Counterfeit cables and assemblies are a growing issue in the RF market. Inferior RF interconnect products continue to appear, and since they are produced with lower-quality materials, they undercut the value of genuine products. Using inferior raw materials and components instead of quality ones can lead to costly failure. As the original manufacturer of LMR® coaxial cables, Times Microwave Systems often deals with counterfeit competitors in the market.

Thirty years ago, LMR cables were released as a reliable and efficient coaxial cable alternative to traditional RG cables and stiffer corrugated copper cables. Since then, as has happened for many popular products, counterfeits and clones have appeared on the market. These counterfeit products appear to offer a better value at a lower price. However, the value of a product goes beyond the product itself, it also encompasses quality, certifications, accessories and technical support.

Many common scenarios that lead to the purchase of counterfeit cables involve a bait-and-switch technique. This happens when one product is advertised and once a customer is interested, an inferior product is either substituted or shipped. For example, some companies will list their cables as LMR cables or an equivalent substitute for LMR cables to attract customers, but then what is provided is not an authentic product.


Figure 1 Times Microwave genuine LMR cables.

Counterfeit and clone cables may appear to be a more cost-effective option for systems, but eventually, they may pose many disadvantages and can result in system degradation or complete system failure. If the system requires long-term performance, as most systems do, a counterfeit or clone cable may not be the best choice. While these cables might have similar test results initially, the counterfeit cables may not continue to meet those specifications over the expected lifetime. Typically, these counterfeit and clone cables are not built to last and are likely made of lower-quality materials. For example, the jacket of a counterfeit cable is unlikely to have the same level of UV resistance needed to survive an outdoor environment. In a critical application, such as a hospital or a high-rise building, a low-smoke, fire-retardant cable that does not meet the UL standards for flame and smoke can potentially lead to the inability to exit a building, which can easily result in fatalities. Figure 1 shows an example of the LMR line of genuine cables from Times Microwave Systems.

Beyond the safety considerations, the overall cost of counterfeit and clone cables can be substantial. A buyer must consider that if the counterfeit cable becomes faulty due to the materials or the construction techniques, or if the cable gets damaged, a replacement cable must be purchased and there will be additional rework or reinstallation costs incurred when the cable is replaced. Depending on the specific application, having a system or a network out of service for hours or days while the faulty cable is replaced is likely to cause a substantial loss of revenue in addition to the replacement costs. Additionally, if a cable is required to be UL-listed, it must have that marking on the cable. If the cable does not carry the appropriate UL listing, an inspector can demand that the cable be removed and replaced with an approved selection.

All cables can fail, but some of the more common failure points of counterfeit and clone cables include:

  • Jacket failure
  • UV deterioration
  • Water penetration into the cable along the braid
  • Poor cable-to-connector transition
  • Degradation of performance over time due to the breakdown of the dielectric
  • Cracking of the outer conductor tape resulting in poor RF performance
  • Moisture migration down to the center conductor
  • Poor dimensional tolerance of the dielectric causing electrical instability.

UV deterioration and failure is one of the most common system failures that inferior coaxial cables cause. Once the jacket cracks and water can breach the assembly, it becomes a matter of time before the interconnect deteriorates and becomes unusable. Other issues, like using nitrogen-injected polyethylene foam versus chemical foam dielectric, not pressuring the jacket and no adhesive on the center conductor are all things a buyer may find as issues with counterfeit cables. All these issues, along with many others, can have a significant impact on performance.

When designing and manufacturing authentic cables, there are many steps involved to guarantee high performance over a long life for the cable. Pressuring the jacket during manufacturing helps create a more mechanically stable cable and eliminates a path for water to get through the braid. Adding adhesive to the center conductor also removes a path for moisture to travel, which could result in potential RF degradation.


The terms “counterfeit” and “clone” are often used interchangeably when referring to cables that do not come from a reputable manufacturer or source. Both of these designations are umbrella terms that refer to the broad category of replica cables. However, there are differences and when counterfeit and clone cables are compared, these differences become clear.

Counterfeits are typically defined as products not produced in the U.S. The companies that make these cables advertise and promote these products as brand-name cables when they are not. These claims can range from misleading to deceptive and the result is that buyers are often misled into believing that they are buying a genuine product. As described earlier, these counterfeit products are often crafted with subpar materials that lack the strength, durability and conductivity of the genuine cables. Not only can there be substantial costs to the end users, but the brand name suffers when the end users are led to believe that they are getting a quality product and the counterfeit cable does not fulfill those expectations.

The situation with clone cables is a little different. Clone cables do not necessarily claim to be a name-brand product. They are copies of genuine products, but they are designed and manufactured without the technical expertise or quality of the genuine cable that the clone cable is imitating. These products mimic the general look and feel of a known brand-name cable, but the quality of the clone cable will always be suspect because of the quality control of the processes and the lower grade of the materials used to manufacture those cables. This path has proven to be the more popular technique in the coaxial cable industry, as clone cables are seen more frequently than counterfeit cables.

Times Microwave Systems is extremely aware of the problem of counterfeit and clone cables. The LMR brand of cables was the first of their kind. As they gained popularity, other companies attempted to copy the cables. As a result, there are many counterfeit cable versions of the LMR line of coaxial cables in the RF cable industry. Many companies advertise their counterfeit or clone cables as LMR cables. Some of these companies will even provide the LMR cable performance details, unchanged, as data from their cables.

This is not just a problem with LMR cables. There are other comparable and competitive cables on the market. The largest segment of coaxial cables, other than LMR cables, is RG cables. The RG in the cable nomenclature stands for “Radio Guide” and this designation came from World War II military specifications. These cable designs use PVC jackets, meaning they are not as robust to outdoor weather conditions. The designs also have issues with performance loss and they are not as well shielded as their more recent coaxial cable counterparts. In addition, this style of coaxial cable tends to be either very stiff or very fragile, making it more susceptible to kinking when compared to other corrugated cables of comparable size. Despite these drawbacks, RG cables are still being sold, counterfeited and cloned into market applications.

Figure 2 Times Microwave Systems TK-195/200/240EZ-HC installation tool kit.

Another advantage of buying authentic cables from an authorized dealer is that most of these cable companies provide a full connectivity solution. Coaxial cables will connect to other devices at both ends or they will be terminated at one end. They may also need to be cut to custom lengths during field installations. With the full connectivity solution from authorized dealers, a user will get not only a genuine cable but connectors designed to fit with the cable, along with terminations and tools that help with the termination and installation process. Also, it is not hyperbole to say that a complete RF interconnection of any kind is only as strong as its weakest point, so the tools for creating the cable-to-connector transition are crucial. In addition to accessories like ground kits and weather seals, authorized cable sellers provide technical support and training content for terminating and installing cables that help to maintain the consistency and performance of the genuine product. Figure 2 shows a typical cable installation tool kit for Times Microwave Systems products.

Using the Times Microwave Systems LMR cable family as an example, there are several things to look for to verify that you are getting a genuine LMR cable:

  • Times Microwave Systems name
  • Registered trademark after LMR®
  • If the seller is an authorized distributor
  • If it is a UL/CSA-listed product with a qualification reference number.


Figure 3 Times Microwave Systems LMR-900-LLPX cable.

Companies use trademarks to distinguish their products from their competitors’ products. A trademark identifies the brand owner of a particular product or service. This use gives companies the legal right to prevent the use of similar or identical trademarks without proper authorization. Figure 3 shows a cutaway image of a Times Microwave Systems LMR-series cable showing the trademark, along with the metallic sheathing that improves shielding and performance.

In the case of LMR cables, LMR is a registered trademark of Times Microwave Systems, not a generic cable category within the industry. This means that other companies are not free to use this designation. The owner of the registered trademark is the only company authorized to manufacture the authentic trademarked product. Other suppliers may try to replicate or emulate the cables, connectors and tools, but doing so means that the supplier is knowingly producing a counterfeit or clone cable and falsely marketing inferior products as authentic cables. Any company that appropriates the trademark for products and literature not manufactured by the holder of the trademark infringes upon that trademark. Sometimes identifying and prosecuting these activities is difficult, but anyone who knowingly buys or manufactures a counterfeit or clone cable is jeopardizing their end application and creating a cost for the entire industry.


Counterfeits and clones of cables from authorized manufacturers and resellers are often the cause of failure in RF systems. A high-quality product is likely to have imitators looking to capitalize on the success of the product, often to the detriment of the end user. To ensure a system works reliably and as designed, it is incumbent on the buyer to be certain they are buying genuine cables from a reliable supplier. Paying attention to trademarks and the company selling the product can help prevent purchasing a counterfeit cable that can cause damage to an RF system and incur additional costs.