The Difference Between Power Dividers and Power Splitters

A common question in the RF microwave space is whether you need a power divider or a power splitter. Although these two accessories are almost identical at a glance and provide similar functions, their applications differ significantly. Here’s what you need to know when choosing a divider or splitter.

Power Divider Basics

Broadband power dividers have equivalent 50 ohm resistance at each of their three ports. They take uniform transmission line power and divide it so you can easily make comparative measurements. Dividers also allow you to evaluate power, frequency and other characteristics of a signal. In addition to dividing power, their bi-directionality means you can use them as combiners.

Power Splitter Basics

Power splitters contain a pair of resistors and are used to level and measure ratios in order to increase output match. Splitters offer source leveling, which in turn allows you to improve source matches.

Power Divider Applications

One use for power dividers is to distribute a low power signal to two separate antennas at once. Additionally, they may function as power combiners that allow the user to take intermodulation distortion measurements, as these measurements need a signal with the right phase relationship to the carriers if you want to achieve results you can repeat.

The last main application for power dividers is measuring diversity gain for digitally-enhanced cordless telecommunication devices.

Power Splitter Applications

Power splitters have fewer applications than power dividers. Their first use is measuring isolation, compression and gain. They offer signal ratio capabilities, allowing you to improve upon source matching and let you get rid of any signals that may be re-reflected. This lets you take gain measurements at a number of alternate power levels, without having to re-calibrate.

A power splitter can also improve your source match through external ratioing or leveling, as an alternate approach to improving match. These results can be achieved by using an external crystal detector or a power meter.

Finding the Right Splitter or Divider

Choosing a power splitter or divider is more than checking the specs on the accessory. To get the best results, you need a part that’s made to the highest qualifications. Be sure you investigate customer service options to make sure you can get help if you have any issues with the part. Plenty of cheap dividers or splitters can malfunction soon after purchase, so you need a parts supplier you can trust if you want to make the most of these critical accessories.