What are Coaxial Cable Adapters?

Mike Howells

An umbrella term, coaxial cable adapters are a type of small metal adapter. They generally serve to connect distinct pieces of coaxial cables together, or as an endpoint to attach a cable from a source to a receiver. In the electronics industry, coaxial cable adapters are sometimes considered a larger category, consisting of numerous parts including bushings, splitters, couplers, attenuators, male/female adapters, and terminating plugs.

Cat 5 cable with RJ45 plug.
Cat 5 cable with RJ45 plug.

Most commonly, the term coaxial cable adapters is interchangeable with RF connectors, and they are used in television and audio-visual capacities. They are employed as a hardpoint between coaxial cable originating from outside, and the cable that is connected directly to a TV, VCR, or other receiving unit. Operating in the megahertz range of the radio spectrum, coaxial cable adapters have a twofold purpose: transferring the signal carried by the coaxial cable to the receiving unit while mechanically maintaining a physical connection between the two. Physically, RF connectors consist of a fastening component, which can range from a threaded mechanism to a tab or quick-lock style mechanism, and springs which allow the coaxial source to contact the receiver's coaxial jack with a minimum of interference. They are typically coated with high-conductivity metals like silver or gold to optimize performance.

Coaxial cable adapters typically serve to connect different pieces of coaxial cables together.
Coaxial cable adapters typically serve to connect different pieces of coaxial cables together.

There are a number of standardized types of coaxial cable adapters. These include 7/16 DIN, Bayonet Neill-Concelman (BNC), the European standard IEC 169-2, and a wide variety of Ultra-High Frequency (UHF) connectors that are typically referred to by manufacturers' model names. There are also a host of miniature and smaller types of coaxial cable adapters available. Different applications demand different styles of adapter, and not only size but frequency range, impedance, and other specifications can have a profound impact on the quality and utility of a given adapter.

While HDMI technology and other advances mean that a coaxial source such as cable television or satellite is first routed through a receiver, coaxial cable adapters remain a critical component of the modern home entertainment equation. With advanced coaxial standards becoming more prevalent, the implementation of home networks over coaxial cables is increasingly common. Though coaxial cable is more expensive than equivalent lengths of Cat5 cabling, the ability of coax to handle both Ethernet and television programming have warranted its continued development, and updated standards of coaxial cable adapters are being developed to minimize interference. The standard providing for up to 1 Gigabit speed local area networking over coax is known as ITU-T G.hn.

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Discussion Comments


@nony - I am running coaxial cable to my satellite dish receiver and it’s okay, but I am planning to get an HDMI cable soon.

The reason is that I have a High Definition television set and I understand that the HDMI cable is the best connection for that kind of a set.

Coaxial is good because it’s everywhere and they have coaxial cable adaptors for just about anything, but it’s not always the best signal quality depending on what kind of equipment you have.


I have coaxial cable adapters in several rooms in my house. They allow me to string along the coaxial cable to either my television set or Internet connection.

The cables are very sturdy and come in varying lengths so that I can connect them from one room to another if I have to.

One thing I noticed however is that you can’t really split an Internet connection with a coax cable adapter.

I bought one of those splitters that are supposed to take one signal and split it into four. I then tried to run one line to one cable modem, and the other line to another cable modem (an older one) that I had. Both were connected to my computer.

It didn’t work. The Internet signal would only work on one computer. The cable company told me I’d need a second account for that setup, but I decided to go wireless instead.

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