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Definition: In computer networking, attenuation is a loss of signal strength measured in decibels (dB). Attenuation occurs on networks for several reasons:
  • range - both wireless and wired transmissions gradually dissipate in strength over longer reaches
  • interference - on wireless networks, radio interference or physical obstructions like walls also dampen communication signals
  • wire size - on wired networks, thinner wires suffer from higher (more) attenuation than thicker wires

Line Attenuation

On DSL networks, line attenuation measures signal loss between the home and the DSL provider's access point (central exchange). Typical values for line attenuation on a DSL connection are between 5 dB and 50 dB (lower values better). Some broadband routers display these line attenuation values on their console pages, although they are typically of interest only to advanced network administrators when troubleshooting connection problems.

Attenuation in Other Contexts

The word "attenuation" sometimes applies in other environments besides computer networks. For example, professional sound mixers may use attenuation techniques to manage sound levels when blending different audio recordings together.

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