What Options Do I Have For Cable TV?


Choices Abound for Subscription TV Services

When the medium of television first achieved mass appeal in the early 1950s, only one delivery method for programming was available:the aerial antenna. In the 1970s, viewers could subscribe to a cable TV service and receive channels such as TBS, ESPN and HBO. TV services now allow users to choose from several methods to receive content. Users can select from options ranging from “traditional” cable to the latest in internet and wireless technology.

SEE ALSO: How To Get The Best Cable TV Plan

Digital Cable

The advent of digital cable represents a step up from the early cable systems of the 1970s and 1980s. In those early years, the cable provider sent their signal through the copper wires with radio waves, which could degrade and lose signal strength through a variety of outside factors. Thecurrent cable technology sends a digital signal to the user's set top box. Not only is the digital signal less prone to degradation, the system can deliver more channels, more services and a clearer picture.

Fiber Optic

The newest method of television content delivery is the fiber optic network. Fiber optic cable is made from bundled strands of flexible, mirrored glass, which carry data via light rays instead of radio waves or digital signals. This method delivers content more efficiently than either analog or digital cable. However, due to the lack of infrastructure when compared to cable, fiber optic technology is not yet widely available and requires special equipment to install in the home.


Although internet video sites have been available for nearly two decades, the ability to view television programs through an internet connection is a recent development. Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) allows users to watch live broadcasts, replays and video on demand (VOD) via an internet connection. IPTV does not require much of theinfrastructure of other delivery methods, but is sometimes used in conjunction with those systems. For instance, AT&T has developed an IPTV service as part of its U-verse TV system.

Satellite TV

In regions where wire-based systems (e.g. cable, fiber optic) carry prohibitive infrastructure costs, many residents use satellite systemsto receive their TV content. Direct broadcast satellite providers, such asDISH Network and DirecTV, receive satellite transmissions from theprogramming sources. The providers then beam those signals to their own proprietary satellites, which send those signals to the small dish receiver on the customer's roof.

SEE ALSO: What Do I Need for Satellite TV

Mobile Delivery Systems

The current generation of TV delivery systems does not require a traditional TV. The expansion of mobile computing technology andwireless internet access nodes has allowed users to receive content from nearly anywhere on almost any device. Users can log on to a mobile TV service (e.g. HBO Go, NFL Mobile) to get their favorite showson their laptops, tablet computers and smartphone screens. Internet search engine giant Google has patented “a distribution unit for delivering content to a mobile device”, which they are working on bringing to market in the near future.

Content delivery systems have experienced a tremendous evolutionsince the days of rooftop antennas. Today's generation of TV customers can choose among delivery methods that fit their lifestyle, geography and content requirements.

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