What Are the Different Types of Cables? 16 Types

Without cables, we would not enjoy the modern conveniences we have today. You would not be able to have lights at night, watch TV, and enjoy all the household gadgets that make your everyday life easy and convenient.

In this article, I’ll describe the different types of cables, including the purpose of each type. What are the different types of cables?

The 16 types of cables that play very significant roles in our modern society are as follows:

  1. Single Cable – Occasionally used to designate ‘wire.’
  2. Flexible Cables – These cables can withstand bending, rolling, and other stressful factors.
  3. Portable Cord – Flexible cable for gadgets that need alternating current.
  4. Submersible Cable – Used in submersible applications.
  5. Coaxial Cable – For radio frequency signal applications, such as the distribution systems for cable TV.
  6. Paired Cable – With two individually insulated conductors often used in DC or low-frequency AC applications.
  7. Fiber-optic Cable – Cables made of thin threads of glass that can optically transmit data.
  8. Direct-buried Cable – Waterproof and shockproof cables buried underneath the earth.
  9. Multicore Cable – With more than one wire and comes with a cable jacket cover.
  10. Ribbon Cable – Designed for low-level voltages and when you need multiple wires. You can easily flex them, too.
  11. Filled Cable – Cables filled with gel-like substances.
  12. Metallic Sheathed Cable – Also called armored cable, AC, or BX.
  13. Non-metallic Sheathed Cable – Also called non-metallic building wire, NM, or NM-B.
  14. Structured Cabling – A system of cables used as a wired network for data transmission.
  15. Heliax Cable – A brand of different kinds of electric cables.
  16. Shielded Cable – Designed for sensitive electronic circuits and protects high-voltage applications.

Read on to learn more about these different types of cables that affect our everyday lives.

What Are the Different Types of Cables?

1. Single Cable

A single core or single cable is a single strand THHN wire often made of copper or aluminum. Residential homes widely use this type of cable when it comes to electrical wiring connections.

In residential and business applications, several of these wires can be easily drawn together inside a conduit pipe. We use single cables to conduct electricity to our household appliances, lights, and other modern electrical conveniences.

different types of cable

These wires are good at conducting electrical current, making them a preferred material for domestic purposes. Single cables have very high ambient wires. Apart from being good electrical conductors, they are also highly resistant to heat. They don’t burn or melt that easily.

2. Flexible Cables

The design of this type of cable features flexibility in all kinds of challenging positions. The application of reasonable force to these cables won’t be a problem since they easily bend.

Typically, there are four kinds of challenging positions that these wires adopt: bending flex (or tic toc), variable/random flex, rolling flex, and torsional flex.

You can use these cables in various applications where extreme flexing stress and motion are present. Some of these applications include repetitive bending and torsion stress, automation networking, robotics, machine tools, and microprocessors, including computer interconnections, data processing equipment, assembly lines, and many more.

3. Portable Cord

A portable cord is a cable that has multiple conductors or wires. They also have multiple outlets where you can plug electrical cords. Portable cords are handy when you temporarily connect an appliance or gadget to the main electrical outlets.

You can use this type of cable whenever you need to extend the reach of electricity indoors or outdoors temporarily. Basically, portable cords are power extension cords for home appliances, small machinery, small electric motors, and power tools, among others.

4. Submersible Cable

A submersible cable is a lead wire designed for use in a submersible motor. It is waterproof, flexible, and flame retardant. This cable is often used for irrigation equipment and submersible pumps, where contact with water is always present. The electric wiring is usually located at the electric motor of the deep well pump and water wellheads.

5. Coaxial Cable

A coaxial cable has copper wires as the inner conductor of electricity. Foam insulation also covers coaxial cables. This insulation is wrapped symmetrically by a woven braided metal shield. A plastic jacket covers the whole assembly, too.

This design configuration enables the installation of cable runs next to metallic objects. Examples of metallic objects are water pipes and gutters without power losses, which happen in other types of electric wires or transmission lines. Audio-video networking and computer networking typically use these cables.

6. Paired Cable

Paired cables are the electrical wiring types that connect business and residential computer users to their telephone providers. These cables have two individual wires twisted together and run parallel to each other.

This style of construction reduces electromagnetic induction or crosstalk between the pairs of wires. The number of wires increases the cable’s resistance to outside interference. Paired cables are mainly used as telephone cables.

7. Fiber-optic Cable

Fiber-optic cables consist of a bundle of glass threads. Every thread in the cable can transmit information modulated onto waves of light. As such, they can transmit optical data from a light source to a receiving device.

The design and structure of a fiber-optic cable are complex. Typically, it has an outer optical casing that covers and traps the light inside a central core. The core has two configurations: single-mode or multi-mode.

There may be a slight difference between the two modes. However, this difference results in considerable enhancement to the usage and performance efficiency of these types of cables.

8. Direct-buried Cable

Next on our list for ‘what are the different types of cables’ is the direct-buried cable. Direct-buried cable types are specially designed bundled fiber-optic or coaxial cables. They don’t require additional insulation, sheathing, or piping before being buried underground.

The typical construction of this type of cable will include a heavy metal core consisting of several layers of banded metal sheathing, thick rubber covering, shock-absorbent gel, and a thread-fortified tape that is waterproof wrapped.

This complex construction makes direct-buried cables extremely tolerant of moisture, changes in temperature, and the damaging effects of the elements. Communication and transmission installations often require this type of cable.

9. Multicore Cable

Multicore cable types have two or more conductors individually insulated from each other. These cables are designed to reduce noise, crosstalk, and hum. In other words, they protect the integrity of the signal.

There are two main users of multicore cables: the entertainment industry and the industrial sector. The entertainment industry, which covers concert venues, theaters, and other entertainment joints, uses multicore cables. Moreover, these cables are useful when processing and transmitting audiovisuals, including data and power signals. They help avoid tangled and mixed-up cables as well.

types of cable wires

Multicore cables are good conductors of electricity, too. This feature is essential in many industrial facilities. They can support heavy industrial machinery and handle heavy electrical loads.

10. Ribbon Cable

Ribbon cables have several insulated wires that run parallel to each other. This type of construction enables them to be useful in the simultaneous transmission of data. Their primary use is to interconnect network devices. Computer motherboards use ribbon cables to connect them to their CPUs.

These types of cables are flat in shape, just like ribbons. They are also called flat-twin cables and multi-wire planar electrical cables. A statement from the Optical Communications Essentials book states that there are 4-12 wires in a typical ribbon cable.

11. Filled Cable

The telecommunications industry mainly uses filled cables. Inside the jackets or sheaths of these cables are non-hygroscopic materials or gel-like materials called icky-picks. These gel-like substances fill up the entire spaces between the inside parts of the cable.

This cable type has a construction that prevents moisture from penetrating small leaks in the sheath cover. If moisture penetrates the cable’s internal parts, it can migrate to the other parts of the cable and affect its efficiency in transmitting data.

12. Metallic Sheathed Cable

Metallic sheathed cables have protective coverings made of metals. This metal cover protects the electrically conducting wires from damage. Mineral insulated cables are one example of this type of cable. Other considered metallic sheathed cables include Teck cables and BX cables.

13. Non-metallic Sheathed Cable

Non-metallic sheathed cables are the electrical wires that you see running inside your home and most residential structures. They are also called “Romex,” which is the trademark of one of the most common brands of electrical wires.

Outer plastic sheaths cover NM flexible cables. This cover protects two or more insulated wires and a bare copper grounding wire. Also, an NM cable can either be ‘two-wire’ or ‘three-wire.’ This designation simply indicates the number of insulated wires that are inside the cable.

14. Structured Cabling

Structured cabling refers more to the system rather than the cable itself. It is the wired network that transmits data. Structured cabling also connects users, technology, and systems. As such, structured cabling includes equipment, hardware, management tools, work areas, pathways, facilities, and the actual cables.

They constitute a system that enables wired and wireless transmission of information. This system is a strategic asset that allows data flow and the sharing of IT resources in all areas of an organization.

15. Shielded Cable

This type of cable is designed for sensitive electronic circuits. The shield in this cable can protect high-voltage applications as well. It has one or two insulated wires covered with an aluminum Mylar, a woven braided shield, a layer of non-conducting tape, or non-braided spiral winding of copper tape.

These covering materials enhance the cable’s ability to transmit signals. They remove external interference in radio and irregularities in the frequency of power, too. Shielded cables are typically used to transmit high voltage currents.

16. Heliax Cable

Heliax cables are trademarked cables and are not a type of cable design. Allied Wire and Cable, an American company that manufactures all kinds of electrical wires, produces this type of cable. These cables can transmit AM/FM radio and UHF/VHS TV signals, including other communication systems.

These cables are available in different wire sizes and configurations, as well as different jacket materials. Heliax cables are available from very thin 0.195” to 2” diameter electrical wires, which you can use in various applications.

Conclusion – What Are the Different Types of Cables?

So, to recap, what are the different types of cable? The different types of cable that we use every day for our work or play are as follows:

  1. Single Cable – Occasionally used to designate ‘wire.’
  2. Flexible Cables – Can withstand rolling, bending, and other stressful factors.
  3. Portable Cord – Flexible cable for AC power in portable applications.
  4. Submersible Cable – The type of cable used in submersible applications.
  5. Coaxial Cable – For radio frequency signals (e.g., cable television distribution systems).
  6. Paired Cable – Composed of two individually insulated conductors usually used in DC or low-frequency AC applications.
  7. Fiber-optic Cable – Made of thin threads of glass, which can optically transmit data.
  8. Direct-buried Cable – These cables are waterproof and shockproof buried underneath the earth.
  9. Multicore Cable – Consists of more than one wire and covered by a cable jacket.
  10. Ribbon Cable – Useful when you require many wires. This type of cable can easily flex. It can also handle low-level voltages.
  11. Filled Cable – Cables that come with gel-like substances.
  12. Metallic Sheathed Cable – Also called armored cable, AC, or BX.
  13. Non-metallic Sheathed Cable – Also called non-metallic building wire, NM, or NM-B.
  14. Structured Cabling – A system of cables used as a wired network for data transmission.
  15. Heliax Cable – A brand of different kinds of electric cables.
  16. Shielded Cable – Used for sensitive electronic circuits. It also protects high-voltage applications.