Revisiting Coax for Signal Distribution Solutions

Coax cabling can help integrators achieve huge cost cavings for clients, higher bandwidth and simpler installations.

CI Staff

Coax has quietly remained the steadfast medium for cable/satellite companies and RF installers — and rightly so, with a bandwidth exceeding 2.4Gbps it easily meets the demands of high-definition (HD) video distribution.

In recent years the trend has been toward more complex video distribution solutions such as HDBaseT matrix switches and IP.

However, with the introduction of high-performance and cost-effective digital encoder/modulators, a new option opens up for coax that can simplify designs and installations as well as allow for easy upgrades — all at a significantly lower cost.

Especially for retrofits where coax is already in place, this type of installation can help integrators achieve huge cost savings for their clients. Let’s take a closer look at the structure of such systems, as illustrated by coax AV distribution manufacturer ZeeVee and its encoder/modulator-based setup.

How Does It Work?

The encoder/modulators can take any analog or digital source and transmit as a DVB-T or DVB-C signal over coax (essentially the same as terrestrial and cable TV). Each input is allocated an RF channel, so more than 100 HD channels can fit into the allocated coax bandwidth. The signals are then received into the tuner at the display or consumer TV.

Flexible Coax Network Distribution Topologies: Unlike HDBaseT and IP, coax is incredibly flexible and virtually any configuration can be supported. So star or daisy chain, or any combination of these configurations, is possible.

RELATED: 7 Super-Scary Wiring Scenarios

Connecting blocks are simple low-cost RF combiners/splitters. Sources can be centralized or remote and coupled by using combiners; if necessary, parts of the network can be split out to restrict sources to certain displays. Best of all, there is no limit to the total number of displays that can be connected to a network.

Extensive Distances Possible: Employing an adjustable output amplifier in the ZeeVee units, a 1080p signal can comfortably exceed 300m. With the use of inexpensive RF amplifiers, an almost unlimited reach is possible.

Eliminating Electromagnetic Interference Improves Stability: The outer conductor acts as a screen, so running cable bundles through ducts with electrical cables offers no threat to signal integrity.

Any integrator who has had to install an HDBaseT switch will understand how difficult it is to avoid inter-cable interference — this is not a concern when using coax.

RELATED: 10 Cable Commandments of the HDBaseT Installer

Simple Setup and Configuration: The encoder/modulator units share the same architecture and web-based interface setup and configuration, which allows for easy and fast installation.

Easy to Add More Sources and Displays: Nothing could be more flexible when implementing a coax-based system. Installers can add more displays by using RF splitters, and for more sources additional encoder/modulator units can be combined at the head-end.

With the simple configuration of coax cable, encoder/modulators and combiner/ splitters, installers can achieve wide-reaching and robust video distribution. Such solutions are deployed in thousands of diverse applications such as corporate centers, sports bars, academic institutions, assisted living facilities, stadiums, casinos, hospitals, houses of worship, hotels, fitness centers and more.

Integrators can use a single coaxial cable to deliver hundreds of channels in a system that clients will appreciate because it’s inexpensive, versatile, easy to scale and simple to use. Coax is reliable — and it’s already everywhere. Plus, most new HDTVs have tuners already built into them, so setup is a breeze. It may be time to revisit coax and install more of the video your clients need.

Author Rob Muddiman is EMEA sales director for Massachusetts-based ZeeVee.