RF is a short term that stands for radiofrequency. RF is any kind of frequency within the electromagnetic spectrum associated with radio wave diffusion. Whenever an RF current is provided to an antenna, an electromagnetic field is produced that then can propagate through space. Numerous wireless technologies are based on radiofrequency field propagation.
It’s common to find wireless radiofrequency modules for microcontroller development kits and other design-ready products, but at this point, where does Radiofrequency cable fit in? And, What does Ethernet have to do with it? This is when things get tricky and confusing; the term RF becomes rather generic, and several technologies can be considered as RF, both wired and wireless. You could even hear people talk about transmitting rf signals without being even sure if they mean wirelessly or via coaxial cable. As for Ethernet, it is important not to confuse the terms “RF cable” and “coaxial cable.”
Most people use both terms interchangeably, but “RF cable” just indicates that signals oscillating at radio frequencies can be contained within RF cable, which is frequently what we also know as coaxial cable. Many other signals that are not RF can utilize coax, as well. Nowadays, a random reference to RF is more probable to mean “wirelessly” because most modern devices communicate wirelessly these days.
Coaxial cable is often utilized for transmitting RF signals up to a few gigahertz and is consequently usually referred to as RF cable. Coaxial cable is the ideal option for this purpose due to its relative imperviousness to external electromagnetic interference. It is frequently applied to protect weak signals that are susceptible to EMI.
In other words, an RF cable might be the same as a coaxial and the same visa versa, but there are exceptions. This is because the term “RF” relates to what you are using the cable for, and “coaxial” relates to the cable’s physical structure.
While coaxial refers to how the cable is built, with conductors sharing a common axial (middle point), RF makes reference to what is being transmitted through the cable (specifically Radio Frequency signals and general electrical signals transmitted by a conductor for eventual transmission over the air or reception from the air).
Examples of RF and Coaxial Cables
Most RF cables are coaxial, but not necessarily the opposite. A microphone cable or a vinyl record pickup might employ the central conductor and external braid, but these are not RF. Some of the coaxial cables that are not confused with RF cables include the old small and thick Ethernet 50-ohm cables, the internet cable that goes down the street, the audio and video cables found on the back of many older TVs and game boxes. Even if most of them could be utilized for RF purposes, they are not called that. On the other hand, examples of rf cables that are not coaxial would include Radio over fiber, the old 300-ohm ribbon cable. Even Ethernet UTP cables can work at RF frequencies even if it’s not a typical application.
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