What is a “return path?”

“Return path.” It’s another one of those terms you hear a lot when you hang around with RF engineers. (Don’t hang out with RF engineers? You ought to, they’re a feisty lot.) “Oh, you’ve got to protect the return path,” they’ll tell you. “Don’t forget the return path.” It’s like this return path is a little helpless baby bird that can’t survive without your help and guidance.

OK, so it’s not exactly like that.

The term return path just means a signal that travels away from your TV (or satellite receiver or cable modem) back to where it came from. Most of the time you’re getting signal from an antenna, satellite dish or from a cable headend, so you mostly care about how strong the signal is from that point to your TV or computer. Did you ever think that you needed a signal going the other way?

It’s easiest to think about the return path with a cable modem. Your computer is sending information up to the internet all the time, whether you’re entering an address in a web page, sending an e-mail, or just clicking on a picture. So you need a return path from your cable modem to the box in your yard. That makes sense, right?

With satellite dishes, your receiver needs to send information back to the dish to let the dish (or multiswitch) send you the right signal. Once again, that’s a return path. Return paths aren’t that important on an antenna unless you’re using one with a rotor that uses only one cable.

Solid Signal has a full line of signal amplifiers and splitters that protect that all-important return path. You’ll find that they’re a bit more expensive than those that don’t but if that’s what you need, they’re worth it. Just check the specifications for the item you want to buy, and if you’re not sure, let us know here or by contacting Solid Signal!

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.