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How to Test the Quality of a Coax Network
Posted on Thursday, October 6, 2016
How to Test the Quality of a Coax Network

Coax cable-based signals for TV, Internet, radio transmission and other radio frequency (RF) signals rely on a top-quality path through cables, splitters, connectors and on to the destination for best performance. That gives the best TV picture, Internet bandwidth, and radio signal. Cut cables, crimps in the line, poor connector installation, problems with splitters and many other physical issues can limit cable performance. The Platinum Coax Clarifier checks basic cable parameters (such as length) for verification, then goes on the hunt for problems.

Will the System Perform?

New cable installs need a checkout and existing, perhaps unknown cable installations need to be evaluated before being placed into more demanding service. The Coax Clarifier does either type of test, mapping the cable connections, evaluating the cable and splitter quality, and grading the system for use with high-performance applications.  

Basic Checkout, Advanced Evaluation

Coax Clarifier adds to basic checklist items such as measurement of cable length, tone tracing, and end-point identification through splitters, providing more advanced features that really give the cabling a good checkout. Quality Mode looks at the entire cable configuration including connectors and splitters and shows a dB network quality reading, the Quality Value. With a dark network and proper termination, a completed network can be measured from the demarc. A quick press of a button on the Coax Clarifier shows the Quality Value and also something called the Return Loss Value.

A Clear Shot Through?

Return Loss sends a sample radio frequency (RF) signal into the cable and measures how much is reflected back by the network due to attenuation problems and poorly matched impedances. The technical term for this value is the voltage standing wave ratio, or VSWR. The Clarifier shows this value in decibels, with a range from 0 dB (a short somewhere) to infinity (perfection). About 40 dB is perfect for a real-world cable installation, which shows undamaged, quality cables, excellent connections, and splitters and terminations working well. Any problems with these will lower the efficiency of the system. Coax Clarifier has a visual key on the back to quickly identify the meaning of these test results.

Walking the System and Grading It

Platinum Coax Clarifier is a powerful tool for network technicians, quickly characterizing their coax-based networks and transmission lines, mapping cable runs, identifying splitters, and noting any faults. Walking through the system, Clarifier uses advanced testing techniques to evaluate the performance of the cables and splitters and grading the overall system performance. For high-bandwidth applications, this quick and thorough checkout can pinpoint coax and connection problems and ensure that network performance will be everything it was designed to be.