Schematic representation of the elementary components of a transmission line.
The telegrapher's equations, like all other equations describing electrical phenomena, result from Maxwell's equations. In a more practical approach, one assumes that the conductors are composed of an infinite series of two-port elementary components, each representing an infinitesimally short segment of the transmission line:
The distributed resistance of the conductors is represented by a series resistor (expressed in ohms per unit length).
The conductance of the dielectric material separating the two conductors is represented by a shunt resistor between the signal wire and the return wire (siemens per unit length). This resistor in the model has a resistance of ohms.
The model consists of an infinite series of the infinitesimal elements shown in the figure, and that the values of the components are specified per unit length so the picture of the component can be misleading. An alternative notation is to use , , , and to emphasize that the values are derivatives with respect to length. These quantities can also be known as the primary line constants to distinguish from the secondary line constants derived from them, these being the characteristic impedance, the propagation constant, attenuation constant and phase constant. All these constants are constant with respect to time, voltage and current. They may be non-constant functions of frequency.
Role of different components
Schematic showing a wave flowing rightward down a lossless transmission line. Black dots represent electrons, and the arrows show the electric field.
The role of the different components can be visualized based on the animation at right.
The inductance L makes it look like the current has inertia—i.e. with a large inductance, it is difficult to increase or decrease the current flow at any given point. Large inductance makes the wave move more slowly, just as waves travel more slowly down a heavy rope than a light one. Large inductance also increases the wave impedance (lower current for the same voltage).
The capacitance C controls how much the bunched-up electrons within each conductor repel the electrons in the other conductor. By absorbing some of these bunched up electrons, the speed of the wave and its strength (voltage) are both reduced. With a larger capacitance, there is less repulsion, because the other line (which always has the opposite charge) partly cancels out these repulsive forces within each conductor. Larger capacitance equals (weaker restoring force)s making the wave move slightly slower, and also gives the transmission line a lower impedance (higher current for the same voltage).
R corresponds to resistance within each line, and G allows current to flow from one line to the other. The figure at right shows a lossless transmission line, where both R and G are 0.
Values of primary parameters for telephone cable
Representative parameter data for 24 gauge telephone polyethylene insulated cable (PIC) at 70 °F (294 K)
The constancy of the capacitance is a consequence of intentional, careful design.
The variation of G can be inferred from Terman: “The power factor ... tends to be independent of frequency, since the fraction of energy lost during each cycle ... is substantially independent of the number of cycles per second over wide frequency ranges.”
A function of the form
with close to 1.0 would fit Terman’s statement. Chen  gives an equation of similar form.
G in this table can be modeled well with
Usually the resistive losses grow proportionately to and dielectric losses grow proportionately to with so at a high enough frequency, dielectric losses will exceed resistive losses. In practice, before that point is reached, a transmission line with a better dielectric is used. In long distance rigid coaxial cable, to get very low dielectric losses, the solid dielectric may be replaced by air with plastic spacers at intervals to keep the center conductor on axis.
The telegrapher's equations are:
They can be combined to get two partial differential equations, each with only one dependent variable, either or :
Except for the dependent variable ( or ) the formulas are identical.
When ωL >> R and ωC >> G, resistance can be neglected, and the transmission line is considered as an ideal lossless structure. In this case, the model depends only on the L and C elements. The Telegrapher's Equations then describe the relationship between the voltage V and the current I along the transmission line, each of which is a function of position x and time t:
The equations for lossless transmission lines
The equations themselves consist of a pair of coupled, first-order, partial differential equations. The first equation shows that the induced voltage is related to the time rate-of-change of the current through the cable inductance, while the second shows, similarly, that the current drawn by the cable capacitance is related to the time rate-of-change of the voltage.
The Telegrapher's Equations are developed in similar forms in the following references:
These equations may be combined to form two exact wave equations, one for voltage V, the other for current I:
is the propagation speed of waves traveling through the transmission line. For transmission lines made of parallel perfect conductors with vacuum between them, this speed is equal to the speed of light.
f1 represents a wave traveling from left to right in a positive x direction whilst
f2 represents a wave traveling from right to left. It can be seen that the instantaneous voltage at any point x on the line is the sum of the voltages due to both waves.
Since the current I is related to the voltage V by the telegrapher's equations, we can write
Lossy transmission line
When the loss elements R and G are not negligible, the differential equations describing the elementary segment of line are
Note that these equations resemble the homogeneous wave equation with extra terms in V and I and their first derivatives. These extra terms cause the signal to decay and spread out with time and distance. If the transmission line is only slightly lossy (R << ωL and G << ωC), signal strength will decay over distance as e−αx, where α ≈ R/2Z0 + GZ0/2.:130
Signal pattern examples
Changes of the signal level distribution along the single dimensional transmission medium. Depending on the parameters of the telegraph equation, this equation can reproduce all four patterns.
Depending on the parameters of the telegraph equation, the changes of the signal level distribution along the length of the single-dimensional transmission medium may take the shape of the simple wave, wave with decrement, or the diffusion-like pattern of the telegraph equation. The shape of the diffusion-like pattern is caused by the effect of the shunt capacitance.
Solutions of the telegrapher's equations as circuit components
Equivalent circuit of an unbalanced transmission line (such as coaxial cable) where: 2/Z = trans-admittance of VCCS (Voltage Controlled Current Source), X = length of transmission line, Z(s) = characteristic impedance, T(s) = propagation function, γ(s) = propagation "constant", s = jω, j²=-1. Note: Rω, Lω, Gω and Cω may be functions of frequency.
Equivalent circuit of a balanced transmission line (such as twin-lead) where: 2/Z = trans-admittance of VCCS (Voltage Controlled Current Source), X = length of transmission line, Z(s) = characteristic impedance, T(s) = propagation function, γ(s) = propagation "constant", s = jω, j²=-1. Note: Rω, Lω, Gω and Cω may be functions of frequency.
The solutions of the telegrapher's equations can be inserted directly into a circuit as components. The circuit in the top figure implements the solutions of the telegrapher's equations.
The bottom circuit is derived from the top circuit by source transformations. It also implements the solutions of the telegrapher's equations.
The solution of the telegrapher's equations can be expressed as an ABCD type two-port network with the following defining equations
The ABCD type two-port gives and as functions of and . Both of the circuits above, when solved for and as functions of and yield exactly the same equations.
In the bottom circuit, all voltages except the port voltages are with respect to ground and the differential amplifiers have unshown connections to ground. An example of a transmission line modeled by this circuit would be a balanced transmission line such as a telephone line. The impedances Z(s), the voltage dependent current sources (VDCSs) and the difference amplifiers (the triangle with the number "1") account for the interaction of the transmission line with the external circuit. The T(s) blocks account for delay, attenuation, dispersion and whatever happens to the signal in transit. One of the T(s) blocks carries the forward wave and the other carries the backward wave. The circuit, as depicted, is fully symmetric, although it is not drawn that way. The circuit depicted is equivalent to a transmission line connected from to in the sense that , , and would be same whether this circuit or an actual transmission line was connected between and . There is no implication that there are actually amplifiers inside the transmission line.
Every two-wire or balanced transmission line has an implicit (or in some cases explicit) third wire which may be called shield, sheath, common, Earth or ground. So every two-wire balanced transmission line has two modes which are nominally called the differential and common modes. The circuit shown on the bottom only models the differential mode.
In the top circuit, the voltage doublers, the difference amplifiers and impedances Z(s) account for the interaction of the transmission line with the external circuit. This circuit, as depicted, is also fully symmetric, and also not drawn that way. This circuit is a useful equivalent for an unbalanced transmission line like a coaxial cable or a microstrip line.
These are not the only possible equivalent circuits.