Guided Media and Unguided Media (with difference)

The key difference between guided and unguided media is that in guided media, the signals travel through a physical medium while in unguided media, the signals travel through the air.

In data communication, the transmitter sends the signals and the receiver receives them. The transmission medium is the path between the transmitter and the receiver.

Types of Transmission Media:
  • Guided Media
  • Unguided media.

What is guided media ?

In guided media, the signals pass through a solid medium. Transmission capacity depends on factors such as length, medium, etc. Few guided supports are twisted pair, coaxial cable and optical fiber.

Types of Guided media:

  1. Coaxial cable
  2. Twisted-pair cable
  3. Fiber optic cable.

Coiled Cables:

Pair of coiled Cable transmits analog and digital signals. It consists of two insulated copper wires arranged in a spiral. Twisting helps reduce interference between adjacent pairs of a cable. In addition, there are two types of twisted pairs; these are the shielded twisted pair (STP) and the unshielded twisted pair (UDP).
transmission media coiled cable
Fig.01 Coiled Cable

Coaxial Cables:

The coaxial cable is a better method of communication because it requires low cost. A coaxial base-band cable enables base-band communication and uses digital signaling. The copper wire has an insulated coating and a braided external conductor. In addition, a protective plastic coating surrounds all of this. A broadband coaxial cable allows analog transmission. It uses analog signaling. A popular coaxial cable is cable television for the distribution of the television signal. In general, a coaxial cable carries high frequency signals than twisted pair cables.
Fig.02 Coaxial Cables

Fiber Optics:

Fiber optics transmit signals in the form of light. It sends them into an extremely fine medium made up of silicon or glass. The innermost part of this cable consists of a single solid dielectric cylinder surrounded by another solid electrical coating. The reflex index of the sheath is lower than the reflex index of the nucleus. As a result of this, light propagates through several total internal reflections.
Fig.03 Fiber Optics

On the positive side, optical fiber reduces noise, attenuation and offers a higher bandwidth than that of twisted cable and coaxial cable. Although it has many positive points, it also has disadvantages. In other words, the installation and maintenance costs of optical fiber are high.

What is unguided media ?

Wireless communication uses the unguided medium in which signals travel through the air. The method is desirable in places where it is difficult to route a physical cable between the two ends. Radio waves, microwaves and infrared waves are just a few examples of unguided media.
Radio waves are low frequency signals and propagate in all directions. Therefore, there is no need to align the transmitting and receiving antennas. However, it is suitable for long distance broadcasting.

On the other hand, the microwave has a higher frequency than radio waves. However, the distance that a signal can travel depends on the height of the antenna. In addition, the microwave requires line of sight transmission. Cell phones, satellite networks, and wireless local area networks use microwaves.

Infrared waves cannot pass much through obstacles. Therefore, they are used for short distance communication. Devices like TV remote controls and VCRs use infrared waves.

What is the difference between guided and unguided media

Guided media vs unguided media

Guided media is a medium that sends signals over a solid physical path. Unguided media is media that transmits signals through free space.
There is a specific direction for sending signals. There is no particular direction to send signals.
Used in wired transmission Help with wireless transmission
Twisted pair, coaxial cable and optical fiber Radio wave, microwave and infrared

Guided Media are those media that provide a conduit from one device to another. Guided Transmission Media uses a "cabling" system that guides the data signals along a specific path while Unguided Transmission Media consists of a means for the data signals to travel but nothing to guide them along a specific path. It passes through a vacuum; it is independent of a physical pathway.

Summary - Guided Media vs. Unguided Media

Guided and unguided supports are two types of transmission media. The difference between guided and unguided supports is that, in guided supports, the signals travel through a physical medium while the latter travel through the air.

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