In digital communication systems, a repeater is a device that receives a digital signal on an electromagnetic or optical transmission medium and regenerates the signal along the next leg of the medium. In electromagnetic media, repeaters overcome the attenuation caused by free-space electromagnetic-field divergence or cable loss. A series of repeaters make possible the extension of a signal over a distance.
Repeaters remove the unwanted noise in an incoming signal. Unlike an analog signal, the original digital signal, even if weak or distorted, can be clearly perceived and restored. With analog transmission, signals are restrengthened with amplifiers which unfortunately also amplify noise as well as information.
Because digital signals depend on the presence or absence of voltage, they tend to dissipate more quickly than analog signals and need more frequent repeating. Whereas analog signal amplifiers are spaced at 18,000 meter intervals, digital signal repeaters are typically placed at 2,000 to 6,000 meter intervals.
In a wireless communications system, a repeater consists of a radio receiver, an amplifier, a transmitter, an isolator, and two antennas. The transmitter produces a signal on a frequency that differs from the received signal. This so-called frequency offset is necessary to prevent the strong transmitted signal from disabling the receiver. The isolator provides additional protection in this respect. A repeater, when strategically located on top of a high building or a mountain, can greatly enhance the performance of a wireless network by allowing communications over distances much greater than would be possible without it.
In satellite wireless, a repeater (more frequently called a transponder) receives uplink signals and retransmits them, often on different frequencies, to destination locations.
In a cellular telephone system, a repeater is one of a group of transceivers in a geographic area that collectively serve a system user.
In a fiber optic network, a repeater consists of a photocell, an amplifier, and a light-emitting diode (LED) or infrared-emitting diode (IRED) for each light or IR signal that requires amplification. Fiber optic repeaters operate at power levels much lower than wireless repeaters, and are also much simpler and cheaper. However, their design requires careful attention to ensure that internal circuit noise is minimized.
Repeaters are commonly used by commercial and amateur radio operators to extend signals in the radio frequency range from one receiver to another. These consist of drop repeaters, similar to the cells in cellular radio, and hub repeaters, which receive and retransmit signals from and to a number of directions.
A bus repeater links one computer bus to a bus in another computer chassis, essentially chaining one computer to another.
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