How to Choose a Coax Cable and Connector Tips

Coaxial cables for radio communication use are also known as RF (radio frequency) coaxial cables. These RF coaxial cables are used for carrying radio frequency signals from one point to another. Connectors are used to connect cables to devices and help maintain the shielding of the cable. Understanding what a coaxial cable is and the cable connectors can help you determine the right one you need.

Connectors have genders, polarity, and different types and sizes that can be confusing if you’re not aware of how connectors work. They must match correctly for both connectors to work and have adequate signals.

To understand how to choose the right coax cable and connector, this article will explain the things you should know when searching for connectors. We’ll review the,

  • Types of Coaxial Connectors
  • Gender
  • Polarity
  • Sizes of Coax Connectors
  • Advantages

Types of Coaxial Connectors

Coaxial cable connectors connect cables to other devices and help maintain the shielding around the cable. Here is a list of the coaxial cable connector types.

  • BNC
  • TNC
  • F-Type
  • UHF
  • SMA
  • QMA
  • FME

BNC is a popular type of connector for the radio signal. These RF connectors are used for quick connect and quick disconnect in RF equipment. BNC is used for low frequencies and used on radios and security cameras.

The TNC connector is a threaded version of a BNC Connector . These connectors are weatherproof and are commonly used in cell phones and RF/antenna connections. These helps solve signal issues while operating your devices. TNC connectors are waterproof as well.

F-Type can be seen on television sets and used with antenna, cable, satellite TV’s, and modems.

UHF connectors are used for amateur radios. Mini versions of this connector were designed for use with cell phones.

SMA connectors are small and hold thinner coax cables. Reverse polarity is available in this connector.

QMA can be known as an upgraded version of SMA. These are made to be quick-disconnect meaning they can be quickly and easily removed.

FME is a smaller size and can be run through holes and be a conductor for larger coax connectors.

NMO is another connector you might frequently see. These can be seen with antenna mounts like those from Motorola or Pulse Larsen. These are mainly found as male connectors.

Gender: Male or Female

The ends of connectors can be identified as male or female. Plugs are male and jacks are female. A male connector plug has threads inside, while a female connector jack has threads on the outside. Male and female connectors go together so the shell of the plug (male) covers the shell of the jack (female). You won’t be able to connect a male-to-male coaxial cable connector and vice versa. The pictures below for more details on what male and female connectors look like.

 
Female Connector
Male Connector
Female Connector Male Connector

 

Polarity

Polarity is another thing you must know to put connectors together. There are two types of polarity connectors can have: Standard and Reverse polarity. When you connect the male to the female connector, they must have the same polarity.

Reverse polarity just means that the hole and pin are switched or reversed.

You can tell the polarity is either standard or reverse by the look at the plug/jack. Standard is what is normally seen in connectors. This type of style can be shown in the above paragraph regarding male or female connectors. A reverse polarity plug is male and has a socket, inside thread, and a center hole. The reverse polarity jack is female and has a center pin with outside threads. Below provides an example of what reverse polarity looks like in both male and female connectors.

Reverse connectors help prevent users from connecting the wrong types of connectors like male to male and female to female. This damages connectors and can interfere with the signal.

Connector Reverse Polarity

Sizes of Coax Cables

Another thing you need to know is the size of the coax cable. Coax cable connectors must be the right size for installation. If a connector is too small, it’s not going to fit the cable. If it’s too big, it’s not secured properly and will most likely fall off the cable.

To identify the coaxial cable type, you’ll see two letters followed by numbers on the cable. The two letters you’ll see are RG meaning Radio Guide. The number followed identifies the cable type. To find the type of coax cable you have to look on the cord for those two things.

A UHF connector talked about before, can be commonly seen on RG-58 and RG-8. SMA, NMO, FME is usually used on RG-58 or thinner coax cables.

The most common sizes of coax cables are,

  • RG-6 (6.15mm)
  • RG-11 (10.30mm)
  • RG-58 (4.95mm)
  • RG-59 (6.15mm)
  • RG-62 (6.15mm)
  • RG-12 (14.10mm)
  • RG-213 (10.33)

Lengths of Cables

Coax cable lengths can vary depending on their use. Coaxial cables can be cabled together to cover long distances. Cable lengths can be from 50 to 1000 feet. Whoever is installing might cut a portion of the cable into shorter lengths depending on the signal strength and range you need to cover.

Pulse Larsen makes mini coax cables that can range from 3 inches to 20 inches. These can be used for RF connections in radios and antennas and connection from the radio to an external antenna.

Advantages of Coax Cables

Cables have their advantages by using them for TV, internet, and radio use. Some advantages of coax cables are its relatively inexpensive, easy to install, and are designed to be durable and withstand temperament.

Product Highlight

View connectors and cables on First Source Wireless.

I hoped that helped you understand how coax cables and connectors work. You should now be able to identify your cable size and connector needed. Remember, connectors have genders (male and female) and must go together to work or connect. Connectors can have reverse polarity meaning it’s the reverse of a standard connector with the pins switched. Cables have different sizes and must match for the connector to hold the cable properly.

First Source Wireless is a dealer of Pulse Larsen antennas offering public safety with NMO mounts, connectors, cables, and antennas. Interested in purchasing any Pulse Larsen products, shop now or contact us at 800-991-4569 for further questions.

About the Author: Taylor Thomas is the Marketing Specialist at Waveband Communications and First Source Wireless. She concentrates her writing for public safety industries covering a wide range of topics on critical communications. Taylor has attended numerous communications conferences including the International Wireless Conference, APCO Conference, and International Police Chiefs Conference.

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