If you’re an IT professional, manager, or anyone who deals with video technology in a company or institution with 25 or more TVs, you may be somewhat familiar with the concept of RF video distribution. However, you might not be sure exactly what it is and how it works. In simple terms, RF video and television distribution is a highly effective method of transmitting video signals to your TVs and other devices using a combination of RF technology and high-bandwidth Category cable. The end result is a seamless convergence of voice, data, and video requiring only one piece of structured cable.
What Is RF Technology?
RF, or radio frequency, technology is not a new concept; it’s widely used in a number of different wired and wireless technologies. In fact, if you’ve ever switched on a radio or worn a Bluetooth headset, you have firsthand experience with RF. The RF spectrum has been divided up into several different technologies, each of which has its own exclusive operating space. The specific spectrum for RF video falls within the 5-860MHz range.
What Is a Hub-Based Video Distribution System?
A hub-based RF video distribution system implements a 12 or 24 port one-piece master unit, or hub, and a free-hanging, wall-mounted intelligent Balun. When paired together, these two devices are capable of transmitting the entire RF video spectrum using one piece of CAT cable. Using a concept known as “cascading,” adding more hubs is a relatively simply “plug-and-play” process requiring little in the way of human labor of technological expertise. RF system users can employ this concept to easily connect to as many as 14,000 TVs.
What Are the Types of RF Video Distribution Systems?
A RF video distribution system may be active or passive. A hub-based distribution system, such as the one outlined above, is an example of an active distribution system, as the cascading capabilities and the need for only one UTP CAT 5 or 6 cable offers maximum ease of use and system flexibility. A passive distribution system, on the other hand, makes use of traditional coax cable, which has certain limitations that an active system can easily overcome.
What Are the Advantages of an Active vs. Passive Distribution System?
In addition to saving labor and not requiring a significant level of technical expertise, an active system offers several key advantages over a passive system. The configuration of a passive system usually requires an abundance of additional hardware that can include multiple splitters, combiners, taps, and amplifiers, which are not typically necessary with an active distribution system. Consequently, passive systems are better suited for smaller networks with only a few TVs. In contrast, an active system offers built-in flexibility that offers the benefit of scalability, an important consideration for any company with future proofing as a concern.
Unlike typical passive systems, active systems are often equipped with built-in technology that automatically adjusts gain and slope, which provides superior signal quality to all drops and across all channels on the UTP network. This eliminates the need for labor-intensive manual calculations when updating the system, which is generally required when making changes in a passive system. Less labor can lead to significant savings in operating costs over time.
What Makes a RF Video Signal So Clear?
The most effective RF video and television distribution systems make use of technologies offering Automatic Gain Control. AGC is a highly adaptive system that automatically adjusts the signal to compensate for factors such as the unit’s distance from the hub. Without AGC, the signal’s consistency can be significantly compromised, resulting in uneven performance.
What Type of CAT Cable Works Best with a RF Video Distribution System?
A RF video distribution system can function effectively with either CAT 5e or CAT 6 UTP (unshielded twisted pair) cable, also known as Ethernet cable, the type that is typically used to connect a computer to the Internet. The cable consists of four twisted pairs of copper wires.
The main advantage of using CAT 6 cable is it offers twice the bandwidth capacity of CAT 5e, making it the better choice for organizations using multiple high-bandwidth-consuming technologies or those that may face expanding broadcast needs over time.
What Types of Organizations Can Benefit from a RF Television Distribution System?
Any organization that requires a video feed to 25 or more televisions can benefit from a RF video distribution system’s ease of design, high signal quality and ultimate cost savings, including:
- Healthcare facilities
- Government and military institutions
- Schools and other educational institutions
- Hospitality-related businesses such as hotels, resorts and casinos
- Commercial businesses
The many advantages RF systems have to offer are rapidly making them the wave of the future with regard to video distribution technology.