How Cable Tv works – Evolution of Television.
Ever wondered how a cable TV works? You might not have understood everything you read on the internet. Here’s an attempt to break things down for you in easy and simple terms. If you are new to the cable industry or even just an enthusiast who wants to know more about how cable TV functions, wait no more we are here to help you.
Cable Tv is a system through which consumers are provided access to multiple television channels through coaxial cables or by optical fibre cables positioned in the subscriber’s residence. It is a system used to receive signals from various sources and transmit them to houses. It is somewhat similar to a water system wherein it takes water from one or two sources and distributes it to other parts of the city. This also includes those which transmits signals only through satellite. The basic structure of the cable system involves the main office of the local area which is called a headend. This is where all the signals are received, gathered and are distributed into the system. Certain amplifiers are used to strengthen the signal and lastly these signals are fed into set-top boxes which then convert these back into electric signals that are displayed on the TV.
The basic purpose of an amplifier is to boost the quality of the cable TV picture, reception and to maintain the strength and the reliability of the signal. The need for an amplifier arises because in several houses the unidirectional cable is connected to more than one TV using a splitter and the more it gets divided and distributed the lesser quality it delivers. An amplifier then boosts the signal strength by 32 times and minimizes the loss of signal that happens because of the long distance between the headend and the TV. Some modern amplifiers provide bi-directional signal transmission which means the signals get sent back to the cable service providers.
Previously in the 1950s there were only terrestrial networks. To be able to watch the TV one had to have a clear line of sight to the transmitting towers, unlike people living in the hilly regions who couldn’t watch TV as they didn’t have a clear line of sight. To solve their problem, they had to put up antennas on hills and run cables to their houses. One of the limitations of terrestrial TV was that only a number of channels could be broadcasted whereas using cable TV one can downlink more number of satellite channels, local TV channels and from other sources and broadcast it to home TVs using coaxial cables.
The coaxial cable transmits signal through an inner conductor which is surrounded by a flexible, tubular insulating layer. It connects radio transmitters and receivers with the internet connections and distributes cable signals. They are manufactured to meet the demand of high-speed data. These are very durable for extreme environmental conditions.
CATV is an abbreviation for cable tv, it stood for Community Access Television or Community Antenna Television. Nowadays many channels are being transmitted through a single coaxial cable technique called frequency division multiplexing. Each channel is given a different frequency on the cable and the separate TV signals do not interfere with each other. To an outdoor cable box on the subscriber’s residence, the company’s service drop cable is connected to cables, which distributes the signal to different houses in the building. The set-top box at the subscriber’s residence then converts the desired channel back to its original frequency which is then displayed on the screen. Due to widespread cable theft, the signals are often encrypted so that the set-top box needs to be activated before it can function. In the event of non-payment of bills the service provider sends a signal to the subscriber’s set-top box and stops reception.
Some signals which are outside the normal receptive range like the ones which are from different states are received at the station’s antenna and then are transmitted by microwave or landline. Programs that are made in studios at the headend are taped for later playback using professional machines which are also used for playing back tapes that are made by others so that it is transmitted on public channels of the system.
In the contemporary times, most of the systems use hybrid fibre coaxial (HFC) distribution. This means that the signals are carried by optical fibre carrying greater bandwidth and higher capacity for future expansion. At the headend, the signals are converted into optical signals and are transmitted by optical fibres. The fibre goes into multiple distribution hubs, from which fibres spread out to carry the signals to boxes known as optical nodes. At the node the optical signal is reconverted to electrical signal and is transmitted by coaxial cable on utility poles, eventually from which the cable branches out to a series of signal amplifiers and line extensions. Then the devices carry the signals to consumers through passive RF devices otherwise called taps.
Cable TV uses only a small size of the bandwidth accessible over coaxial lines. This leaves enough room for other services like cable internet, wireless services including both licensed and unlicensed spectrums. Broadband internet access is carried over by coaxial cables by using cable modems which convert the network data into a digital signal which can be transmitted over coaxial cable. One of the inconveniences of using cable systems is the amplifiers that are old and are placed along the cable routes that operate in a single direction, thus to allow uploading of data, the consumer will need a telephonic modem to accommodate for the upstream connection. Some service providers have even upgraded their system to allow for bi-directional signals which then allows greater upload speed.
The government of India has passed an ordinance making digitization of cable systems compulsory. This measure will provide consumers access to an increased number of channels and greater quality viewing. The bill would thus prevent the local service provider from bypassing the digital set-top box. These will render the middlemen useless. Now the consumer will need to buy the set-top box from his local cable service provider which would cost between Rs.700 to Rs.2000. This might make some consumers not upgrade their cable connection and simply shift to DTH services, since both costs almost the same. The cable systems have thus moved past simple transmission of TV programs to include data services, networking, targeted advertising.
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