Coax-hell Cable, A Simple Way to Improve Broadband Performance

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Problem

I have Comcast broadband for an ISP. I have a nice little Motorola
modem that works fine. To that I have a router and a wireless access
point. That’s my home network: 2 wired desktops and a roaming wireless
laptop.

The modem and router used to be in the “computer room.” I got
sick of my mother and little sisters kicking and hitting it. Smoking
cigarettes discolors the plastic, spilled juice isn’t conducive to
proper working electronics, crumbs in the router, dogs sleeping on the
coaxial cable that goes to the router. None of these are good.

So I moved the modem and router upstairs into my
room. Luckily my Cat5 Ethernet infrastructure was in place to let me
do this. I unplugged my cable TV, tossed in a Radioshack splitter, and
ran one to my TV and one to my modem. TV was fine. Modem was not. The
signal was too weak and the modem was dropping packets like crazy.
This makes for spotty internet service.

I took out the splitter and ran the line in my bedroom directly to the
modem. This was just strong enough to have acceptable packet-loss.
Unfortunately this left me with no cable TV in my room.

Solving The Problem…

Solving The Problem

I set off yesterday to fix the problem. MY basement is mess of coaxial
cable, splitters, inline amplifiers and such.

Beforemess

The main line was split three ways: one to the modem. one to our digital HDTV
cable box, and the last to a series of other splitters that feed 6
(yes six) cable TVs in my house. That’s 8 cable leads off one line in
from the street. The line in from the street is 800 feet long as I
have a long driveway, so that line in signal isn’t particularly strong
to begin with.

Off to Radioshack to some bi-directional cable-TV amps. In order for
my HD-digital cable to work and in order for the modem to work, the
amps MUST be bi-directional. I bought 2 1-to-4 splitter/amps (RS part
#5-2506). These split one line in into 4 line outs while amplifying
the signal.

Keep in mind that you must amplify a clean signal. Take a faded signal
and you’ll just amplify the noise making things worse.

My solution was to take the cable in from the street and split it two
ways. The split caused a 3.5 db loss on each line. Each line was then
fed into its own 4-way splitter/amp. From the amp (8 db boost per
line) individual lines go to each TV (including the digital-HD box.)
In my room (which comes from a single line from an amp) I used another
splitter to split one for my TV and one for my modem, again a 3.5 db
loss on each line.

Closeup

While doing all this and mounting the units in my basement, I elected
to tidy up the cables

Aftermess

Results…

Results

What did I get from all this? I got:

1) much stronger signals to all TVs (judging by picture quality).
2) TV in my room where there wasn’t previously sufficient signal
strength.
3) Strong up- and down- stream modem connection.

The splitter/amps run me $50 each, plus $30 or so for misc. parts. So
for $130 I was able to clear up my coaxial cable clutter, boost all my
TV signals and hopefully terminate any weak-signal related issues that
were previously in the making.

Beforesignal

Aftersignal

Joe Rodricks

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