-cases.