Cable vs. Wire

How cable and wire are different

Two types of conductors that are used in the fields of electricity and communications are cable and wire. The words are very common and so much so that few people can tell the difference between them. It is very confusing because there must be a reason for the two names. The difference is surprisingly simple – a wire refers to a single conductor, but a cable refers to a group of two or more conductors. The insulation that surrounds it determines whether it is called a wire or a conductor. There are four different types of wires: single conductor, multi-conductor, coaxial and twisted pair.

Wires can be of two types – stranded or solid – and both are commonly used for many different purposes in electricity. A solid wire has a single conductor and it can be bare or covered with insulation. It has low resistance and is the best one to use for a high frequency. A stranded wire consists of many strands held together by a covering. This type of wire has more flexibility and a longer life than a solid wire and can therefore be used for a longer period of time.

There are also different types of cables – coaxial, twisted pair, multi-conductor and fiber optic. In a multi-conductor cable there are many different conductors that are insulated from each other. This type of cable is never used for signal applications and is more often used for control.

Twisted pair cable refers to two cables that are twisted around each other and is the best choice for signal applications. It dates back to the 1890’s and is the cable commonly used in telephone wiring. Both these and multi-conductor cables are known as balanced line configuration cables.

When the two cables that are used together are not the same, then this is called a coaxial cable. It is an unbalanced line and even though it does cause interference, it is provides a more stable performance.

There are three types of fiber optic cable: plastic fiber, multi-mode fiber and single fiber. The plastic fiber optic cable is the largest of the three and like its name it is made from plastic. The main use is for sending audio signals. Multi-mode fiber optic cable, which is made from glass, is better for sending data. The best fiber optic cable is the single fiber. It is the one that gives the best service, but it is so tiny it can only be seen with a microscope. It is very difficult to connect, though.


  • “There are four different types of wires: single conductor, multi-conductor, coaxial and twisted pair.”

    => I guess you meant four different types of “cables”