Cables still in the loop for data transfer

RF systems are thriving in support of ICT and media sectors

By Morand Fachot

Radio frequency (RF) equipment is still widely used for the distribution and transmission of data, voice and multimedia content in the telecom, broadcast, information and communications technology (ICT) and other sectors. As copper cable technology has evolved to meet increased requirements and stay at the cutting edge of technology, IEC Technical Committee (TC) 46 and its Subcommittees (SCs) and various Working Groups (WGs) prepare and update Standards for RF cables, connectors and other components to ensure they remain effective and relevant for the industry.

BNC connectors Groups of 5 BNC connectors can be used to connect VGA devices (Photo: Krzysztof Burghardt)

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 IEC TC 46: Cables, wires, waveguides, RF connectors, RF and microwave passive components and accessories, its three SCs and various WGs and maintenance teams (MTs).

IEC TC 46 was established in 1960 with the title “Cables, wires and waveguides for telecommunication equipment”. The TC and its SCs currently count 15 Participating Members and 20 Observer members. Some 120 experts participate in their work and their catalogue of publications includes nearly 300 documents.

Subcommittees cover multiple areas

IEC SC 46A: Coaxial cables, 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. Its WG 3 focuses specifically on coaxial cables for ICT and multimedia distribution networks and systems.

IEC SC 46C: Wires and symmetric cables, 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. The task of its WG 7: Premises cables for digital communication, is to establish and maintain Standards for balanced cables related to digital transmission systems and equipment for communication used in premises or structured cabling.

IEC SC 46F: RF and microwave passive components, 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.

SC 46F/WG 1 develops the IEC 61169 series of International Standards for RF connectors.

Its WG 2 prepares the IEC 60153 and IEC 60154 series of International Standards for waveguides, waveguide flanges and accessories

SC 46C/WG 3 develops general test methods for relevant sections of IEC 61169

Extensive network of liaisons

IEC 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 Technical Area (TA) 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, IEC 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 Joint Technical Committee (JTC) 1/SC 25: Interconnection of information technology, a SC of ISO/IEC JTC 1: Information technology, set up by the IEC and ISO.

Since RF represents a key element in the distribution of radio and telecommunications signals, IEC TC 46 also works closely with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) through its Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R), and Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T). 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.

BNC connectors Groups of 5 BNC connectors can be used to connect VGA devices (Photo: Krzysztof Burghardt)
Coaxial cable cut Cut of coaxial cable used to transfer RF signals - showing inner conductor, dielectric insulator, foil shield, braided shield and plastic jacket (Photo by FDominec)
 Video switcher (rear) Array of BNC connectors in the rear of a video switcher (Photo: Shadowlink1014)