Taking cost and complexity out of signal hunting

Unmanned aerial vehicles and ultraportable spectrum analyzers target interference

As 5G continues to take shape and LTE increasingly complements Wi-Fi to provide connectivity for the enterprise, industrial and residential in-building wireless space, the way technicians deploy, test and optimize networks is changing. Telecommunications networks are much more than towers now, and, given the demand for ubiquitous broadband coverage and low latency applications, cellular systems will continue to become more pervasive and more complex. At the same time, these services need to be affordable, so it’s imperative to look for opportunities to take cost out of deployments. A major cost component of network deployments can be the additional infrastructure needed to combat the impacts of reduced coverage or bandwidth availability caused by RF interference in the system.

To highlight the important and dynamic role of locating and managing RF interference, leading test and measurement company Anritsu has launched a web series, Signal Hunters, to showcase advancements in this critical task. In the premiere, Luke and Becca are tasked with using off-the-shelf equipment to find a hidden signal source in the 24 GHz unlicensed microwave band.

https://youtu.be/j2qvJqqPjzk

The duo start with a DJI Phantom unmanned aerial vehicle, UAV or, more commonly, drone, that’s available at a range of online or brick-and-mortar retailers for, in most cases, less than $1,000. From there, Luke and Becca attach an Anritsu Spectrum Master™ Ultraportable Spectrum Analyzer (MS2760A), which is designed to make it easy to measure or locate a signal in a hard to reach location. With some other additions, the total drone payload comes out to a little more than 17-ounces.

The drone flies a search pattern and captures relevant data Luke and Becca use to review changing signal levels until they locate the strongest signal. From there, it’s a quick walk to where the hidden microwave signal source was placed.

While the use of drones in test and measurement hasn’t yet seen widespread adoption, there are numerous promising tests that show the obvious benefit of adding automation and new tools to the more traditional process of walk- or drive-testing. Back to that differentiation between towers and in-building deployments like a neutral host DAS: Imagine, instead of having a team of techs walking a stadium to locate interference, a drone equipped with the correct tools flies a preprogrammed course of waypoints and gets the same readings without anybody walking anywhere. Combine this with a software platform that creates a test plan, one-button setup of instrument control scripts and automated file naming, and you’ve taken cost and time out of a deployment–this is an extremely attractive and valuable proposition for carriers, system integrators and building owners.

The MS2760A is one of Anritsu’s new ultraportable devices. Senior Business Development Manager Walt Strickler said the patented Anritsu non-linear transmission line (NLTL) technology allows the analyzer to be very impactful for these types of applications, but also makes the valuable capabilities “much more affordable.” He gave an example illustrating the importance of having more cost–effective instrumentation available.  Historically, because of the cost, a company may have to settle for only buying a couple expensive benchtop spectrum analyzers. In that scenario, you may have to share among different labs and different team members, so the drawback to that is that the equipment is  not available to you all the time. Work is completed serially when the equipment is available.  With more affordable instrumentation,  multiple units can be readily available  allowing more  engineers to have access to needed capability and to work in parallel rather than sequentially. That helps our customers get to market faster.”

Keep up with Luke and Becca, the Signal Hunters, on Anritsu’s YouTube channel, and click here to learn about how the company is advancing spectrum analysis tools for the 5G era.

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