How Cable Modems Work

Extra Space

You might think that a television channel would take up quite a bit of electrical "space," or bandwidth, on a cable. In reality, each television signal is given a 6-megahertz (MHz, millions of cycles per second) channel on the cable. The coaxial cable used to carry cable television can carry hundreds of megahertz of signals -- all the channels you could want to watch and more. (For more information, see How Television Works.)

In a cable TV system, signals from the various channels are each given a 6-MHz slice of the cable's available bandwidth and then sent down the cable to your house. In some systems, coaxial cable is the only medium used for distributing signals. In other systems, fiber-optic cable goes from the cable company to different neighborhoods or areas. Then the fiber is terminated and the signals move onto coaxial cable for distribution to individual houses.