Coaxial cable splitters are designed to provide two or more output signals from a single input. The most common usage for a coax cable splitter is to allow more than one television set to use a single cable TV signal, and they can be found in the internal coaxial wiring of houses, apartment buildings, and commercial structures. A splitter can also be used in conjunction with a coaxial wall outlet to provide a cable connection to two devices that are located in the same room. The main issue associated with coax cable splitters is signal loss, which is typically addressed through amplification.
Types of Coaxial Cable Splitters
The simplest type of cable splitter consists of one coaxial input and two coaxial outputs. This configuration is typically referred to as a two-way splitter since it provides two output signals from a single input. While these splitters can be found in the internal wiring of a structure, they are often used to connect two devices to a single coaxial wall outlet. When a television and cable modem are located in the same room, a simple two-way coaxial splitter is the best way to hook them both up.
Coaxial splitters can provide more than two outputs, and those units are more commonly found in the internal wiring of a structure. The main junction in a single family home may have eight or more outputs, and additional splitters are often used throughout a structure.
Aside from the number of outputs, splitters can also be constructed from a variety of materials. Since oxidation typically results in signal degradation, some splitters are plated with nonreactive metals like gold and platinum. These splitters are especially useful in situations where poor signal strength is unacceptable.
Signal Loss from Cable Splitters
Every time a signal is split, the output signals are weaker than the input. The precise level of loss varies from one situation to another, but about 3 dB of signal strength is typically lost each time a signal is split. That can add up very quickly when a signal is split more than once, and the end results will depend on whether the signal is analog or digital.
When cable television services used analog signals, significant levels of signal loss often resulted in poor picture quality. Now that most cable is digital, signal loss is an even bigger issue. If a high speed cable modem is hooked up to a weak signal, it may fail to provide any data connection at all. Similar problems can occur when a high definition cable box is hooked up to a weak signal.
Low Loss and High Bandwidth
One way to deal with weak signals is to use splitters that are designed to minimize signal losses. While high bandwidth splitters are unnecessary in many applications, they are sometimes the only way to provide a strong enough signal to a cable modem for it to work properly. High bandwidth splitters are also useful in situations where additional signal losses occur due to excessively long runs of coaxial cable.
Amplified Coax Cable Splitters
Most coax cable splitters are relatively simple devices that don’t contain any active components. Amplified splitters are the exception to that rule, and they are designed specifically to deal with signal loss. Rather than simply splitting the input signal between multiple outputs, these powered devices also amplify the signal. However, low quality amplifiers can degrade a signal even further by introducing noise and interference.
In addition to splitters that contain built-in amplifiers, it’s also possible to install an in-line amplifier prior to a regular splitter. That effectively boosts the input signal, which helps counteract signal loss from the splitter. When a standalone amplifier is used, it should be installed as close to the signal source as possible. That means the amplifier is typically installed where the cable enters a structure, and any splitters are connected to the amplified output.