Industry Insights

Detecting Elusive Signal Events in the Spectrum

2019-06-29  |  4 min read 

In the communications world, order is kept via the careful assignment of spectrum to different applications and technologies. This approach works to create an optimal environment for all wireless communications systems while placing special emphasis on protecting military or public-safety communications. Yet wireless frequency bands grow increasingly crowded, making it more likely that networks suffer from interference or even communications failure. Such problems can arise from any RF system, ranging from malfunctioning cellular phones to the use of products imported from another country and mobile systems like drones. Because these signal events are often elusive, they are particularly difficult to detect.

Interferers, for example, can be extremely challenging to pinpoint. If the system and the interferer are on the same frequency, the two signals will be right on top of each other when looked at with a spectrum analyzer. They look like one normal signal, making it hard to distinguish the interfering one.

Other signal events are elusive in a different way: They only occur occasionally, maybe once a month or year. Yet they still can cause major problems, depending on their frequency. In the case of military or public safety communications, for example, those systems must run continuously for 24 hours a day. Even if the interfering signal event only occurs once a year, it is unacceptable for these systems to ever go down.

Device makers and operators are increasingly concerned about unexpected issues like interference and their potential to affect their communications. As a result, they monitor very specific frequencies and bands to make sure they only see their signal. If an interfering signal appears, they want to be notified immediately. For this process to be effective, they must cover the spectrum as quickly as possible to make sure they’re not missing anything.

Yet the RF environment is ever-changing, which means that finding and mitigating one problem does not mean that there will not be others. An in-place monitoring system, which can be permanently mounted in a chosen location, continuously monitors for such anomalies. When an instance comes up that causes a problem, it can be quickly located. Because of the constant evolution of technology and consumer access to so many wireless solutions, it is not uncommon that a system runs with no issues for a period of time and then suddenly is negatively impacted by a new signal.

Learn how Keysight’s solutions can help you with your spectrum monitoring needs:

  • Click here to try out our comprehensive tools for spectrum monitoring, interference analysis, signal identification, and geolocation.
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