What Is a Communication Cable?

Communication cable is a low-voltage cable used to transmit data and information. Most are coaxial cables, fiber optic cables, data and ethernet cables or twisted wire pair cables. Communication cables come in many forms, including screened and unscreened variants and with two or more small-diameter conductors. Some have twisted pairs that reduce crosstalk. Common applications for communication cables include control circuits and industrial equipment.


Characteristics of Communication and Data Cable

Communication cables generally have a voltage rating, although some types go up to 600 volts. Conductors may be solid or stranded and diameters range between 40 and 14 American Wire Gauge. In most instances, manufacturers color code conductors or use markings to identify specific conductors. Our selection includes cables conforming to various National Electrical Code types including CL2, CM, CMR and CMH.  

Communication Cable

Communication cables feature multiple twisted pairs with a maximum voltage rating of either 150 volts or 300 volts. The number of pairs is from one up to 27 pairs. Depending on the specification, communication cables may have an external foil shield or no shield. In some instances, cables use individually shielded pairs that provide improved electromagnetic interference properties. Communication cables have tinned copper conductors. Insulation materials include polypropylene (PP) and polyvinyl chloride and PVC jackets. Available conductor sizes are from 18 to 22 AWG. Common UL styles include UL 2464 and UL 2576.  

Signal Cable

Signal cables have much in common with communication cables, except for a greater number of pairs. AWG sizes vary from 16 to 28 AWG and conductor materials are bare or tinned copper. Like communication cables, you can select shielded and nonshielded versions. Most versions have a foil or copper braided shield, PVC insulation and a PVC jacket. Voltage ratings include 300, 350 and 600 volts. All signal cables conform to UL 2646 and some also meet European DIN and Canadian Standards Association requirements.  

Shielded Cables  

Shielded Computer Cables

Shielded multiconductor computer cables use an aluminum polyester foil or combined foil and tinned copper braid. Most types are low capacitance for better data transmission properties. Some types have multiple conductors, while others have individual twisted pairs. These cables are limited to indoor use and available sizes are from 18 to 24 AWG. Insulation materials include polyethylene (PE), PP and PVC. Voltage ratings are 30 volts or 300 volts. UL styles include UL 2464, UL 2493 and UL 2919.

Telephone and Audio Cable

AWC telephone and audio cables have four conductors arranged into two twisted pairs and an external shield. These cables use stranded 26 AWG conductors mainly made from tinned copper, although some versions use bare copper conductors. Insulation materials are PP, PE and PVC and the jacket material is PVC. Voltage ratings are 150 volts and 300 volts.

Shielded Multiconductor Cable

Shielded multiconductor cables have between two and 12 color-coded conductors and an external shield. Available sizes are 12 to 24 AWG. Insulation materials include PE, PP, PVC and rubber and a jacket made from PVC or rubber. The most common voltage rating is 300 volts, although some types go up to 600 volts.  

Special Types of Communication Cable

Ribbon Cable

Ribbon cables are flat multicore cables with parallel conductors spaced 0.05 inches apart. The most common conductor size is 26 AWG and many types have an aluminum foil shield. The number of conductors conforms to appropriate IDC connector sizes and varies from six up to 64. The voltage ratings of ribbon cables are 30, 150 and 300 volts.

Halogen Free

Halogen-free cables from Alpha Wire have Low Smoke Zero-Halogen (LSZH) insulation and jacket materials that emit less smoke when exposed to fire and no toxic or corrosive substances. Available sizes are from 14 to 26 AWG. The number of conductors varies from one up to 65 and some types have twisted pairs. Voltage ratings include 300, 350 and 600 volts and some LSZH cables can withstand 105 degrees Celsius.  

Contact us for help selecting the right communication cables for your installation or information regarding custom communication cables.