Behold the Common Coax Cable.


RF COAX is common in the sense it has delivered HD entertainment in every home and apartment you’ve lived in, delivering RF cable, off-air, and satellite channels. For cable users, coax carries high-speed Internet and telephone service as well. Coax also carries HD-SDI video in network studios, TV stations and houses of worship. Corporate and civic sites distribute digital signage and a few news and information channels over RF.

It’s common because it does so many things for so many applications. It’s the only cable that has survived the Digital Transition, delivering more channels and data that we ever imagined. So maybe common isn’t the right word – ubiquitous or universal might be a better term for coax.

It’s a simple cable. A center copper wire, surrounded by an isolation core, protected from electronic noise from a foil or braided shield, wrapped around by a strong braided metal conductive sleeve, and then covered by a plastic jacket. It’s therefore co-axial – two conductors isolated from each other in a circular tube – two planets on an axis. One of the key elements is that it’s well shielded, guarding against stray emissions from getting in – or out. It’s interesting that almost all of America’s Cat5 Ethernet wiring is UTP, Unshielded Twisted Pair, while Europe uses only STP, shielded cable.

Another factor for the simplicity and universal operation of coax rests in the properties of RF technology. RF works as well over the air as it does over cable (the clue is RF stands for Radio Frequency). Obviously, satellite and off-air broadcasters use RF to send channels to your antenna or dish. Your local cable providers also get their national channels via satellite as well. RF channels can also be sent over fiber and RF-over- Cat5 distribution systems.

It’s no wonder that it’s still important to include coax wiring in new construction. There really isn’t any other viable carrier for facility-wide media distribution. Cat 5 twisted-pair video routing is very expensive and limited by distance. Adoption of IPTV video is still in its infancy, limited by bandwidth, the expense of new equipment and software updates, and the knowledge that anything installed today will be obsolete in the next few years.

In contrast, RF works today, isn’t expensive to implement, and doesn’t need a new department or staff to just to keep it going every day.

What kinds of coax cable are available?