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How Cable TV Works.

Cable TV technology has advanced over the past 60 years since it was created, but it is still a complicated process. Essentially millions of feet of coaxial cables have been laid out over various parts of the United States, so that people can access television services. The cable networks receive signals from different network satellites at their head-end, where they then encrypt the signals and send it through the cables to your neighborhood. Since cable television is sourced through a physical cable running to your home, some areas of the country are not able to get cable television services because there are no cables channeled to their areas.

Cable TV through coaxial cables and fiber optics.

Traditional coaxial cables are usually made with a copper core and send electrical signals through the wire. The dated method is not as fast or clear, and often requires several amplifiers along the route to keep the signal relatively strong. However, with the advancement of digital cable, the need for amplifiers greatly decreased, as it was possible to convert an analog signal to digital and transmit more signals, in less digital space. Televisions are designed to only accept signals from the cable, making sure outside signals do not interfere.

Fiber optics or “glass cables” are long, very thin threads, about the diameter of human hair, of optically pure glass that can more efficiently transmit light signals/cable signals for long distances. There is no need for amplifiers along the route, because the light signals are continuously reflected off of a mirrored surrounding. Fiber optics is still considered cable.

What is digital cable TV?

Digital cable was created in 1989 when General Instruments figured out how to convert analog signals to digital by compressing them. The actual process of getting digital cable requires converting traditional analog cable signals to digital, so that they can fit a standard 6 megahertz (millions of cycles per second) cable channel. This enables more signals to be sent at once through one cable, translating to hundreds of available channels for the consumer.

Equipment needed for cable TV.

Cable service requires a few pieces of equipment:

  • Cables or fiber optics running to your home.
  • A subscription to cable service from a local cable provider.
  • A cable ready TV, all TVs sold now days are cable ready, or converter box.
  • A cable box or receiver from your cable provider.

HDTVs and cable.

HDTVs are high-definition televisions capable of receiving HD quality signals that is 720p or 1080p. This enables a very clear picture, much better quality than standard television. Nearly every television brand makes HDTVs. Depending on your television service you can get a certain amount of HD channels to enjoy. You must also have an HD enabled receiver to view HD channels and programming.

Types of cable boxes.

Cable boxes are digital receivers that convert all the digital and fiber optic signals into pictures. Depending on your cable provider, you may be able to get a CableCARD, standard receiver or a DVR. There are typically standard receivers that just enable the viewing of standard television and HD receivers, where one can watch high-definition when available. A DVR is a digital video recorder, available in both standard and HD definition, capable of recording television programs and then playing them back at the consumer’s convenience.

Progression of cable.

As technology progressed, cable companies realized they had “digital room” so they could give consumers more digital and HD channels. There was also the creation of the DVR, allowing consumers to record, pause, rewind and fast-forward live and recorded programming. There are standard, HD and now whole-home DVRs that give the consumer a greater variety of television choices, with various storage capacities for recorded shows and movies.

Cable is restricted, but there are other options

Cable and fiber optics are laid throughout the United States, but in many areas, there are no cables, resulting in no cable service. Rural communities are most susceptible to not receive cable, but might rather opt for satellite television because of the lack of cable services. Satellite television uses a personal satellite dish, much like the larger ones used by cable companies, and is therefore available everywhere. Millions of consumers, even those with access to cable, pick satellite service because of the quality and reliability.