12 Tips for Buying Coaxial Cables
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12 Tips for Buying Coaxial Cables

The growth of wireless and high-speed data applications has caused the demand for coaxial cables to exceed traditional video and telecommunications cables. With the development and advantages of coaxial cables, it has become common equipment in homes, offices, telecommunications facilities, railway platforms, industrial plants, and government/public safety facilities. The diversification of applications has led to the diversification of the types, grades, and coaxial cable manufacturers. Therefore, ensuring that you can correctly choose the type of coaxial cable you need helps to avoid annoying problems during installation.


The following suggestions and frequently asked questions will help you make the right choice when purchasing coaxial cables according to your specific needs.


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Understand Application Requirements And Parameters

The beginning of everything is always to understand the problem to be solved. When you purchase coaxial cables, you need to know the coaxial cable signal quality, including the frequency range and the transmission signal power. Other factors include the radio frequency and electromagnetic environment of the signal, wiring length, and wiring difficulty. For a specific coaxial cable selected for a certain application, the project budget also plays an important role in decision-making.


Correctly Choose Impedance

The two main impedances used by coaxial cables are 75 ohms coaxial cable and 50 ohms coaxial cable, and the coaxial cable impedance cannot be judged from the outside. If the two impedances are confused, it may cause damage to the device connector or the device itself. 75-ohm cables are commonly used for video applications, while 50-ohm coaxial cables are used for wireless data transmission. The type of equipment and device to be connected determines the cable impedance be used.


Coaxial Cable Attenuation

Signals can be lost due to conductor resistance, dielectric loss factor, and other factors related to the coaxial cable quality. The attenuation of a coaxial cable represents the energy loss per unit length of the cable. For applications where the signal power is extremely low or the wiring, requirements are extremely long, and there is no amplifier or signal booster, a low-loss cable is required to meet the minimum signal strength requirements of the coaxial cable receiving end. If the coaxial cable attenuation is so low that a signal booster is useless, then buying an expensive low-loss cable is still cost-effective.


Coaxial Cable Frequency

Each coaxial cable's manual lists several performance parameters including attenuation and power handling capabilities, and these parameters vary with frequency. Generally speaking, the higher the signal frequency, the greater the resistive loss and the greater the attenuation. Besides, at some sufficiently high frequencies, the coaxial cable will work as a waveguide and a TEM mode transmission line with poor performance, the so-called cutoff frequency. The cutoff frequency is much higher than the highest frequency of any signal that needs to be transmitted.


Coaxial Cable Rated Power

The cable power depends on the diameter, the type of outer conductor, and the cable quality. Different cables have different rated maximum processing powers. These ratings are given in the form of continuous-wave conditions, average values, or peak values, and have different meanings depending on the type of signal carried. Besides, the rated power may be the rated maximum voltage and the rated maximum current. It should be noted that such rated power also depends on the frequency, and you should select cables with better safety margins. Once the coaxial cable rated power is exceeded, there is a risk of unfortunate failure modes such as electric sparks, accelerated aging, medium deterioration, and combustion.


Shielding Performance of Coaxial Cable

Coaxial cables have a variety of structure types such as braided, stranded, foil, solid, corrugated, etc., a variety of outer conductor types, and a variety of shielding methods. To further reduce signal interference, some coaxial cables have multiple shielding layers in addition to the outer conductor. Besides, using different types of outer conductors and shielding layers can also achieve flattening resistance, higher rigidity/flexibility, and lower attenuation. When budget permits, the higher the quality of the outer conductor and shielding layer of the coaxial cable, the better, and the more the number, the better.


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How to Wire/Route

Different application scenarios usually have very different wiring requirements. The wiring requirements for large outdoor industrial environments are different from those in machinery facilities or aircraft fuselages. From the equipment assembly to the wiring in complex buildings, coaxial cables can meet your needs. For specific wiring types, coaxial cables have several technical parameters that measure whether they can meet the requirements, including bending radius, maximum load or unsupported wiring conditions, wind load, and various environmental factors and ratings. Normally, such information should be provided to the cable purchaser, and it is as important as the electrical performance of the cable. Because some applications make the wiring operation rougher, different sheath materials and protective layers are usually used to assist cable installation.


What Type of Connector Is Needed

Similar to the case of coaxial cables, there are also many types of coaxial cable connectors. The type of coaxial connector is determined by the device, system, or other interconnection devices that the coaxial cable is connected to. Among them, since the contact between different metal conductors may cause corrosion and performance degradation, and eventually lead to failure, it is important to prevent such contacts from occurring.


When using non-dedicated coaxial connectors, some coaxial cables may be oversized or undersized. Many manufacturers provide optimized coaxial connectors for specific cables, and low PIM or low loss applications require the use of dedicated high-performance connectors. Besides, the coaxial connector and the cable can be connected by crimping, welding, and toolless press-fitting.


Should I Buy Coaxial Cable or Coaxial Cable Assemblies

Due to the diversity of coaxial connectors and cables, many suppliers provide pre-assembled coaxial components for specific purposes. For a specific application, if the cable length, performance parameters, and coaxial connector type are known, then the best option is to purchase cable assemblies.


Institutional Requirements And Special Equipment

Military, government, avionics, aerospace, naval and industrial equipment have specific requirements for coaxial cable performance. Only by meeting the institutional requirements of these industries, society, and government can the cable be qualified to be used in these fields. These requirements can be quite complex, and it is not easy to remember them. Experts may be the best candidates for details here.


Special Coaxial Cable

Many special applications such as test and measurement, scientific experiments, satellites, high-performance radars, etc. require the use of dedicated coaxial cables. In addition to the aforementioned institutional standards, these cables usually need to meet specific applications and many non-standard requirements. Experts can help purchasers understand the cables that can meet specific needs one by one, and finally choose the best option.


Counterfeit Cables And Knockoffs

Unfortunately, due to profit-driven, counterfeit coaxial cables are more common on the market. The use of cables other than genuine ones is illegal and may put the safety of operators and equipment at risk. Choosing qualified coaxial cable suppliers with good historical records and quality management systems is the best way to prevent losses.


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