What is Attenuation?

By July 27, 2019July 6th, 2020Blog, Broadband, Business Internet, Fibre, Network

How Does Attenuation Affect Your Connection?

What is Attenuation?

In a nutshell, attenuation is the loss of transmission signal strength measured in decibels (dB). As it increases, the more distorted and unintelligible the transmission (e.g. a phone call or email you’re trying to send) becomes.

To combat the distortion, networks send multiple repeat signals to ensure at least one successfully reaches its destination. The main side effect of this is a reduction in total speed available due to those extra signals being sent.

Think of it Like This:

When you are chatting with a friend on a busy street you can hear them clearly. Now if you tried to talk to that friend from across the street, the street traffic and background noise (attenuation) would make that conversation inaudible

What Causes It?

  • Noise. Extra noise on networks, like radio frequencies, electrical currents, and wire leakage, may interfere with the signal and cause attenuation. The more noise you have, the more attenuation you experience.
  • Physical surroundings. Physical surroundings like temperature, wall barriers, and improper wire installation may distort the transmission.
  • Travel distance. The further a transmission has to travel from its current location (e.g. your home or workplace) to its Central Office (C/O; the location of your connection provider), the more noise it experiences along the way.

Attenuation Rates in Fibre vs. Copper

Attenuation may occur to any type of signal whether it be copper, fibre, satellite, or even that overly-catchy pop song on the radio. When it comes to fibre and copper connections, however, fibre far outshines the alternatives.

Fibre signals travel on high-frequency wavelengths of light insulated by glass tubes. Since light is resistant to sources of noise like electricity and radio frequencies, fibre connections have a very low attenuation rate.

(Fun fact: Sharks love the taste of fibre cables. Luckily Google loves reinforcing those cables even more.)

Since copper signals are made up of electrical frequencies that are susceptible to noise, they are much more affected by physical surroundings than fibre. Anything from temperature to improper installation (this stuff ain’t your average DIY) may affect the copper line and increase attenuation rate.

As a rule of thumb, the lower the attenuation dB of your connection the better.

Bottom Line

Attenuation is a loss of signal strength measured in dB that reduces a connection’s maximum speed available due to the need for multiple repeat transmissions.

Ultimately the level you experience – and the impact it has on your business – depends on the distance between you and your C/O. The further the distance, the lower your available connection speed will be. If you truly notice a difference in your copper connection due to attenuation, you may want to consider other alternatives.

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