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Physical communication media are the physical channels through which information istransmitted between computers in a network. Media may be classified as
bounded 
, forexample, wires, cables and optical fibres; or
unbounded 
, for example, ether or airwavesthrough which radio, microwave, infrared and other signals are transmitted.
7.1. Bounded Media
wisted-pair of wires is the main media used in local telephone communication andshort distance (less then 1 km) digital data transmission. Pairs of wires are twisted (seeFigure. 1) together to reduce interference by adjacent wires. Wires are usually made of copper. Tis medium is inexpensive and easy to install and use.
Figure 1.
A twisted pair.
Te twisted pair is used for audio telephone communication with speech signalbandwidth of 4 KHz. It, however, has a much higher bandwidth of about 50 KHz. Tetypical speed of digital signal transmission using local telephone lines is 1200 bits persecond (bps) (Also commonly quoted as 1200
bouds
). wisted pairs used to connectterminals to a computer may be used up to 9.6 Kbps if the length is less than 100 metres.Noise pick up by twisted wires limit their use. Error rates become high when the linelength goes beyond 100 metres.
Coaxial cables
offer much higher bandwidths and noise immunity. Tey are widely used in long distance telephone lines and as cables for closed circuit V. Coaxial cablesconsist of central copper wire surrounded by a eflon or PVC insulation over which asleeve of copper mesh or extruded aluminium is placed. Te metal sleeve is coveredby an outer shield of thick PVC material (see Figure. 2). Te signal is carried by theinner copper wire. Te signal is electrically shielded by the outer metal sleeve. Coaxialcables have a very high bandwidth. A 3/8 in. television cable has a bandwidth around300 Mega Hz. Te cable can carry digital signals at very high rates of 10 Mega bits persecond.Physically an
optical fibre
consists of a glass core, a plastic or glass cladding and aprotective coating. Te core diameter is between 8 and 200 micrometers. Te refractiveindex of the cladding is less than of the core. If the core has a single refractive index thenthere is an abrupt change in the index between the core and the cladding. Such a fibre
Chapter 7
PHYSICAL COMMUNICATION MEDIA
 
PHYSICAL COMMUNICATION MEDIA
44 
is called a
 step index fibre
. When the refractive index of the core changes gradually, thefibre is known as
 graded index fibre
.Light is propogated along an optical fibre as a set of guided light waves called the
modes
of the optical fibre. Depending on the geometry of the fibre and refractive index variations either a number of modes propagate or a single mode propagates. Te firstone is called
 Multimode fibre
and the second a
 single mode fibre
. Single mode propaga-tion requires a small core dimension (8 to 12 micrometers), whereas multimode propa-gation requires a larger core dimension (50 to 200 micrometers) as only with a largercore diameter the refractive index can be graded. Te most popular fibres are singlemode and multimode graded index.Single mode fibre has lower losses and higher bandwidth (3 GHz per km)whereas multimode graded index fibre has higher losses and lower bandwidth(200 MHz to 2 GHz per km). he single mode fibre is less expensive compared tomultimode fibre. For long distances single mode fibre is used and for shorter dis-tances multimode fibre is used. It is difficult to have tappings on a single mode fibrewhereas it is possible in multimode fibres. Multimode fibres are used to intercon-nect computers close together.Optical fibres have several advantages. Tey are:(i) Very high bandwidth.(ii) Protection against electromagnetic interference.(iii) More secure as they cannot be tapped easily.(iv) Light weight and no corrosion.Te major disadvantages of fibres are:(i) It is diffi cult to align and join two fibres in the field without special equipment.(ii) Tey are fragile and cannot have sharp bends.
Teflon or PVC insulationCopper conductor Copper meshor extrudedaluminiumshield
Figure 2.
A coaxial cable.
 
45 
PHYSICAL COMMUNICATION MEDIA
In fibre optic communications, electrical signals are transformed into light pulsesby a modulator, transmitted over the fibre as light waves, detected and converted backto electrical signals by photoelectric diodes. Figure 3 illustrates this.
Figure 3.
Fibre optic transmission.
Te light source used is either light emitting diode (LED) or a laser diode. Fortransmission of light over long distances with low dispersion it is necessary to havecoherent monochromatic light. Lasers provide this whereas LEDs do not. Lasers arehowever expensive compared to LED. With Led, 15 Mbps transmission has beenachieved whereas with lasers the speed is 2500 Mbps.At the receiving end of the fibre optics system, light signals are detected and con- verted back to electrical signals by photoelectric diodes. One may either use PIN diodes(
 P Insulated N channel 
) or Avalanche photodiodes (APD). APDs are more sensitive andeffective but are expensive compared to PIN diodes.Optical fibres may be used to communicate either analog or digital signals. In ana-log transmission the light intensity is varied continuously whereas in digital transmis-sion the light source is turned
on
or
off 
.
7.2. Unbounded Media
Radio waves in the Very High Frequency band (VHF) (about 300 MHz) which are notused for commercial broadcasting may be used for communication between terminalsand computers and between computers. Allocation of radio frequencies is controlledby the Government in most countries. One method of using radio waves is to use a
 packet radio.
Tis is a combined transmitter and receiver with different transmissionand receive frequencies. A packet radio is attached to each terminal and the computer(Figure 4). Information entered on a terminal is transmitted using the packet radio andreceived by the computer.Processed results are transmitted back to the terminal by the computer. One of themain disadvantages of an unbounded medium is lack of security. Te radio messagesmay be received by any one within the range of the transmitter. Te main advantage ishigh data rates which may be achieved as the usable bandwidth on a carrier of 300 MHzwould be about 100 KHz which can give digital transmission speeds of around 24 Kilobits per second. Te other advantage is the possibility of reaching rural and hilly areasnot covered by land telephone lines. VHF waves are corrupted by atmospheric noiseand special error control schemes are necessary for reliable data communication.Wireless communication is also becoming very important for communicat-ing between portable computers (laptop or notebook computers) and servers. Lap-top machines cannot have large disks and thus cannot store large files. With wireless
ElectricalSignalModulator OpticalfibreLightdetector LightsourceElectricalsignal Amplifier 

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