Types of TV Cable Used in Australia
12 August 2018
Does TV cable type make a difference to TV picture quality?
One of the most commonly neglected parts of a TV antenna system is the cabling used to bring the TV signals from the antenna to the TV receiver. This is due to a misunderstanding of the types of cabling available and the manufacturers’ intended use for each type of cable.
Many decision makers think that the difficulty of replacing substandard cabling is not worth the hassle. However, the cost of replacing old, inadequate cable can be minimal compared to trying to patch up the real problem with new TV antennas, TV boosters or otherwise.
To determine the best cabling for your specific need, we need to look at what cables are commonly available and what purpose they were designed to perform.
Common TV Cable Types in Australia
Here, we have outlined quite a comprehensive list of cable types used in Australia to transmit TV signals.
However, you will notice that there are a large number of other cable connections on the back of your TV. What are they? They are used for the transmission of audio and video signals after the raw RF TV signals have been processed by the digital TV tuner located in your TV or set-top box. So let’s back up a little…
All televisions have an in-built TV tuner. A television without a TV tuner is simply called a monitor. You’ve used those to connect to your desktop computer, and they are still used a lot today for digital signage and other applications that don’t require TV signal processing.
Most televisions today have digital TV tuners. This is great, as all incoming TV signals in Australia are digital, as the analogue transmissions got switched off a number of years ago. If you have an old television that only has an analogue TV tuner, then you can invest in a set-top box that contains a digital TV tuner to process the channels before it gets to your television.
The cable coming off your antenna contains information as raw RF. It still needs to go through a TV tuner before you can view any images or hear any audio. So, once you plug the antenna cable into your television, it will pass the raw RF signal through the TV tuner and from there it will transmit the video and audio signals to the screen!
The television will also allow you to transport those video and audio signals (already processed) to other devices, like other monitors, external speakers and DVD players, video recorders, etc. That is precisely what those other connections on the back of your television are used for.
So, we will first go through the cable types that are used to transport raw RF TV signals (ie before the TV tuner), and then we will outline the common cable types that are used to transport the audio and video signals after they have been processed (ie after the TV tuner).
TV Cable Types Used Before The TV Tuner
Surprisingly you can still buy this cable today. It was popular in the days of Black and White Television due to its low cost and ease of installation.
Unfortunately Ribbon Cable has no outer shielding and is therefore prone to picking up interference from any nearby conductors or metallic objects. It is not recommended that this cabling be used in any current digital television antenna system. Ribbon cabling does not meet the current Australian standards for Digital TV systems AS1367:2016.
Air Core Cable
Easily identifiable by the air gaps visible when looking at the end of the cable. This cable was exceptionally popular for residential homes, apartment buildings and smaller commercial properties due to its low cost. Some versions have a dual layer of copper shielding. This provides ‘shielding’ or ‘screening’ against interference. Unfortunately, air core cable has very high signal loss, particularly at higher frequencies (e.g. UHF). This cable type can be suitable for analogue CCTV camera systems but is not acceptable for a current digital television distribution system. Air core cabling does not meet the current Australian Standards for digital TV.
RG59 Coaxial Cable
Various versions of RG59 coaxial cable are still available. Single copper braid, steel braid, with and without foil, and various other properties. There is no longer a current manufacturing standard for RG59 so it is really only recommended for short interlink cables (e.g. from the wallplate to TV) or for video cabling (e.g. CCTV).
When cable runs are not long and no satellite signal distribution is required, good versions of RG59 coax will be able to meet the performance requirements for digital television distribution in residential homes and apartment buildings. Installed correctly, a good RG59 type will meet the current Australian Standards for digital television distribution.
RG6 Coaxial Cable
RG6 coaxial cable is widely recognised as the best minimum standard cable for distribution of digital television services in residential and commercial properties. Various grades of RG6 are available for a variety of differing purposes. They include:
- RG6 Dual Shield – This entry level cable offers two (hence the term dual) levels of shielding against interference – one braid and one foil.
- RG6 Tri Shield – Popular with cable TV installers, this cable has two layers of foil and one braid. This provides better protection against interference than Dual Shield and is a reasonable general purpose cable for most residential applications.
- RG6 Quad Shield – This cable has two layers of foil and two layers of braid. It offers exceptionally high screening against external interference. RG6 Quad is the minimum type acceptable for most Satellite Pay TV providers such as Foxtel. Most reputable antenna installation companies will only install RG6 Quad or RG11 Quad Shield cabling.
All RG6 cables meet the current Australian Standards for Digital Television distribution. Industry best practice indicates that RG6 Quad shield is the preferred choice.
RG11 Coaxial Cable
RG11 is the big brother to RG6 and is designed for longer cable runs. Due to attenuation or ‘signal loss’ being higher on thinner cable, the thicker RG11 cable has lower attenuation, which allows it to be used for cable runs almost double the length of RG6.
RG11 is available is several variants including Dual Shield and Quad Shield. Quad shield is the preferred choice and many Pay TV providers will not accept anything less.
Hardline Cable (1/2 inch, 3/4 inch or larger)
This ultra-heavy duty cable is used for longer cable runs (over 100M) and is regularly used by cable TV operators and in larger apartment buildings, or blocks of multiple apartment buildings. Given the advance in fibre optic products, hardline cable is being used less and less. Perhaps most recognisable in Australia, many avid spectators will have observed the change in the NBN network from being a fibre optic only design to now incorporating coaxial cable where fibre optic is not economically viable.
Fibre Optic Cable
Fibre optic has now become much more economic to install. It offers virtually no losses and is immune to electrical interference. Additionally, fibre has the advantage that it can carry multiple service simultaneously. For example, Free to air TV, Pay TV, Telephone and Internet.
All of these factors make the installation of fibre an attractive option to consider for any medium to large installation. Optical fibre involves sending a laser beam down a glass wire. This can be harmful if not performed by trained persons. Our team has the trained persons available to advise you of when and where fibre optic solutions would be beneficial for your installation.
Whilst ethernet cable is not traditionally used for transmission of raw RF data, it can be used with the help of baluns to setup a ‘RF over data’ system.
TV Cable Types Used After The TV Tuner
Ethernet cabling goes by many different names, with some slight nuances in meaning. You may have heard of any of the following: twisted copper pairs, data cables, network cables, RJ45 cables, CAT3, CAT4, CAT5, CAT5e, CAT6, CAT6A, CAT7, CAT8. This is the most common cabling used in transmitting data between computers and devices, as well as traditional wired telephone devices. It is also used significantly in digital signage and as a means of transmitting video and audio signal to monitors.
HDMI and its variations, including Mini-HDMI and Micro-HDMI, is a very common form of transmitting data to and from laptops and monitors.
Composite Video (RCA)
Deriving its nickname from the Radio Corporation of America, RCA cables consist of 3 separate cables, each carrying video, audio left and audio right. The colour combinations can vary, however, it is typically:
- Yellow: video.
- Red: audio – right.
- White: audio – left / mono.
Just like composite video, component video is split into 3 different signals. However, component video cables do not carry audio. These cables carry video only, using the colour space YPbPr. Y carries luma. Pb carries the difference between blue and luma. Pr carries the difference between red and luma.
Digital Visual Interface (“DVI”)
Digital Visual Interface (DVI) is a video display interface used to connect a video source to a display device. It has grown out of popularity due to the advent of successors, including most commonly the HDMI cable.
Toslink / Digital Optical Audio
Toslink cable carries a digital audio stream from components to an AV receiver. The AV receiver must be able to decode two channels of uncompressed lossless PCM audio or compressed 5.1 / 7.1 surround sound.
S-Video is a standard for SD video. By separating the black-and-white and coloring signals, it achieves better image quality than composite video, but has lower color resolution than component video.
VGA connectors and cables carry analog component RGBHV (red, green, blue, horizontal sync, vertical sync) video signals, and VESA Display Data Channel data. Commonly used on older style computer monitors and laptops for extending displays.
So What Will Fix My TV Reception?
We have learnt that there are many different cables used for all sorts of different purposes. If you are experiencing bad TV reception, you are most likely experiencing problems with the raw RF signal that is entering your television’s antenna port. In order to improve that signal, sometimes you must replace old, damaged cabling or cabling that was originally installed for analogue signal transmission. The advent of digital signals may mean you need to upgrade your TV cabling!