Thickwire Ethernet Definition

Thickwire Ethernet, also called 10Base5 Ethernet, is an older Ethernet standard that uses a relatively thick coaxial cable as the transmission medium.

Coaxial cable is a type of cable for high bandwidth use that typically consists of a single copper wire that is surrounded by a layer of insulation and then by a grounded shield of braided wire or an extruded metal tube. This, in turn, is usually wrapped in another layer of insulation and, finally, in an outer protective layer.

Ethernet is by far the most commonly used LAN (local area network) architecture. Various versions have been developed for different transmission media, including fiber Ethernet and wireless Ethernet.

Thickwire Ethernet was the first widely accepted 10Mbps (megabits per second) networking standard, and it was widely deployed for network backbones. It had a maximum transmission distance of about 500 meters.

The double-shielded RG8 coaxial cable specified for thickwire Ethernet had a diameter of 0.4 inches. In addition to this thickness, it had the disadvantages of being relatively inflexible and generally difficult to work with, including being difficult to connect to individual hosts and requiring precise termination at its ends.

The subsequently developed thinwire Ethernet, also called 10Base2, provided the same bandwidth but specified a much thinner (0.2 inches), more flexible and easier-to-use coaxial cable. However, it had a substantially shorter transmission distance of 185m.

This, in turn, was largely replaced by 10Base-T, which provided the same 10Mbps capacity over unshielded twisted pair copper wire cable. This type of cable has the advantages of being much less expensive, thinner, extremely flexible and easy to work with, including ease of connecting to hosts. The main disadvantage as compared with thickwire was that the transmission distance without repeaters is only about 100m.

Subsequent advances in hardware and media together with new Ethernet standards have made both thickwire and thinwire virtually obsolete. These include standards for higher speeds over twisted pair cable (e.g., 100Base-T and gigabit Ethernet) as well as for optical fiber cable and radio waves.

Created November 6, 2005.
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