Coaxial Cable Length: Optimal Factors and Choices

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Coaxial cables, commonly known as “coax”, are a type of electrical cable used for transmitting high-frequency signals like phone lines, cable TV, internet, and cell boosters. They are composed of an inner conductor surrounded by a concentric conducting shield, separated by a dielectric insulating material. Many coaxial cables also have a protective outer sheath or jacket to enhance their durability.

The length of a coaxial cable is crucial in determining signal quality and strength for various applications. Each type of coaxial cable has maximum support distances for different broadband cabling applications. These distances also referred to as the “channel”, are the maximum allowed from powered device to powered device, including patch cables.

Understanding the different types of coaxial cables, their physical and electrical properties, and their effect on signal transmission is essential when selecting the appropriate cable for specific applications. Factors such as cable connectors and interference as well as shielding also play a crucial role in selecting the right coaxial cable for the desired usage.

Key Takeaways

  • Coaxial cables are used for transmitting high-frequency signals, with various cable types suited to different applications
  • The length of a coaxial cable affects signal quality, strength, and support distances for broadband cabling applications
  • Factors like cable composition, interference, and shielding are important considerations when choosing the right type of coaxial cable.

Coaxial Cable Composition

Inner Conductor

The coaxial cable’s inner conductor is typically a single copper or copper-coated steel wire. It is responsible for carrying the Radio Frequency (RF) signals within the cable. The use of copper provides excellent electrical conductivity, ensuring low signal loss and a stable transmission.

Dielectric Insulator

Surrounding the inner conductor is the dielectric insulator, often made of plastic materials such as polyethylene. The dielectric insulator plays a crucial role in maintaining a constant distance between the inner conductor and the outer conductor. This allows the coaxial cable to effectively transmit signals with minimal interference and signal loss.

Outer Conductor

A critical component of coaxial cables is the outer conductor, which typically consists of a concentric aluminum or copper shield. This shield’s primary function is to protect the inner conductor from external noise and electromagnetic interference (EMI), ensuring clean, stable signal transmission. Additionally, the outer conductor can act as a return path for the signal, completing the electrical circuit.


The outermost layer of the coaxial cable is the jacket, often made of rubber or other protective materials. The jacket serves the dual purpose of protecting the inner components from physical damage and providing a barrier against environmental factors such as moisture, temperature fluctuations, and UV exposure. This robust shield ensures durability and long-lasting performance for various applications, including telephone trunk lines, cable television signals, and cell phone boosters.

Understanding Cable Types

When discussing coaxial cables, it is essential to have a thorough understanding of the different cable types, primarily the RG Series and LMR Series. These series have their specifications and applications, which will be briefly discussed below.

RG Series

The RG Series (Radio Guide) is a popular type of coaxial cable due to its versatility and wide range of applications. Some common RG cables include:

  • RG-59: Commonly used for cable television signals, this cable type is also suitable for closed-circuit television (CCTV) and video surveillance systems. RG-59 has a moderate attenuation level and can accommodate signal frequencies up to 1 GHz. It is not recommended for high-frequency applications.
  • RG-8: With a larger diameter, RG-8 cable is designed for high power and distance applications, such as amateur radio, wireless networks, and cellular phone connections. This cable can carry high-frequency signals with relatively low losses compared to RG-59.
  • RG-11: Featuring even lower attenuation and a larger diameter than RG-8, RG-11 is used for longer transmission distances and higher power applications. It is often found in cable television installations where the signal must travel considerable distances without losing quality.

With various connector options available, such as BNC, SMA, SMB, and F, the RG Series caters to a diverse set of uses in the communications industry.

LMR Series

The LMR Series, often referred to as Low Loss Cable or simply LMR, is another critical type of coaxial cable. Distinguished by its superior performance in terms of signal loss and quality, LMR cables are a popular choice for many critical applications.

Due to the different cable sizes and characteristics, LMR cables offer lower attenuation rates than RG series cables, making them ideal for high-frequency applications, extended transmission distances, and low-noise environments. Additionally, LMR cables have a shielding design that helps reduce electromagnetic interference (EMI), thus ensuring better signal quality.

In summary, RG and LMR series of coaxial cables have unique attributes that make them suitable for specific situations. While the RG series offers versatility in use and budget-friendliness, LMR series stands out for its low signal losses and quality. To select the right cable for your application, consider factors such as frequency range, distance, signal quality, and budget constraints.

Physical Properties

Length and Thickness

Coaxial cables come in various lengths and thicknesses, depending on the application. The length of a coaxial cable is typically measured in meters or feet, while the thickness is specified with a unique diameter size. The diameter of the cable is determined by factors such as the conductor’s size, the dielectric material used, and the shielding layers.

Longer coaxial cables can experience more signal loss compared to shorter ones. This attenuation affects the overall signal quality and might require the use of signal boosters or repeaters for longer distances.


Generally, coaxial cables are flexible, allowing them to bend around corners and conform to different spaces. The flexibility of a coaxial cable depends on its construction and varies from one type to another. Thinner cables with smaller diameters tend to be more adaptable, while thicker and larger cables may be less flexible.

The materials used in the cables can also influence their flexibility. For example, cables with solid conductors can be less flexible than those with stranded conductors.


Coaxial cables are designed to be durable and resistant to various physical conditions, ensuring continuous transmission of signals. The cables’ outer sheath or jacket provides protection against environmental factors like moisture, temperature changes, and physical wear.

The strength of the cable depends on its construction and the materials used. For instance, cables with a steel braid or aluminum outer conductor may offer more mechanical strength than those with other materials.

In summary, the physical properties of coaxial cables, such as length, thickness, flexibility, and strength, play a crucial role in determining their suitability for specific applications. Understanding these properties can help users select the most appropriate cable type for their needs, ensuring optimum signal transmission and minimal signal loss.

Electrical Characteristics


Impedance is an important factor in coaxial cables, as it refers to the opposition posed to the flow of an alternating current. Coaxial cables generally have an impedance of 50 or 75 ohms, depending on the application. This characteristic impedance is essential to maintain signal integrity and minimize reflections or signal loss.


Attenuation is the reduction of signal strength as it travels through the coaxial cable. This phenomenon occurs due to electrical resistance, dielectric loss, and radiation loss. Longer cable lengths and higher frequencies tend to have higher attenuation values, which can lead to signal distortion if not properly accounted for during cable selection.


Resistance in coaxial cables is influenced by the materials used in the inner conductor and the shield. It plays a role in power loss and signal attenuation. In general, lower-resistance materials such as copper are preferred for their ability to minimize power loss and maintain signal integrity.


Inductance is the property of coaxial cables that relate to the generation of a magnetic field around the cable as a result of current flow. This magnetic field can lead to signal interference and noise, so minimizing cable inductance is important. A lower inductance value helps to preserve signal integrity at high frequencies.


Capacitance in coaxial cables is a result of the interaction of the inner conductor, the dielectric, and the outer shield. It can affect signal transmission by causing phase shifts and dissipation. Lower capacitance values are desirable in high-frequency applications, as they help maintain signal integrity and minimize distortion.

Dielectric Constant

The dielectric constant of a coaxial cable relates to its insulating material’s ability to store electrical energy. A lower dielectric constant results in less signal distortion and attenuation. Common dielectric materials in coaxial cables include air, polyethylene, and Teflon, each with differing dielectric constants and performance characteristics.


Permeability refers to the ability of a coaxial cable’s shielding to resist magnetic field penetration, which affects signal integrity. The shielding material and configuration can influence permeability. Proper cable shielding is essential to minimize electromagnetic interference and maintain signal quality.

Current Waves

Current waves in coaxial cables are the movement of electrical signals through the cable and are impacted by factors such as impedance, attenuation, and dielectric constant. When current waves encounter a change in impedance or dielectric properties, reflections or signal losses can occur. Ensuring proper cable selection and design helps maintain signal integrity and reduce losses due to current wave interactions.

Interference and Shielding

Electromagnetic Interference

Coaxial cables are electrical transmission lines used to pass high radio frequency (RF) signals from one point to another with low signal loss. They have many applications, including phone lines, cable TV, internet, and cell boosters. However, electromagnetic interference (EMI) can impact the performance of coaxial cables. EMI originates from various sources such as electrical cables, television, appliance and computer power cables, and even telephone wiring. To maintain signal integrity, it’s essential to minimize EMI in the coaxial cabling system.

Shielding Efficiency

Shielding is a crucial aspect of coaxial cables, designed to protect the power-carrying conductors from signal interference. Shielding has two primary functions: (1) reflecting the interfering signals, and (2) absorbing the noise and conducting it to the ground. The efficiency of shielding is directly related to the materials used, the design of the shield, and the frequency of the signals passing through the cable. Higher quality materials and more effective designs result in better shielding effectiveness.

Shield Types

There are various types of shielding available for coaxial cables to accommodate different applications and ensure optimal performance. Below are the common shield types:

  • Braided Shield: A braided shield is made of small strands of metal wires (usually copper) woven together in a uniform pattern. This type of shield is flexible, making it ideal for applications requiring the cable to bend. However, it may have lower coverage and efficiency compared to other shield types.
  • Foil Shield: A foil shield consists of a thin layer of metal (typically aluminum) wrapped around the cable’s dielectric. The foil shield offers higher coverage than a braided shield, but it is less flexible and may be more prone to damage if the cable needs to be frequently bent or flexed.
  • Dual Shield: A dual shield combines both the braided and foil shields. This combination offers better shield efficiency and greater coverage, ensuring optimal protection against interference.
  • Quad Shield: As the name suggests, a quad shield consists of four alternating layers of braided and foil shielding. This design offers the highest level of shield efficiency and maximum protection against EMI.

Regardless of the shield type, proper grounding is essential to maintain the shield’s effectiveness. By choosing appropriate shielding for your coaxial cable, you can ensure improved signal quality and reduced interference.

Signal Transmission

Transmission Line Theory

Coaxial cables are a type of transmission line used for sending electrical signals, specifically high radio frequency (RF) signals, from one point to another with low signal loss. Transmission lines are essential for many applications, such as phone lines, cable TV, internet, and cell signal boosters. The complex impedance of transmission lines, like coaxial cables, can greatly affect signal transmission quality.

Signal Loss

A critical factor in signal transmission via coaxial cables is signal loss. Losses can occur due to a number of reasons, such as cable length, the quality of the dielectric material, and the frequency used. In general, signal loss increases as the length of the cable increases. While coaxial cables can be run for several hundred meters, the quality of the signal may degrade over long lengths.

Frequency and Wavelength

The frequency of the electrical signal being transmitted and its corresponding wavelength also have a significant impact on coaxial cable performance. The phase velocity, which dictates how fast electrical signals travel along a transmission line, depends on the construction of the line. Thus, the electrical length of a conductor with the same physical length can vary depending on the type of transmission line. For example, at a given frequency, different conductors will have different electrical lengths. As a result, choosing the appropriate frequency and cable type is essential to ensure optimal signal transmission over coaxial cables.


Data Transmission

Coaxial cables have a range of applications, one of which is data transmission. For instance, they are used in computer network connections such as Ethernet. Cable modems often use coaxial cables for internet connectivity, providing stable and reliable signal quality over long distances. The maximum distance that broadband coaxial cables can support varies depending on the specific type of cable and its applications. These cables facilitate the distribution of cable television signals, offering an efficient method to transmit digital audio and video content to users.


In the realm of telecommunications, coaxial cables have been widely utilized since their invention. Telephone companies use these cables as trunk lines to transmit high frequency voice signals and data between different facilities. The low signal loss characteristic of coaxial cables makes them ideal for long-distance communications. In addition, they are also employed in cell phone boosters to enhance mobile signal reception in areas where network connections may be poor.

Antenna Connections

Coaxial cables play an essential role in connecting radio transmitters and receivers to their antennas. They are commonly found in ham radio applications, where amateur radio enthusiasts need reliable cables to transmit and receive signals over the airwaves. The cables’ ability to maintain signal integrity at high radio frequencies makes them an optimal choice for antenna connections. Furthermore, they are used in residential and commercial settings for attaching antennas to routers and other networking devices, ensuring stable wireless internet access.

Cable Connectors

Coaxial connectors are essential components in setting up and maintaining a reliable connection for cable modems, routers, and other devices that utilize coaxial cables. These connectors interface with the inner conductor and outer shield of a coaxial cable, ensuring a stable and efficient passage of high-frequency signals.

There are various types of coaxial connectors, such as BNC, F-type, SMA, and N-type connectors, each tailored for specific applications and devices. For instance, F-type connectors are commonly used with cable modems and television systems, while BNC connectors are found in radio and video equipment.

To achieve optimal performance and minimize signal loss, it is crucial to select the correct connector for your cable type and device. Compatibility, impedance, and frequency range are essential factors to consider when choosing a coaxial connector.

When installing a cable modem or router, the quality of the connection greatly depends on proper installation and handling of coaxial connectors. Some essential installation tips include:

  • Ensuring the connector and cable are compatible and suitable for the intended application
  • Cutting the cable cleanly and stripping it to the correct length for the connector
  • Firmly securing the connector onto the cable without causing damage to the inner conductor or insulation

In addition to the proper installation of a connector, it is essential to consider the cable length. Using excessively long cables may result in signal degradation and reduced performance. Refer to manufacturer specifications or consult an expert to determine the appropriate length for a particular application.

Lastly, remember to periodically inspect and maintain your coaxial connectors and cables. Corrosion, physical damage, and loose connections can negatively impact the quality of your connection. Regular maintenance can prolong the lifespan of your equipment and ensure a reliable and stable connection for your cable modem, router, or other devices using coaxial cables.

Coaxial Cables in the Market

Coaxial cables are available in various lengths and materials for different applications. Copper-based and aluminum coaxial cables are the two primary options in the market. Copper-based cables generally provide better signal transmission, while aluminum cables are more cost-effective and lightweight.

These cables are widely used for cable television (cable TV) and cable internet connectivity due to their ability to carry high-frequency signals with minimal loss. Cable operators often rely on coaxial cables to transmit signals from their broadcasting stations to individual homes or personal antennas. Signal boosters, such as those offered by Wilson Amplifiers, can be added to improve the quality of reception for cable TV and cell phone signals.

In the shipping industry, coaxial cables serve as essential components in deploying GPS and communication systems on ships. These cables are designed to withstand outdoor conditions and resist moisture, making them suitable for maritime environments.

There are various types of coaxial cables for both indoor and outdoor applications. Indoor coaxial cables are typically more flexible, as they need to be routed easily within buildings and homes. On the other hand, outdoor coaxial cables have a more robust construction to protect against harsh weather conditions and moisture exposure.

The cost of coaxial cables can vary based on the length, materials used, and other factors such as shielding and connectors. As the demand for high-speed internet and cable TV services continues to grow, the market for coaxial cables maintains steady growth. This trend is further driven by the increasing need for cables that can support applications such as personal antennas, signal boosters, GPS, and cell phone boosters.

In summary, the coaxial cable market offers a variety of options to cater to various industry needs, including cable TV, cable internet, shipping industry, and personal communication devices. As technology continues to advance, the demand for high-quality and cost-effective coaxial cables remains strong, ensuring their relevance in the market for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does cable length affect signal quality?

Yes, cable length affects signal quality. As the length of a coaxial cable increases, the signal loss becomes higher. Signal loss can result in reduced picture and sound quality for television and slower internet speeds.

What is the maximum distance for RG6 cable?

The maximum distance for an RG6 cable varies depending on the application. For example, in broadband coaxial cabling applications, the absolute maximum distance allowed from one powered device to another (including patch cables) is typically up to 300 meters.

How to minimize signal loss in long cables?

To minimize signal loss in long coaxial cables, consider using higher-quality cables with better shielding and lower attenuation. Additionally, using signal amplifiers and properly terminating the cable ends can help maintain strong signal strength.

Which coaxial cable type is best for TV?

The best coaxial cable type for TV depends on specific requirements and how it will be used. Generally, RG6 cables are commonly used for cable television as they offer lower signal loss for high-frequency signals than the older RG59 cables.

How long do coax cables last?

The lifespan of coax cables can vary depending on their usage, installation, and environmental factors. However, a well-installed and maintained coaxial cable can last for over 20 years. It is essential to periodically inspect cables for damage and replace them as needed to ensure optimal performance.

What are the common connectors for coax cables?

Common connectors for coaxial cables include F-type connectors (widely used for cable television), BNC connectors (common in security cameras and video applications), and SMA connectors (often used in radio frequency and wireless communication devices).

Last Updated on September 22, 2023 by Josh Mahan

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