The 5 main types of coaxial cables


If all you want to know is what a coaxial cable is, that’s fairly straightforward.  It’s that all-too-familiar video/TV/computer cable that started life 100 years ago for telephone transmission but now transmits signals for many of our modern requirements.  Coaxial is favoured by many businesses who prefer robustness, flexibility and affordability over more modern options like optic fibre, as it is uniquely protected by layers of shielding to safeguard reliable transmission with low loss levels.  It’s therefore the cable of choice when an organisation or operation requires a proven technology that keeps evolving and won’t let hard-working and critical environments down.

But that’s not even half the story, particularly if you’re reading this because your operation needs coaxial cable but isn’t sure which type.  Well, we’re going to exclusively break down the various and complex coaxial cable types into their main categories – so you can select what’s right for your application and get back to doing it profitably.

  1. Hard line

Normally the chunkier of the coaxial cables, this range of coaxials is normally installed permanently, and characterised by a robust centre conductor made of metals such as copper but even steel or silver.  The shields themselves are also normally solid, meaning the cable can handle very high power and extremely low signal loss.

  1. Flexible

The conductor may be solid, but the cable itself is a soft polymer, making it much more flexible and therefore very adaptable no matter the shape or configuration.  The outer jacket, however, can still ably resist all sorts of environmental conditions, making this coaxial type highly popular.

  1. Semi-rigid

This coaxial cable is a half-way house between type #1 and #2, and is easy to spot thanks to the solid sheath normally made of copper.  That allows for some limited flexibility but very high levels of shielding and high frequency performance, but bear in mind that once installed, this is really a set-and-leave coaxial cable.

  1. Formable

While the copper sheath outlined above allows for only limited flexibility, the formable family of coaxial cables replaces copper with a more flexible outer metal sheath that is designed to be shape-able for your installation’s requirements.

  1. Rigid line

Rigid-line coaxial cable, on the other hand, is designed for tech limited flexibility, with the sheath perhaps more appropriate referred to as ‘tubes’.  If this type is right for your application, you’ll be purchasing yours with a set length comprised of fixed straight sections, connected if required by curved elbows.

But guess what? The various types of coaxial cable do not stop there. There are twinaxial cables with double conductors, triaxial cables with an extra copper braid for grounding and almost zero interference, and more modern evolutions such as micro coaxials, ultra high frequency coaxials, and even water-cooled coaxials – or fully custom-designed ones if your operation really demands it.

Do you know what coaxial cable your specific compute calls for?  Making the right choice depends on your application parameters, the correct cable impedance, length, attenuation and frequency, the power ratings and shielding requirements, and the correct connectors.  If it’s all too much, don’t be shy to consult with an expert.