Even though you have probably seen a radio frequency (RF) cable before, you might not know what you are looking at. Though they are commonly referred to as coaxial cables, RF cables, and RF cable assemblies can be used in slightly different ways than standard coaxial cables. In fact, several different types of RF cables and RF cable assemblies are used in truly next-gen applications.
As one of the leading manufacturers of custom cable assemblies and wire harnesses, Meridian Cable has the inside scoop on all things cable. We’ll explore and explain what an RF cable assembly is, the different types of RF cable assemblies, and how they can benefit your business. Let’s untangle these cable mysteries together, shall we?
What is an RF Cable Assembly?
RF stands for radio frequency, the signal that an RF cable transmits. This is a high-frequency signal used in sound and audio equipment. Though it is commonly interchanged with a coaxial cable and shares many of the same properties, an RF cable transfers radio frequency levels between equipment.
When looking at an RF cable, the key identifying component is the connector. An RF cable connector typically has a single pin in the middle of the connector surrounded by an outer casing that forms a secure connection. This unique design enables the RF cable to have a tight connection to the port and can help prevent interference.
Unlike their close cousin, television coaxial cables, RF cables have a shorter length that they can viably transmit signals. This means that RF cable assemblies are often close to their equipment and require specific elements to protect against electromagnetic interference (EMI).
Each RF cable contains a shielding layer to help defend against EMI in electronically noisy environments. This protection is particularly essential for telecommunication, medical industries, and military applications. Additionally, the secure connection design on RF cables helps to ensure that the cable will not be easily removed or allow other interference. The built-in protection of an RF cable assembly helps to block EMI from damaging or destroying data. Naturally, this makes them highly valuable in a range of industries.
RF cables are composed of four main components. Each cable will include an inner conductor, insulation, shielding, and an outer jacket. Different types of RF cable assemblies can include other elements, depending on the equipment that the RF cable assembly is for.
Types of RF Cable Assemblies
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s get into the particular types of RF cable assemblies. Though they will all accomplish the same generic functions, each cable is best for a specific area or equipment type. There are several to cover, and each will have unique properties. However, the main distinguishing factor between each RF cable assembly is the connector type. You’ll see these connections in radios, antennas, surge protectors, and other various kinds of electrical gear.
Before we get into that, however, we need to distinguish between the different genders of cable connections. The male connector on an RF cable has a single pin in the center of the connection, whereas the female connector has a jack or socket to which the male end can be connected.
The male end will have the connection threads inside the shell. The female end, however, will have the connection threads on the outside of the shell. This is a quick and easy way to tell the two connectors apart.
Type-N RF Cable Assemblies
First up are type-N RF cable assemblies. Type-N’s have been around since the 1940s and are both durable and capable cable connectors. They were first invented as a weather-proof option for connecting antennas to equipment in harsh outdoor conditions. Because they are tough cables, they are typically used outdoors and have high resilience to hazards like moisture, cold, heat, and debris.
The type-N RF cable assemblies can transmit up to 18GHz, though they are typically rated for 11GHz. They have a medium-sized connector which makes them reasonably versatile in their application. You will commonly see these assemblies in the aerospace, military, cellular, and telecommunication industries. In short, the type-N RF cable assemblies can be found most anywhere a durable cable is needed.
Ultra High Frequency (UHF) RF Cable Assemblies
UHF is another type of RF connector that can handle higher frequencies than a standard RF cable. UHF connectors have the capacity to transmit signals up to 100 MHz. Unlike type-N’s, the UHF connections are not water-proof, so they are more suited for indoor uses. Though they can handle higher frequencies, they also carry a less constant current. This means they can lose or have inconsistent signals in certain situations.
You will often see UHF RF cable assemblies in radio applications. They can be found in industrial capacities and personal uses, such as amateur radios or Citizen band radios. Because they can handle higher frequencies, these RF cables tend to be highly sensitive to specific equipment. However, when used correctly, they are quite capable and effective.
BNC RF Cable Assemblies
Bayonet Neill–Concelman (BNC) connections are a clever type of cable designed to be fast attached and released. First being used in military applications, these RF cable assemblies are convenient options for portable or mobile systems. These cables are best used in low-frequency equipment as they only have a capacity of 2 GHz. This makes them well-suited for visual equipment like television or monitoring systems.
Because they are made to connect quickly, BNC RF cable assemblies have various uses. While commonly found in the military or medical industries, BNC RF Cable assemblies can be found in any field that needs a mobile visual component like a monitor.
TNC RF Cable Assemblies
Threaded Neill–Concelman (TNC) connectors are threaded versions of BNC cable connections. They offer a more secure connection and can handle higher frequencies than their BNC counterparts. With the capacity to manage up to 11 GHz, TNC RF cables have a more comprehensive range of uses. They are also waterproof, which means they are well-suited to be used outdoors, as well as indoors. While they do not connect or disconnect as quickly as a BNC cable will, they are still a highly capable cable assembly option.
You can find TNC RF cable assemblies in many industries, especially those that deal in microwave frequencies. Because they have better performance than BNC cable assemblies, they offer a larger scope of possible applications. You will commonly see these cable assemblies in radio or telecommunications industries.
SMA RF Cable Assemblies
SubMiniature version A (SMA) Cable connections are a minimalist connection that was first invented in the 1960s. They feature a simple connection with small threading to add security. Initially, these cables only had the capacity to handle up to 12 GHz, but now are capable of 18 GHz or, in some cases, up to 24.5 GHz.
SMA RF cable assemblies are highly adept in several areas of the technology world. Because they have a high capacity and a threaded connection, they are popular in antennas, radio, and telecommunications. With excellent performance and a secure connection, these SMA RF cable assemblies are a great option for many applications—contact our team to discuss the benefits for your project.
How a Custom RF Cable Assembly Can Be Useful
Here at Meridian Cable, we have created thousands of RF cable assemblies for countless industries. These handy cables have a wide range of uses and can be found in nearly every corner of the globe. With so much potential, pinning down the benefits of RF cable assemblies could take all year. However, here are a few of the key advantages of using a custom RF cable assembly for your business:
- RF cable assemblies are easy to install
First, RF cable assemblies will have a simple connection mechanism to your equipment. With several varieties featuring a quick release/connection, getting an RF cable assembly won’t take a full engineering degree. This feature makes them convenient, as well as capable.
- RF cable assemblies are durable
Because they are typically designed with built-in insulation and shielding, RF cable assemblies are known for their durability. With waterproofing capabilities, several types can be used in a broader range of industrial settings.
- RF cable assemblies have built-in EMI protection
Each RF cable assembly has a shielded layer, so they are excellent for technologically heavy environments. This quality gives protection for your data and signal as it transfers between equipment.
- RF cable assemblies are long-lasting
Because they are tough and protected, RF cable assemblies tend to last longer than a lot of other cable assemblies. Made to be enduring, RF cable assemblies are a high-value asset. This means they are a secure investment for any industry.
Get Started on a Custom RF Cable Assembly Today
That may have been a lot of info on RF cable assemblies. Luckily, our engineering team would be glad to walk you through any questions you have to help get your project started. Contact us today to learn more about partnering with Meridian Cable for a tailored solution.