The most commonly used media for data communications is cabling that uses copper wires to signal data and control bits between network devices. Cabling used for data communications usually consists of a series of individual copper wires that form circuits dedicated to specific signaling purposes.
Other types of copper cabling, known as coaxial cable, have a single conductor that runs through the center of the cable that is encased by, but insulated from, the other shield. The copper media type chosen is specified by the Physical layer standard required to link the Data Link layers of two or more network devices.
These cables can be used to connect nodes on a LAN to intermediate devices, such as routers and switches. Cables are also used to connect WAN devices to a data services provider such as a telephone company. Each type of connection and the accompanying devices have cabling requirements stipulated by Physical layer standards.
Networking media generally make use of modular jacks and plugs, which provide easy connection and disconnection. Also, a single type of physical connector may be used for multiple types of connections. For example, the RJ-45 connector is used widely in LANs with one type of media and in some WANs with another media type.
External Signal Interference
Data is transmitted on copper cables as electrical pulses. A detector in the network interface of a destination device must receive a signal that can be successfully decoded to match the signal sent.
The timing and voltage values of these signals are susceptible to interference or "noise" from outside the communications system. These unwanted signals can distort and corrupt the data signals being carried by copper media. Radio waves and electromagnetic devices such as fluorescent lights, electric motors, and other devices are potential sources of noise.
Cable types with shielding or twisting of the pairs of wires are designed to minimize signal degradation due to electronic noise.
The susceptibility of copper cables to electronic noise can also be limited by:
Selecting the cable type or category most suited to protect the data signals in a given networking environment
Designing a cable infrastructure to avoid known and potential sources of interference in the building structure
Using cabling techniques that include the proper handling and termination of the cables