A coaxial RF connector is an electrical connector designed to operate at radio frequencies in the multi-megahertz range. RF connectors are typically used with coaxial cables and are designed to maintain the shielding offered by the coaxial design. Some RF connectors also minimize the change in transmission line impedance at the connection to reduce signal reflection and power loss. As the frequency increases, transmission line effects become more and more important, with small impedance variations from connectors causing the signal to reflect instead of passing through. RF connectors must not allow external signals into the circuit through electromagnetic interference and capacitive pickup.
To mechanically connect, RF connectors provide a fastening mechanism and springs for low ohmic electric contact while sparing the gold surface, thereby allowing very high mating cycles and reducing the insertion force. Common types of RF connectors are used in television receivers, two-way radio, WiFi devices, and industrial or scientific measurements. There are five main types of RF connectors: BNC (Bayonet Neill Concelman), SMA (Subminiature A), SMB (Subminiature B), N-Type, and TNC (Threaded Neill Concelman).
First, BNC connectors feature a secure and quick-fastening bayonet mechanism. They are most commonly used in coaxial cables for radio, television, RF electric equipment, test instruments, and video signals. Connectors of this type are usually available with either 50 or 75 ohms of impedance. The standard frequency limit is 4 GHz, but higher-quality versions can provide greater limits. The next type of connector, SMA connectors, are approximately half the size of a BNC connector and are used for RF connectivity between boards, microwave filters, attenuators, mixers, and oscillators. SMA connectors have a threaded coupling that provides a secure connection and are available in impedances of 50 ohms with frequency limits of 18 GHz.
SMB connectors are even smaller than SMA connectors and consist of a snap-on fastening mechanism for rapid mating and unmating. Connectors of this type are so small that they are most commonly used for inter-board or inter-assembly connections within equipment. Similar to BNC connectors, they are available in 50 or 75-ohm impedances and have a frequency of 4 GHz. For high-performance applications, N-type connectors are the best option. They are used in broadcast & communications equipment, power transmitters, receivers, and general radio frequency applications. These connectors are available in 50 or 75-ohm impedance options and feature a threaded coupling mechanism to assist in the connection process. Though their standard frequency limit is 11 GHz, some versions can perform at up to 18 GHz.
Finally, the TNC connector is a threaded version of the BNC with a 50-ohm impedance and a frequency limit of 11 GHz. In BNC connectors, the bayonet fastening can create issues for the transmission of signals. The TNC connector does not have this issue and is therefore able to operate at higher frequencies than BNC connectors.
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