Communication across a network is carried on a medium. The medium provides the channel over which the message travels from source to destination.

Modern networks primarily use three types of media to interconnect devices and to provide the pathway over which data can be transmitted. As shown in the figure, these media are:

The signal encoding that must occur for the message to be transmitted is different for each media type. On metallic wires, the data is encoded into electrical impulses that match specific patterns. Fiber optic transmissions rely on pulses of light, within either infrared or visible light ranges. In wireless transmission, patterns of electromagnetic waves depict the various bit values.

Different types of network media have different features and benefits. Not all network media has the same characteristics and is appropriate for the same purpose. The criteria for choosing network media are: