Attenuation in telecom networks

November 8, 2017

Attenuation is a general term that refers to any reduction in the strength of a signal. It occurs with any type of signal, whether digital or analog and is a natural consequence of signal transmission over long distances.

Put simply, attenuation is the loss of transmission signal strength measured in decibels. As the rate of attenuation increases, the transmission (e.g. a phone call or email you’re trying to send) becomes more distorted.

To try and tackle this distortion, networks send multiple repeat signals to ensure at least one successfully reaches its desired destination.

Minimising attenuation loss is critical in microwave, wireless and cellular applications because in order for an optical data link to function correctly, it depends on modulated light reaching the receiver with enough power to be demodulated correctly. Through attenuation, this power is reduced and results in a loss of the light signal being transmitted.

What can cause attenuation?

Transmission distance: The further a transmission has to travel from its current location to its network providers C/O (central office) the more noise it experiences along the way.

Noise: Any additional noise on the network such as electrical currents or radio frequencies may interfere with the signal and cause attenuation.

Surroundings: Physical surroundings such as walls and windows and improper wire installation may distort the transmission and cause attenuation.

Tackling attenuation in fiber-optic cabling

One of the ways to tackle attenuation in fiber-optic cabling is by using low-loss or ultra-low-loss cables. These coaxial cables have improved shielding in comparison to standard RG coaxial cables and depending on their effectiveness, are categorised in to low-loss and ultra-low loss cables.

This improved shielding helps to achieve a lower attenuation loss at higher frequencies and is widely used by carriers around the world.

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