Industry Insights

Consumer Electronics Pose Spectrum Risk

2019-07-31  |  5 min read 

Today’s consumers have seemingly everything available to them at the touch of a button, thanks to the Internet. Increased purchases also stem from the public’s growing recognition of the convenience provided by personal wireless devices. Examples include automated thermostats like the “Nest” and wireless doorbell monitors. Often, however, consumer wireless devices may interfere with existing communications systems. In worst-case scenarios, they will disrupt and even take down communications.

The global marketplace has made such problem scenarios even more likely. Due to the varied approaches in how different countries assign spectrum, something designed to work within a certain frequency range in one country can cause major problems in another.  Yet it’s not uncommon for consumers in the US or other countries to buy devices designed for use in countries outside of their own. In some scenarios, these products may even emit signals that interfere with important radio services. Such was the story with someone who bought a wireless video camera to do home security. This device would re-broadcast video to be viewed on a device like a cell phone. Due to the fact that the design operated on frequencies that would not be assigned to that application in the US, however, it interfered with important signals.

You may think: How bad could such a situation potentially be? Here is a real-life example from the past: To upgrade his car radio, an individual was using a non-US-made cigarette lighter device with a USB port. It connected to a portable MP3 player and would broadcast the music through the radio on an FM station. It wasn’t a very well designed transmitter. Even worse, the tenth harmonic of the radio station happened to be in the emergency services broadcast band. So as the driver was traveling, enjoying the music through his FM radio, he was taking out police and other communications services.

As consumer electronics grows cheaper and more prevalent, such problem scenarios become more common. To pinpoint the exact source of the interference in today’s crowded signal environment, it is best to work through these questions to determine what is already known about the environment:

  • What are your operating frequencies?
  • Where are your transmitters?
  • Where are your towers located?
  • What problems are you experiencing or seeing?
  • Have you had such problems in the past?
  • If so, what did you find their source to be?

The resulting “picture” of the spectrum environment allows you to eliminate any known signals from the list of potential problems. By answering these questions when spectrum problems arise, it is possible to establish a solid starting point from which you can begin to detect and identify the new problem.

Continuous monitoring of the spectrum environment is the optimal way to guarantee that such signals are detected—and therefore handled or eliminated—before serious problems or communications failures occur. With a plethora of devices available to consumers at the click of a button, the list of possible interferers is long and growing every day. To protect your network, you need to quickly detect, locate, and eliminate any signal of concern.

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.
  • For an overview of signal monitoring solutions, visit our site.