What Is a Coaxial Cable?

Nov. 15, 2023
Knowing what a coaxial cable is and what it’s used for is valuable information.

What’s a coaxial (coax) cable?

A coaxial cable is one of the oldest cables around, that carries data and is part of systems like audio, video, and more. The cable starts with an inner conductor, made of copper or coated in copper, which is then surrounded by a dielectric insulating layer  made of plastic. It then has the outer conductor which is made of copper or aluminum and provides shielding through its woven or braided design, and finally an outer jacket to protect the whole cable.

Popular coaxial cables

The most frequently used coax cables are RG-59, RG-6, and RG-11. RG, also known as RF (“radio frequency”), cables stand for "radio grade". Per AWC, “The numbers following RG in a part number are generally an indicator of size, referring to the diameter of the cable. Higher RG numbers have a thinner central conductor and vice versa.”

RG-59 and RG-6 cables are used for distances shorter than about 150 feet and are typically used for residential purposes. RG-11 cables are not only more expensive but are also used for drops longer than 150 feet.

Usage

Coaxial cables are used for connecting audio and video systems including high-speed internet, cable television, radio transmitters, and more.

RG-59 cables are used to transmit HD video signals, while RG-6 cables are used to connect cable TV and internet in residential or commercial areas. RG-11 cables are similar to RG-6 cables but are thicker and have less signal loss, which is why they’re used over long distances. RG-11 cables are typically used outdoors since the cable is not flexible and is used for television and CCTV connections as well as HTDV.

Coax speaker cables are also quite popular. This type of coax cable has an RCA connection at the end and has been around before other popular cables came about. However, even though they’re older, the coax speaker cables are still excellent in their delivery of high-quality audio signals while also protecting sound quality from interference.

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