Radio frequency equipment is important in both industrial and home hobbyist telecommunications applications and you can find hundreds of different units from various manufacturers around the world. Getting started in RF as a hobby can seem intimidating and you may encounter several terms which seem to be interchangeable, until you get into the details. Three of these terms refer to equipment with similar functions and key differences, power dividers, couplers and splitters.
When it comes to RF equipment, it is important to know that power dividers are units that take an input of power and divide it among two or more output lines. This division can either be equal or unequal depending on your needs. There are two types of rf power dividers, resistive and reactive, which are useful for different purposes.
Power splitters are the same as power dividers, but the radio frequency industry uses a distinction between the terms with splitters referring to the most simple and least expensive units, usually seen in home telecommunications equipment, while dividers are more complex units used for designing systems for particular purposes.
Directional power couplers are designed to provide a bit of power to one port for monitoring, receiver tests and modulation. There are many configurations to couplers which perform various tasks between the mainline and the coupled line. These units can get incredibly complicated with just two lines, but more can be included in the configuration as needed.
Understanding some of the parts involved in radio frequency equipment is one of the first steps in getting a job in the industry or building your own units as a home hobbyist. These parts help you direct power and frequencies to and from the parts where they are needed in antennas, receivers and much more. Knowing the right parts to use for any given application can open a world of fascinating technology.