How to Identify External Antenna Connectors


Many wireless devices allow you to swap out the antenna. Doing so is useful for both increasing the range of your wireless as well as adapting your wireless to different uses. A Yagi antenna, for example, is great for point-to-point wireless links, while an omnidirectional antenna serves clients all around it. To change these antennas, however, you must purchase an antenna with the appropriate connector. The most common connectors are RP-TNC, RP-SMA, N and MC.

On Your Wireless Router

  • You’ll find RP-TNC connectors on the backs of virtually every consumer-grade wireless access point with external antenna connections. The male connector has threading on the inside and a single, protected hole at the middle to accommodate a thin coaxial wire. The female RP-TNC connector complements this, with outer threading and a coaxial wire at the center, similar to a television coaxial cable. The plugs measure roughly 14mm in diameter.

On Wireless Cards and More

  • Commonly found on the backs of wireless cards, the RP-SMA connector looks like the little brother of the RP-TNC. The outer diameter of the male connectors comes to a little more than half the size of the RP-TNC and maintains the same inner threading. The female connector also uses outer threading similar to the RP-TNC; however, RP-SMA is often not as deep as the RP-TNC.

Tiny and Portable

  • For internal laptop antennas and some wireless routers, the MC connector is used. Also known as the Lucent or MCX connector, this antenna connection is the smallest available and does not rely on threading to connect the wires. Instead, the male and female connections snap into place like a button. In addition to portable computers, many wireless routers and access points with no visible antenna use an internal wireless card and MC connector-based antennas.

Rugged, Outdoorsy Type

  • Outdoor wireless solutions often use an N-Type connector. Such antenna deployments include point-to-point links, where an outdoor antenna is aimed at another antenna. The N connector looks similar to the RP-TNC but is roughly 5 to 6mm wider in diameter.

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