A coax cable, or coaxial cable, is a heavy, durable cable used for various types of residential and commercial installations. It is most familiar to many consumers as the conduit that carries cable television signals into homes and businesses.
A coaxial cable has an inner cable surrounded by an insulating agent, usually made of lightweight plastic. A thin braided mesh shield encloses the insulator and its central wire, with another insulating outside jacket covering it all. The shield is grounded at both ends of the cable and prevents outside electromagnetic fields from causing interference in the system. This type of cable is flexible and can run through a wide variety of spaces to deliver quality digital signals.
Types of Coaxial Cable
Coaxial cable can carry digital signals for internet connections, cable television, and other new technology. Some types of coaxial cables have different uses in a residential or commercial project.
Hard Line Coaxial Cable
Hardline cables are often used for high signal strength applications, as with radio transmitters or other devices. Hardline cables typically measure up to or more than 1/2 inch thick. For heavy-duty signal transmissions, a variety of popular brands are available. Each of these produces many specialized types, with varying properties and capacities.
RG-6 Coaxial Cable
RG-6 is likely the most familiar coaxial cable on this list. Used for relaying cable TV and other signals, "RG" stands for “radio guide” and references the capacity of the cable. However, according to some consumer advocates, an RG rating does not often accurately indicate the overall quality of the cable or the materials that it is made with.
Since RG-6 is used for high-definition signals, techs from cable companies are often replacing RG-5 cables with RG-6 in clients' homes. As the current standard, RG-6 is the desirable cable rating for today’s home and commercial entertainment systems. RG-6 comes in several varieties, some of which have more waterproofing for underwater or moisture-prone areas of installation.
Semi-Rigid Coaxial Cable
This type of coaxial cable has a harder shielding metal and is, therefore, less flexible. It may be useful in situations where cables do not have to curve around obstacles.
This extra-strength cable has an additional shield, with the conductor wire in the center, covered with an insulator, which in turn is covered with a first braided mesh shield which is covered again with another layer of insulating material all around.
This is again wrapped with a second braided shield before finishing with the outside protective jacket. It can be helpful in conditions where the cable may be vulnerable to high-strength electromagnetic forces.
This cable is very similar to the coaxial, with the exception that the center of the cable has two separate conductor wires instead of just one. This cable represents another alternative to conventional coaxial cables for a number of different installation types.
Working Coaxial Cables
When working with coaxial cables on your television, take care to avoid "signal leakage." This occurs when cable systems are not fully contained within the cable system and can cause the signal strength to deteriorate and leak into the surrounding area. Cable TV companies monitor this and may even disconnect your service as a result.
Understanding the difference between these types of coaxial cables can help homeowners and others make informed choices when installing cabling in homes, small businesses, and other settings.
Further Reading: How to Fix a Broken Coax Cable.