Simplex, half duplex and full duplex are three kinds of communication channels in telecommunications and computer networking. These communication channels provide pathways to convey information. A communication channel can be either a physical transmission medium or a logical connection over a multiplexed medium. The physical transmission medium refers to the material substance that can propagate energy waves, such as wires in data communication. And the logical connection usually refers to the circuit switched connection or packet-mode virtual circuit connection, such as a radio channel. Thanks to the help of communication channels, information can be transmitted without obstruction. A brief introduction about three communication channel types will be given in this article.
A simplex communication channel only sends information in one direction. For example, a radio station usually sends signals to the audience but never receives signals from them, thus a radio station is a simplex channel. It is also common to use simplex channel in fiber optic communication. One strand is used for transmitting signals and the other is for receiving signals. But this might not be obvious because the pair of fiber strands are often combined to one cable. The good part of simplex mode is that its entire bandwidth can be used during the transmission.
In half duplex mode, data can be transmitted in both directions on a signal carrier except not at the same time. At a certain point, it is actually a simplex channel whose transmission direction can be switched. Walkie-talkie is a typical half duplex device. It has a “push-to-talk” button which can be used to turn on the transmitter but turn off the receiver. Therefore, once you push the button, you cannot hear the person you are talking to but your partner can hear you. An advantage of half-duplex is that the single track is cheaper than the double tracks.
A full duplex communication channel is able to transmit data in both directions on a signal carrier at the same time. It is constructed as a pair of simplex links that allows bidirectional simultaneous transmission. Take telephone as an example, people at both ends of a call can speak and be heard by each other at the same time because there are two communication paths between them. Thus, using the full duplex mode can greatly increase the efficiency of communication.
A simplex fiber optic cable has only one tight-buffered fiber inside cable jacket for one-way data transmission. The aramid yarn and protective jacket enable the cable to be connected and crimped to a mechanical connector. It can be used for both single-mode and multimode fiber optic cables. For instance, single-mode simplex fiber optic cable is suitable for networks that require data to be transmitted in one direction over long distance.
Different from simplex fiber optic cable, the duplex one has two fibers constructed in a zipcord style. It is often used for duplex communication between devices to transmit and receive signals simultaneously. The duplex fiber optic cable is required for all sorts of applications, such as workstations, fiber switches and servers, fiber modems and so on. And single-mode or multimode cable is also available with duplex cables.
The concept of communication channel is important for understanding the operation of networking. Simplex, half duplex and full duplex are three modes of communication channels. Each of them can be deployed for different applications. It is more cost-effective to choose the right fiber optic cable according to its channel mode.