Keeping copper in the loop

RF systems are ‘live wires’

By Morand Fachot

RF (radio frequency) equipment is widely used for the distribution and transmission of data, voice and multimedia content in the telecom, broadcast, ICT (Information and Communications Technology) and other sectors. As copper cable technology has evolved to meet increased requirements and stay at the cutting edge of technology, IEC TC (Technical Committee) 46 and its Subcommittees and various working groups prepare and update standards for RF cables, connectors and other components to ensure they remain effective and relevant for the industry.

RF cables and connectors are widely used in radio broadcasting, such as for this longwave antenna

Wide scope

Although the distribution and transmission of various kinds of content have moved to some extent from RF systems to new carriers such as fibre optics-based systems, RF gear, which covers a wide range of components, is still irreplaceable in many domains – for instance, connecting TV sets to antennas or cable networks in broadcasting, or for a number of ICT uses. Its performance must be maintained and even improved to ensure it remains relevant in the future.
 This task is entrusted to TC 46: Cables, wires, waveguides, RF connectors, RF and microwave passive components and accessories, its SCs (subcommittees) and various WGs (Working Groups) and MTs (maintenance teams).

Subcommittees for specific areas

SC 46A is responsible for the preparation and maintenance of standards for the coaxial cables used in analogue and digital transmission systems. Currently these are cables of rigid, semi-rigid and flexible construction that are used on transmission lines and in cabled distribution and other similar systems. The subcommittee's WG3 focuses specifically on coaxial cables for ICT and multimedia distribution networks and systems.

SC 46C prepares and maintains standards for wires and symmetric cable pairs and quads in analogue and digital transmission systems and for equipment used in communications and signalling. This work may include general cable construction; electrical, transmission, mechanical and environmental characteristics; related test methods and requirements, as well as quality assessment procedures.

SC 46F prepares standards concerning the specifications, requirements and measuring methods for RF and microwave passive components used in networks and cabling. Given the range of components used in RF systems, this SC produces and maintains a large number of International Standards.

Tight network of liaisons

TC 46 and its SCs act as suppliers or consumers of standards with other IEC TCs, such as:

  • TC 20: Electric cables
  • TC 100: Audio, video and multimedia systems and equipment, and in particular its TA (Technical Area) 5: Cable networks for television signals, sound signals and interactive services
  • TC 103: Transmitting equipment for radiocommunication SC 65C Industrial networks.

As the distribution of data, voice, telecom and multimedia content is often entrusted to both RF and optical fibre networks, TC 46 and TC 86: fibre optics, and their SCs, work together to define component specifications to ensure interoperability between RF and fibre optic-based systems. TC 46 also liaises with ISO/IEC JTC (Joint Technical Committee) 1/SC 25: Interconnection of information technology.

Since RF represents a key element in the distribution of radio and telecommunications signals, TC 46 also works closely with the ITU (International Telecommunication Union) through its ITU-R (Radiocommunication Sector), and ITU-T (Telecommunication Standardization Sector). As demand and need for access to greater content keeps growing, and with RF still providing an essential link in the distribution chain, TC 46 and its SCs are set to be highly active, preparing and maintaining International Standards for the foreseeable future.

tc-2_lw-transmitter-antenna_lrg RF cables and connectors are widely used in radio broadcasting, such as for this longwave antenna
tc-2_lnb_3_lrg LNB (low-noise block) downconverters for satellite reception use RF coaxial cables and connectors
tc-2_bnc_connectors_lrg BNC (Bayonet Neill–Concelman) RF connector used for coaxial cable