Fundamentals of cable/antenna test tools for base station deployment, upkeep and improvement: Page 3 of 4

October 27, 2014 // By Alain Mignot, Livingston FR
It is recognised that one of the main issues pertaining to the overall performance of a modern mobile communication network will stem from the numerous base stations on which the network is reliant. If these base stations have not been correctly constructed or there has been a failure for timely maintenance to be carried out, then the level of service that a network operator provides to its subscribers might be put in jeopardy and significant revenue may be lost.
Other important factors
As well as supporting all the previously mentioned measurement modes there are a wide variety of different features and functionality that are offered by antenna/cable analyser models currently on the market which may prove to be beneficial. Here are just a few major ones.

Obviously, since these instruments are being used in the field and need to be carried up antenna masts, etc., a lightweight, portable format is highly advantageous. Normally an overall weight below 3kg and dimensions of around 200mm x 280mm x 150mm would be expected. Other characteristics like long battery life and robust construction are also elementary.

To make the examining of acquired data as simple as possible to execute, a unit with a relatively large (+7” diagonal), high resolution colour display should be sought. Inclusion of a touch screen has almost become ubiquitous now – this leads to a more intuitive user interface which is easy to operate, however it is worth pointing out that potentially there can be drawbacks associated with touch screen operation. If an engineer is up an antenna mast and is wearing gloves, then a touch-enabled user interface can become difficult to manipulate.

Another feature, which is available from some manufacturers, is the ability for engineers to write their own test procedures for controlling the instrument. This allows a company to guarantee that every one of its field engineers is following exactly the same procedure when testing a specific base station. This reduces the possibility of errors occurring – such as selecting the wrong the frequency when testing.

It is likely that two port transmission measurement will prove itself to be useful, as it will lead to results that are more accurate than those from single port measurements. 3G/4G base stations today use diplexers and duplexers to increase cell coverage. Via two port transmission measurement it is possible to carry out gain, isolation and insertion loss measurements to deal with this. Furthermore if the analyser has a split screen facility, the user can examine two different measurements (such as DTF and VSWR) at the same time.

Access to superior accessories to accompany these analysers is also important. For example, low loss cables and probes with mean that more accurate test data can be acquired. Furthermore by utilising precision calibration kits, that need to be maintained in good order and regularly recalibrated themselves, it can be ensured that the instrumentation fully complies with all the relevant standards throughout its operational life. There is thus a direct correlation between the quality of the measurements taken and the quality of the calibration kits.

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