What is RF?

RF ConnectorRF (Radio Frequency): Electromagnetic waves at frequencies that extend from approximately 500 KHz to 40 GHz. These frequencies are used for communication signals for radar, radio, satellite transmissions and much more.

From baby monitors to cell phones, Bluetooth® to high-tech radar systems, radio waves are all around us. They propagate at the speed of light, or 186,000 miles per second (300,000 km/s). The frequencies of RF waves, however, are slower than those of visible light, making them invisible to the human eye. RF technology allows you to connect to anything, any time, anywhere in real time. By the year 2020, there could be more than 50 billion connected devices.

Since RF is all around you, it might be good to know some of the terms for RF connector applications. If you want to learn more, just contact us and we will do our best to answer your question. Just hit Live Chat at the top of the page to start!



An analog standard for wireless service - Advanced Mobile Phone System



A mixture of two or more metals combined to achieve properties - such as greater strength or a lower melting point - that the metals do not possess individually.

The atmospheric conditions surrounding that can change or modify a given object (such as temperature or humidity).

Amphenol RF DistributorAmphenol RF
One of BTC's franchised/authorized RF connector manufacturers. 

The magnitude of variation in a changing quantity from its zero value. 

The representation of information by means of continuously variable signal.

The decrease of a signal with the distance in the direction of propagation. Attenuation may be expressed as the scalar ratio of the input power to the output power, or as the ratio of the input signal voltage to the output signal voltage.


Back Mounted 
When a connector is mounted from the inside of a box or panel with its mounting flange inside the equipment. Also referred to as rear mounting.

Backplane Panels
An interconnection panel into which PCB cards or other panels can be plugged. These panels come in a wide range of designs ranging from individual connectors to a PC motherboard. Backplane panels lend themselves to automated wiring.

The range of frequencies for which performance falls within specific limits.

Barrier Seal
A barrier seal is a seal preventing the passage of gases or moisture through the insulator and the gap between insulator and center conductor or outer conductor of a connector or adapter.

Base Material
Metal from which the connector, contact or other piece part accessory is made and on which one or more metals or coatings may be deposited.

Bayonet Coupling
A quick coupling device for plug and receptacle connectors, accomplished by rotation of a cam operating device designed to bring the connector halves together.

Broadband - Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA)

Bending Radius
The minimum permissible radius for fixed installation of the cable. This radius is mainly used in climatic tests. 

BNC (Bayonet Neill Concelman)
Coaxial connector with bayonet coupling mechanism. Available in 50 Ohm and 75 Ohm versions. Frequency range DC - 4 GHz (50 Ohm) and DC-1 GHz (75 Ohm), respectively. Names after its' inventors.

Bonded Assembly
A connector assembly in which the components are bonded together using an electrically appropriate adhesive in a sandwich structure to provide sealing against moisture.

Woven wire used as sheilding for insulated wires and coaxial cables. Also, a woven fibrous protective outer covering over a conductor or cable.

Braid Coverage
A calculated percentage which defines the completeness with which a braid or shield covers the surface of the underlying component.

A term used to define a mounting style of connectors. Bulkhead connectors are designed to be inserted into a panel cutout from the rear (component side) or front side of the panel.

Butted Contact
When two conductors come together end-to-end, but do not overlap, with their axis in line.


Cable television (previously community antenna television) technology, commonly employed by broadband LANs for signal distribution.

Cable Assembly
A completed cable and its associated hardware (connector, for example).

The property of an electrical conductor (dielectric in a capacitor) that permits the storage of energy as a result of electrical displacement. The basic unit of capacitance is the Farad, however measurement is more commonly in microfarads or picofarads.

Capillary Actions
The effect of surface tension that draws a liquid into a small opening.

CDMA (IS-95)
Code Division Multiple Access, a digital standard for wireless service.

Trompeter Distributor  Cinch Connectivity Trompeter Line
Leading RF connector manufacturer and one of BTC's franchised/authorized lines.

Closed Entry Contact
A specially designed connector interface which controls the entry of the male pin from damaging the female contact.

Coaxial Cable
A transmission line consisting of two concentric conductors insulated from each other. In its flexible form it consists of either a solid or stranded center conductor surrounded by a dielectric. A braid is then woven over the dielectric to form an outer conductor. A protective plastic covering is placed on top of the braid.

Connector Assembly
Includes housing and contact plus additional components such as hardware used to hold the assembly together and/or make the assembly a functional connector.

The conducting part of an interconnect at the interface between the connector and the lead on the device being connected.

Contact Alignment
Defines the overall radial play which contacts shall have within the insert cavity so as to permit self-alignment of mated contacts. Sometimes referred to as amount of contact float.

Contact Cavity
A defined hole in the connector insert or housing into which the contact must fit.

Contact Durability
The number of insertion and withdrawal cycles that a connector must be capable of withstanding while remaining within the performance levels of the applicable specification.

Contact Engaging & Separating Force
Force needed to either engage or separate pins and socket contacts when they are in and out of connector inserts. Values are generally established for maximum and minimum forces. Performance acceptance levels vary by specification and/or customer requirements.

Contact Plating
Deposited metal applied to the basic contact metal to provide the required contact-resistance and/or wear-resistance.

Contact Pressure
Force which mating surfaces exert against one another.

Contact Resistance
Measurement of electrical resistance of mated contacts when assembled in a connector under typical service use. Electrical resistance is determined by measuring from the rear of the electrical area of one contact to the rear of the mating contact (excluding both crimps) while carrying a specified test current.

Contact Retention
Defines minimum axial load in either direction which a contact must withstand while remaining firmly fixed in its normal position within an insert.

The transfer of heat by movement of hot air. Often used in conjunction with infrared radiation to reduce the effect of IR shadowing.

The distance between the lowest and highest lead when the connector is laying in its seating plane.

A luminous discharge due to ionization of the air surrounding a conductor caused by a voltage gradient exceeding a certain critical value.

Act of compressing (deforming) a connector ferrule around a cable in order to make an electrical connection.

Crimping Dies
A term used to identify the shaping tools that, when moved toward each other, produce a certain desirable shape to the barrel of the terminal or contact that has been placed between them. Crimping dies are often referred to as die sets or as die inserts.

Crimping Termination
Connection in which a metal sleeve is secured to a conductor by mechanically crimping the sleeve with pliers, presses or crimp dies.

Crimping Tool
A term commonly used to identify a hand held mechanical device or table press that is used to crimp a contact, terminal or spice.

Cross Talk
A magnetic or electrostatic coupling which causes the unwanted transfer of energy from one circuit (disturbing circuit) to another circuit (disturbed circuit).

Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association.

Cut-off Frequency (fc)
The frequency, above which other than the TEM mode may occur. The transmission characteristics of cables above their cutoff frequency may be unstable.

One complete sequence of values of an alternating quantity, including a rise to maximum in one direction and of return to zero. The number of cycles occuring in one second is called the frequency.



Relative measure of signal power where the reference 0 dBm is equal to one milliwatt. See also decibel.

Decibel (dB)
A relative unit without dimensions calculated as ten times the logarithm to the base 10 of a power ratio or as twenty times the logarithm to the base 10 of a voltage ratio. Note: What is commonly measured as VSWR in the RF world is referred to as return loss and measured in dB in the CATV industry.

Delay Line
A cable that delays electrical signals by a specified amount of time.

Delta DistributorDelta Electronics Manufacturing
Lead RF Connector manufacturer and one of BTC's franchised/authorized lines.

A situation where a lead or pad was at one point in the soldering process wetted by the solder, but due to extended time or temperature, the presence of intermetallics, volatiles or other causes, has become withdrawn from the wetted surface.

In a coaxial cable, the insulation between inner and outer conductor. It significantly influences electrical characteristics such as impedance, capacitance, and velocity of propagation.

Dielectric Constant
Electrical property of a material that describes its behavior in an electric field. The dielectric constant of the dielectric is the most important design parameter for coaxial cables and determines dimensions, losses and propagation characteristics.

Dielectric Loss
In a coaxial cable, the losses caused by transformation of electromagnetic energy into heat within the dielectric material.

Dielectric Strength
The voltage which an insulating material can withstand before breakdown occurs.

Dielectric Withstanding Voltage
The maximum potential gradient that a dielectric material can withstand without failure.

(1) Pertaining to the utilization of discreet integral numbers in a given base to represent all the quantities that occur in a problem or a calculation. It is possible to express in digital form all information stores, transferred or processed by a dual-state condition; e.g., on-off, open-closed and true-false. (2) Compare with analog.

DIN 7/16
50 ½ coaxial connector with screw type coupling mechanism providing excellent intermodulation characteristics. Suitable for medium to high power applications. Frequency range DC - 7.5 GHz.

Dip Solder Terminal
The terminals on a connector which are inserted into holes in the PC board and then soldered in place.

Direct Current (DC)
An electric current which flows in only one direction.

Unusable or lost energy, such as the production of unused heat in a circuit.

An unwanted change or addition to a signal or waveform when it is amplified. This definition excludes noise which is an extraneous signal super-imposed on the desired signal.

Dummy Load
A dissipative device used at the end of a transmission line or waveguide to convert transmitted energy into heat, so essentially no energy is radiated outward or reflected back to its source.

Dust Cap
A device attached to a connector to provide protection against dust and foreign debris.


A measure of a conductor's location with respect to the circular cross section of the insulation. Expressed as a percentage of center displacement of one circle within the other.

Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC)
EMC describes the ability of an electrical system to avoid electromagnetic interference with the environment.

Electromagnetic Interference (EMI)
Unwanted electrical or electromagnetic energy that causes undesirable responses, degrading performance or complete malfunctions in electronic equipment. See also: Noise.

A method of electrically depositing metals of very precise compositions and thickness onto a base metal.

(1) In a local computer network, a branching broadcast communications system for carrying digital data packets among locally distributed computing stations. (2) A two-level, baseband, local-area data communications network developed by Xerox and supported by DEC and Intel, among others.

Eutectic Solder
The most common solder alloy because of its low melting point (183oC/361oF), composed of 63% tin and 37% lead.


Federal Communications Commission.

A connector or terminal block, usually having double-ended terminals which permits simple distribution and bussing of electrical circuits. Also used to describe a bushing in a wall or bulkhead separating compartments at different pressure levels, with terminations on both sides.

A short tube to make solderless connections to shielded or coaxial cable (e.g. as in crimping).

Fiber Optics
The technology for guidance of light waves through optical fibers; specifically when the optical energy is guided to another location in order to transmit information.

A projection extending from, or around the periphery of, a connector and provided with holes to permit mounting the connector to a panel, or to another mating connector half.

The pattern on the printed circuit board to which the leads on a surface mount component are mated. Also called a land or a pad.

Frequency Modulation (fm)
A scheme for modulating a carrier frequency in which the amplitude remains constant but the carrier frequency is displaced in frequency proportionally to the amplitude of the modulating signal. An fm broadcast is practically immune to atmospheric and man-made interference.

Fretting Corrosion
A form of accelerated oxidation that appears at the interface of contacting materials undergoing slight cyclic relative motion. All non-noble metals (tin) are susceptible to some degree of fretting corrosion and will suffer contact resistance increases.

Front Mounted (front mounting)
A connector is front mounted when it is attached to the outside or mating side of a panel. A front mounted connector can only be installed or removed from the outside of the equipment.


See Gigahertz.

Gigahertz (GHz)
One billion cycles per second (1x109).

Global Positioning System

Global System for Mobile communication, a digital standard for wireless service for high-performance cell phones; European and defacto world standard.


High-definition television.

Heat Shock
Test to determine the stability of a material when exposed to a sudden high temperature change for a short period of time.

Heat Treating
A process that uses precise heating and tooling of metals in order to optimize internal stresses and spring properties.

Hermetic Seal
Hermetically sealed connectors provide contacts bonded to the connector by glass. They permit maximum leakage rate of gas through the connector of 1.0 micron ft/hr at one atmosphere pressure for special applications.

Hermaphroditic Connector
A connector where both mating members are exactly alike at their mating face. There are no male or female members, but provisions have been made to maintain correct polarity, hot lead protection, sealing and coupling.

Hermaphroditic Contacts
Contacts in which both mating elements are precisely alike at their mating face.

Hertz (Hz)
International standard term for cycles per second. Named after the German physicist Heinrich R. Hertz (e.g. 60 cycles per second is equal to 60 hertz or 60 Hz).


Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

IM/PIM (Passive Intermodulation)
The generation of new (and in the case of cable assemblies undesirable) signals (intermodulation products) at the non-linear characteristics of transmission elements.

Impedance (characteristic, Z0)
Characteristic property of a transmission line describing the ratio between electric and magnetic fields.

Impedance Match
A condition in which the impedance of a component or circuit is equal to the internal impedance of a transmission line. This gives maximum transfer of energy from the source to the load, as well as minimum reflection and distortion.

The property of a circuit or circuit element that opposes a change in current flow, thus causing current changes to lag behind voltage changes. It is measured in Henrys.

The part which holds the contacts in their proper arrangement and electrically insulates them from each other and from the shell.

Insertion Loss
The loss in load power due to the insertion of a component, connector or devise at some point in a RF transmission system. Generally expressed in decibels as the ratio of the power received at the load before insertion of the apparatus, to the power received at the load after insertion (for more information please refer to Appendix).

A material having high resistance to the flow of electric current. Often called a dielectric in RF cable.

Insulation Resistance
The electrical resistance of the insulating material (determined under specified conditions) between any pair of contacts, conductors, or grounding device in various combinations.

Mechanically joining assemblies together to complete electrical circuits.

The two surfaces on the contact side of both halves of a multiple-contact connector which face each other when the connector is assembled.

An electrical or electromagnetic disturbance that causes undesirable response in electronic equipment.

Chemical compounds formed between the metals present in the solder, base metal and protective plating. Intermetallic formation is necessary for good solder joints, but excessive intermetallics can cause brittleness.

Intermodulation (IMD)
A phenomenon that occurs when two or more fundamental frequencies are present in an electronic circuit.

IR Shadowing
When connector bodies or other components prevent the infrared energy from directly striking some solder joints, causing non-uniform heading.

International Standards Organization.


A connecting device into which a plug can be inserted to make circuit connections. The jack may also have contacts which open or close to perform switching functions when the plug is inserted or removed. See also: receptacle.

An outer non-metallic protective cover applied over an insulated wire or cable.

A surface mount lead configuration where leads are bent into curves. Infrequently used on interconnects.


Local Area Network. A data communication network confined to a limited geographic area (up to 6 miles or about 10 kilometers).

The metal portion of a printed circuit board where the pads on a surface mount component are mated. Also called a footprint or a pad.

Line Impedance
Impedance as measured across the terminals of a transmission line; frequently the characteristic impedance of the line.

Low Noise Cable
Cable specially constructed to avoid spurious electrical disturbances caused by mechanical movements.


Mating Face Seal
A mating face seal is a seal preventing the passage of moisture or gases into or out of the connecting interface of two connectors in mated condition.

MCX (Micro coaxial)
Micro coaxial connector with snap on coupling mechanism. Available in 50 ohm and 75 ohm versions. Frequency range DC - 6 GHZ.

MHV (Miniature High Voltage)
Coaxial connector with bayonet coupling mechanism. Working voltage 2.2 kV DC.

A type of transmission line configuration which consists of a conductor over a parallel ground plane, and separately by a dielectric.

That portion of the electromagnetic spectrum lying between the far infrared and conventional radio frequency range. The microwave frequency range extends from 1 GHz to 300 GHz. Microwaves are usually used in point-to-point communications because they are easily concentrated into a beam.

Military (e.g. as in Military Standards).

Mismatch (Connector Impedance or Line Impedance)
The condition in which the impedance of a source does not match or equal the impedance of the connected load. This reduces power transfer by causing reflection.

Miniature Microcoax connector with snap on coupling mechanism. Available in 50 ohm and 75 ohm versions. Frequency range DC - 6 GHz.

Moisture Resistance
The ability of a material to resist absorbing moisture from the air or when immersed in water.

A printed board used for interconnecting arrays of plug-in electronic modules.


N (Neill)
Coaxial connector with screw type coupling mechanism. Available in 50 ohm and 75 ohm version. Frequency range DC - 18 GHz (50 ohm) and DC-1 GHz (75 ohm), respectively.

National Association of Broadcasters

Random electrical signals, generated by circuit components or by natural disturbances.


Original Equipment Manufacturer.

The unit of measurement for electrical resistance. A circuit is said to have a resistance of one ohm when an applied emf of one volt causes a current of one ampere to flow.


The metal portion of a printed circuit board where the leads on a surface mount component are mated. Also called a footprint or a land.

Panel Seal
A panel seal is a seal preventing the passage of moisture or gases through the gap between the mounting hole of the panel and the connector body of the fixed connector.

Personal Computer.

Permeability (magnetic)
The measure of how much better a material is than air as a path for magnetic lines of force. Air is assumed to have a permeability of 1.

Permittivity Relative
Synonym term for relative dielectric constant Er.

Phase Shift
Change in phase of a voltage or current after passing through a circuit or cable.

Phase Stability
Variation of the electrical length of a cable that can result from temperature or mechanical stress due to bending or torsion.

Pin Contact
A male type contact, usually designed to mate with a socket or female contact. It is normally connected to the "dead" side of a circuit.

Plated Through-Hole
A hole through a printed circuit board that has been electroplated and into which a lead is placed and soldered for electrical and mechanical connection.

In coaxial RF connectors the plug is usually the movable portion, and is usually attached to a cable or removable assembly. Plugs mate with receptacles, jacks, outlets, etc.

Press-Fit Contact
An electrical contact which can be pressed into a hole in an insulator, printed board (with or without plated-through holes), or a metal plate.

Printed Circuit Board (PCB)
An epoxy glass and metal composite on which circuits are etched and to which active, passive and hardware components are attached. Also called PCB or PC Board.

Propagation Delay
Time required for an electronic digital device, or transmission network to transfer information from its input to its output.

A model suitable for use in the complete evaluation of form, design and performance.

PTFE (polytetraflouroethylene)
The thermally most stable and chemically most resistant carbonaceous compound. It is unaffected by sunlight, moisture, and virtually all chemicals. Temperature range is -200oC to +260oC / -392oF to +500oF. Electrical properties are very constant over temperature and wide range of frequencies.

A change in the level, over a relatively short period of time, of a signal whose value is normally constant.

Pulse Width
The length of time that the pulse voltage is at the transient level. Electronic pulse widths are usually in the millisecond (10-3), microsecond (10-6) or nanosecond (10-9) range.


Number of sizes of connectors or cables of a particular type.

Usually the fixed or stationary half of a two-piece multiple contact connector. Also the connector half usually mounted on a panel and containing socket (female) contacts.


Reflection Loss
The part of a signal which is lost due to reflection of power at a line discontinuity.

Reflow Soldering
The process of screen printing solder paste and then heating it to cause it to melt, or "reflow", to wet the leads and pads around it.

Radio frequency.

Symbol used to designate coaxial cables that are made to government specification (e.g., RG-58U; in this designation the "R" means radio frequency, the "G" means government, the "58" is the number assigned to the government approval, and the "U" means it is an universal specification).

Rise Time
The time required for a compon

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