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RF + Cat

Nov 18, 2013 12:13 PM, By Dick Snyder

Active RF video distribution over Category cable in a commercial environment

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Commercial applications that use multiple televisions and display devices are an optimal environment for the convergence of RF commercial television signals with Internet-based digital information.

Together, these signal streams can offer a full spectrum of viewing and entertainment options in one device and over one cable; this combination enables a wider range of user experiences, as well as more options for managing signal distribution within a facility or campus. Video display networks within businesses, schools, medical facilities, transportation centers, and entertainment venues can take advantage of new models for collaboration, data sharing, training, content presentation, and interactivity.

Video Distribution Options

Businesses that use multiple TV devices are faced with the challenge of determining the most effective way to distribute the video signal within their facility, or in the case of larger establishments, to multiple floors or several buildings. One popular option is RF broadband video distribution: In effect, RF TV distribution over Category cable is a new twist on a tried-and-true technology. The RF spectrum, or bandwidth, has been divided up for use with several different technologies with the RF television occupying the 5-860 MHz frequency range.

There are two types of RF video distribution systems over Category cable that can be used in a commercial setting: active and passive. The active system consists of a 12- or 24-port master video hub that serves as the system’s building block with additional hubs being easily added via a cascading process as needed. A remotely powered intelligent balun is installed at each television (attached to the back of the TV or imbedded in a wall box) to provide automatic amplification and equalization of the video signal. The master hub also supplies automatic gain control (AGC) to each connected hub and balun, providing enhanced picture quality to as many as 14,000 televisions. All of this is accomplished using only one pair of wires within a sheath of Category/Cat-5e or Cat-6 cable.

A passive RF system, on the other hand, is a much more labor-intensive RF system, as it requires the use of multiple splitters, amplifiers, and other components that must be integrated and balanced, and the distance known from the closet to each TV. Thus, the passive system does not offer the ease of use and flexibility of an active system, making it complex for systems consisting of 50 or more TVs on different floors, or when moves, adds, and changes are required. Nonetheless, a passive system equipment costs are less than an active systems, and the passive system is effective in providing high quality TV over Category cable in limited applications.

The Cat Cable Advantage

As mentioned, an active RF video distribution system uses one Cat-5e or Cat-6 cable as the signal transmission medium. The more technologically advanced Cat-6 is the preferred choice, in large part because it offers better bandwidth capacity than Cat-5e. Category cable, also known as Ethernet or computer cable, consists of four pairs of twisted copper wires. Two of these pairs (pins 1, 2, 3, and 6) are needed for standard 10/100 Ethernet transmission and one pair (pins 7 and 8) are dedicated to RF video distribution. This is how Cat-6 cable can provide clear, reliable video quality without consuming any network bandwidth. Business owners and installers will also appreciate the fact that Category cable generally costs less than plenum coax cable. And when you factor the accessories and additional labor that are part of the life of a coax-based distribution system, the overall expense can be even greater.

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