Attenuation

Written by Kelly Wand
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Attenuation describes a loss of signal strength over the course of a particular transmission. This process isn't necessarily due to equipment malfunction. It is simply a natural by-product of attempting to send a signal a long way with the use of cables.

Both coaxial and fiber-optic cables are prone to attenuation to some degree. This sort of signal disturbance can be thought of in terms of phone calls. Long-distance connections often "break up" due to static. In the same way, data that flows through cables can be broken up on the receiving end due to partial signal loss.

In fact, this process is often referred to simply as "loss," as the term conveniently describes what happens to data sent over attenuated lines. No matter the cause, there are certain steps that can be taken to avoid such gaps in transmissions. One common solution involves the use of "repeaters," which are devices that are installed along lines of cable in order to more accurately deliver data to its destination.

Positive Attenuation

Attenuation can also be used in a constructive manner. After all, there are units called "attenuators" that are designed to block signals to a certain extent. They must be good for something, right? Well, they are. Attenuators are great for sapping signal strength in order to make strong signals safe for low-power systems. These devices are also used when testing RF components, and are even used by guitar players for great sound during quiet practice sessions!


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