What are Guided and Unguided media?

Telecommunication links  can broadly be classied into two categories, namely, guided media (wired) and unguided media(wireless). Both media are used for short distance (LANs, MANs) and  long distance (WANs) communication.

Guided Media or Wired links:

Examples of Wired Media

Examples of Wired Media

As the name indicates, in guided media

  • Electrical/Optical signals are passed through a solid medium (different types of cables/wires)
  • As the path traversed by the signals is guided by the size, shape and length of the wire, this type of media is called guided media. Also, in guided media, the signals are confined within the wire and do not propogate outside of the wire/media.
  • E.g., Copper Unshielded Twisted Pair (UTP), Copper Shielded Twisted Pair (STP), Copper Co-axial cables, Fiber Optic Cables.

Twisted Pair Copper:

  •  It is the most widely deployed media type across the world, as the last mile telephone link connecting  every home with the local telephone exchange is made of twisted pair copper. These telephone lines are reused as last mile DSL access links to access the internet from home.
  • They are also used in Ethernet LAN cables within homes and offices.
  • They support  low to High Data Rates (in order of Giga bits)
  • However, they are effective only upto a maximum distance of a few kilometres/miles, as the signal strength is lost significantly beyond this distance.
  • They come in two variants, namely UTP (unshielded twisted pair) and STP (shielded twisted pair). Within each variant, there are multiple sub-variants, based on the thickness of the material (like UTP-3, UTP-5, UTP-7 etc.)
  • E.g. DSL, 10/100/1000Mbps Ethernet cables

Copper Co-axial Cables

  • Co-axial copper cables have an inner copper conductor and an outer copper shield, separated by a di-electric insulating material, to prevent signal losses. 
  • It is primarily used in cable TV networks and as trunk lines between telecommunication equipments. 
  • It serves as an internet access line from the home. 
  •  It supports medium to High Data Rates
  •  It has much better immunity to noise and hence signal strength is retained for longer distances than in copper twisted pair media.

Fiber Optic Cables

  • Here, information is transmitted by propogation of optical signals (light) through fiber optic cables and not through electrical/electromagnetic signals. Due to this, fiber optics communication supports longer distances as there is no electrical interference.
  • As the name indicates, fiber optic cables are made of very thin strands of glass (silica).
  • As they support very high data rates, fiber optic lines are used as WAN backbone and trunk lines between data exchange equipments.
  • They are also used for accessing internet from home through FTTH (Fiber-To-The-Home) lines.
  • Additionally, they are used even for LAN environment with different LAN technologies like Fast Ethernet, Gigabit Ethernet etc. using optical links at the physical layer.
    OC-48, OC-192, FTTC, HFC are examples of Fiber Optical links.

Unguided Wireless Media:

Here information is transmitted by sending electromagnetic signals through free space and hence the name unguided media, as the signals are not guided in any specific direction or inside any specific medium.

All unguided media transmission are classified as wireless transmission.

Wireless transmission can be used as the medium in both LAN and WAN environments, as illustrated in the diagrams below:

Two laptops communicating within a LAN using a wireless Access Points

Two laptops communicating within a LAN using a wireless Access Points

Two laptops communicating via. a long distance WAN using a WiMax Wireless transmission network

Two laptops communicating via. a long distance WAN using a WiMax Wireless transmission network

Different forms of wireless communication used in the internet vary mainly based on the following attributes:
  • Distance separating the end stations
  • Frequency spectrum used by the electromagnetic signals
  • Line Encoding technique used

Based on these attributes, a wide variety of wireless PHYs and different types of antennaes are used in wireless communication.
The diagram given below illustrates different types of antennaes typically used in wireless communication

Different Types of Antennaes Used in wireless communication

Different Types of Antennaes Used in wireless communication

As illustrated in the diagram, antennaes can be of many sizes and shapes. Some of them are point to point antennaes while others are omni-directional antennaes. Even satellites act as giant antenaes in the sky, by receiving and transmitting signals generated from the earth.

Wi-Fi, Wi-Max. 3G are example wireless networks used for internet communication


39 comments for “What are Guided and Unguided media?

  1. August 15, 2014 at 13:57

    it was very good and informative.

  2. Rocky
    November 16, 2014 at 02:19

    Good information about this topic

  3. muhammad rehman
    November 20, 2014 at 12:57

    a very informative and useful information about this topic……

  4. Deep
    December 11, 2014 at 08:17

    Good information but not clear explanation about types of unguided media…..,!!!

  5. harish
    December 13, 2014 at 16:17


  6. vignesh
    December 17, 2014 at 11:10

    Good its informative bt…… Unguided explanations are less…..

    • July 30, 2015 at 13:34

      Fuc* u

      • your dad
        July 30, 2015 at 13:50

        wth bro

      • your dad
        July 30, 2015 at 13:52

        wth bro….u gotta be kiding me gavar

      • Sacky
        September 29, 2015 at 19:23

        hahahhahhaahhah well it was understandable!!!

  7. sabirumer
    December 18, 2014 at 11:26

    Excellent ……..

  8. raviranjan Kumar
    December 22, 2014 at 17:39

    nice examples of guide and unguide media.

  9. David
    January 17, 2015 at 15:25

    Unbounded / Unguided media or wireless media doesn’t use any physical connectors between the two devices communicating. Usually the transmission is send through the atmosphere but sometime it can be just across the rule. Wireless media is used when a physical obstruction or distance blocks are used with normal cable media.

    Types of unguided media:

    Radio waves
    Infrared waves

    Radio waves frequency are easy to generate, can travel long distances, and can penetrate buildings easily, so they are widely used for communication, both indoors and outdoors. Radio waves also are omnidirectional, meaning that they travel in all directions from the source, so the transmitter and receiver do not have to be carefully aligned physically.
    Radio Frequency includes the following types-
    (i) Short wave used in AM radio.
    (ii) Very high frequency used in FM radio and TV.
    (iii) Ultra high frequency used is TV.
    Microwaves are unidirectional, when an antenna transmits microwaves they can be narrowly focused. This means that the sending and receiving antennas need to be aligned. The unidirectional property has an obvious advantage. A pair of antennas can be aligned without interfering with another pair of aligned antennas.

    On the other hand microwaves.
    Propagation is line-of-sight. Since the towers with the mounted antennas needs to be in direct sight of each other, towers that are for apart need to he very tall, the curvature of the earth as well as other blocking obstacles do not allow two short towers to communicate using microwaves, Repeaters are often needed for long distance communication very high frequency microwaves cannot penetrate walls.
    Unguided infrared and millimeter waves are widely used for short-range communication. The remote controls used on televisions, VCRs, and stereos all use infrared communication. They are relatively directional, cheap, and easy to build but have a major drawback: they do not pass through solid objects (try standing between your remote control and your television and see if it still works). On the other hand, the fact that infrared waves do not pass through solid walls well is also a plus. It means that an infrared system in one room of a building will not interfere with a similar system in adjacent rooms or buildings.

    • Badri
      January 17, 2015 at 18:43

      Good additional description. Hope other readers too see this explanation. Thanks

    • aulerius
      February 26, 2015 at 11:26

      nyc post bro

    • hitesh gautam
      June 30, 2015 at 03:18

      it is an good information about guided and unguided media

    • nandini
      October 22, 2015 at 23:39

      its awesom expelantion given by u

  10. shilpa
    January 26, 2015 at 21:19


  11. asad ur rehman
    February 1, 2015 at 10:01

    good fprmation

  12. asad ur rehman
    February 1, 2015 at 10:02

    good information

  13. Rahmat ullah khawry
    February 5, 2015 at 11:09

    it to good information

  14. kiranpreet
    February 22, 2015 at 21:45

    Thnx a lot….vry much helpful

  15. eddon
    February 28, 2015 at 22:38

    nice information about the topic

  16. March 2, 2015 at 23:49

    good information

  17. Debarshi
    March 9, 2015 at 21:01

    very good

  18. March 14, 2015 at 23:22


  19. guddu kumar sharma
    March 18, 2015 at 05:04

    very good

    March 22, 2015 at 19:36

    Very Good

  21. nuwan
    March 31, 2015 at 13:36

    good and informative….thanks for editers.

  22. sunil kumar
    April 25, 2015 at 10:44

    good information

  23. Kamdennis Zion
    May 2, 2015 at 15:30

    good and informative….thanks for editers.&Thnx a lot….vry much helpful

  24. May 4, 2015 at 06:42

    Good Information & thanx for the additional information on unguided media..

    Thanx a lot…

  25. Vasudeva Rao
    June 30, 2015 at 11:41

    Good Inaformation about Guided and unguided information.

  26. muneeb
    July 23, 2015 at 11:49

    excellent information

  27. July 31, 2015 at 08:29

    guided media is wired media eg lan in thisv media data is transfer through wires

  28. Abraham Archibong
    August 4, 2015 at 20:30

    Extremely good and Extremely bad

    August 11, 2015 at 19:53

    It awesome,good and informative

  30. August 20, 2015 at 15:47

    Really very helpful notes, helped me thank you so much

  31. Aakhi
    October 27, 2015 at 12:13

    Very informative and clear. Thx to its writer

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