A CATV converter permits a connected television to decode a cable TV signal, transposing the channels in the cable broadcast into a single channel displayed on the television. Back in the days of analog broadcasts, CATV converters made it possible for people without "cable-ready" television sets to subscribe to cable TV services.
A CATV converter is a set-top box distributed by a cable television company to its subscribers. The box is essentially a small, embedded computer that connects to the cable line coming in to your house and an input on your television. Without a CATV converter, you would be unable to enjoy many of the features that you expect from your digital cable service – and you might not be able to view cable programming at all.
The bandwidth of a cable broadcast is limited; an analog broadcast can carry a finite number of channels without risking video quality degradation. Increasing customer demand for variety led cable service providers to convert broadcast signals to compressed digital packets. Another factor that contributed to the switch to digital broadcasting was the introduction of high-definition television, which requires much greater bandwidth than standard-definition content. A digital CATV converter makes it possible to convert digital packets to video signals.
Because digital cable transmits broadcasts in the form of data packets – similar to the information your computer downloads from the Internet – your CATV converter may be able to receive other services in addition to TV broadcasts. Some of the services offered by cable service providers include a real-time channel guide, digital streaming music and weather forecasts. Some service providers also offer telephone service, and your CATV converter may have the ability to display caller ID information for incoming calls. Some CATV converters have built-in hard drives for recording and replaying programs.
Digital broadcasting makes it possible to assign a network address to a CATV converter, facilitating two-way communication between the customer and cable provider. Using this feature, the cable company may send messages about your service or give you the ability to pay your bill through your television. Your cable provider may also offer on-demand programming, allowing you to stream a show over the network any time you like.
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