A transmission medium can be broadly defined as anything that can carry information from a source to a destination. For example, the transmission medium for two people having a dinner conversation is the air. The air can also be used to convey the message in a smoke signal or semaphore. For a written message, the transmission medium might be a mail carrier, a truck, or an airplane.

Transmission Medium in Data Communications 

In telecommunications, transmission media can be divided into two broad categories: guided and unguided. Guided media include twisted-pair cable, coaxial cable, and fiber-optic cable. Unguided medium is free space. Below Figure shows this taxonomy.

Guided Media

Guided media, which are those that provide a conduit from one device to another, include twisted-pair cable, coaxial cable, and fiber-optic cable.  Guided Media Data Communications A signal traveling along any of these media is directed and contained by the physical limits of the medium. Twisted-pair and coaxial cable use metallic (copper) conductors that accept and transport signals in the form of electric current. Optical fiber is a cable that accepts and transports signals in the form of light.

Twisted-Pair Cable

A twisted pair consists of two conductors (normally copper), each with its own plastic insulation, twisted together, as shown in below figure. Twisted Pair Cable Data Communications One of the wires is used to carry signals to the receiver, and the other is used only as a ground reference. The receiver uses the difference between the two. In addition to the signal sent by the sender on one of the wires, interference (noise) and crosstalk may affect both wires and create unwanted signals.

Unshielded Versus Shielded Twisted-Pair Cable

The most common twisted-pair cable used in communications is referred to as unshielded twisted-pair (UTP).IBM has also produced a version of twisted-pair cable for its use called shielded twisted-pair (STP). Unshielded Versus Shielded Twisted-Pair Cable in Data Communications. STP cable has a metal foil or braided mesh covering that encases each pair of insulated conductors. Although metal casing improves the quality of cable by preventing the penetration of noise or crosstalk, it is bulkier and more expensive.


Twisted-pair cables are used in telephone lines to provide voice and data channels. The local loop-the line that connects subscribers to the central telephone office – commonly consists of unshielded twisted-pair cables. The DSL lines that are used by the telephone companies to provide high-data-rate connections also use the high-bandwidth capability of unshielded twisted-pair cables.