Common Coaxial Connectors Explained

So many coaxial connectors, which ones work with which? There are so many to choose from that it might be a full time job to try to explain them all. However, the following is a brief explanation of the ten most commonly used styles, F-Type, BNC, TNC, .FL, N-Type, MCX, SMA, RCA, UHF and 7/16 DIN. Each of these connector styles will “mate” together in a male/female, plug/jack format. This may be as a male or female plug or a male or female jack. The gender is also often referred to as the polarity.

F-Type - The standard “cable” connector most commonly used for cable TV or internet connections.

BNC - Defined as Bayonet Neil-Concelman describes its connection style as a bayonet style designed for quick twist-on connections.

TNC - One might think these would work with BNC, being so similar in name, but these are defined as Threaded Neil-Concelman which are simply a threaded and weatherproof version of BNC.

.FL - These are a connector style that could cause a lot of confusion. More universally known as UMCC (UltraMiniature Coaxial Connector) this style, which has been called by many names such as FL, I-PEX, MHF, AMC, W.FL, H.FL and others is a very low profile snap-on type connector used primarily in mobile applications. These, in general, can cross connect.

N-Type - The N-type connector style might be thought to be related to the F-type due to its name but it is actually named for its inventor Paul Neill. This is another threaded and heavier duty solution which is also intended for outdoor applications being weatherproof.

MCX - This is another style that has many variants. These are defined as Micro Coaxial Connectors and are closely related to MMCX (Micro-Miniature Coaxial Connector), MMBX, SMB (Sub Miniature Version B), SSMB (Smaller SMB), SMC, SSMC, SSMCX and others. These all have a snap-on connection and would not generally cross connect.

SMA - These are the threaded version of the SMB or SMC connectors. SMA connectors do not associate well with SMB and SMC because they are snap on type. Also, while very similar to the F-type, SMA does not associate with F-type. These two are differentiated primarily by max frequency and size.

RCA - RCA connectors get their name from the company that designed them, Radio Corporation of America. These are a very common connector for basic and quick video and audio connections.

UHF - These connectors were defined as Ultra High Frequency connectors in the 1930s when this was known to be frequencies above 30 MHz. Today, ultra high frequencies are much higher and these connectors are not able to handle them. This makes these connectors, which are similar to an F-type connector, an inferior design to most others.

7/16 DIN - These are defined as seven and sixteen millimeter DIN. DIN is a reference to the organization that originally standardized the connector style, Deutsches Institute Fur Normung. This style is among the most popular in cellular antenna applications.

As a general rule it is not recommended to try to mix and match these styles together without the use of adapters as their ratings and functionalities do not match even if a connection can be made. These are ten of the most popular coaxial connector styles. This is certainly not an exhaustive list but Digi-Key has a more exhaustive digital catalog with images including adapters.

Another thing worth mentioning is that within each one of these styles there are numerous variations, such as reverse polarity, that can be used for specific applications. For further information on some of these variations please see the following posts.