How the latest analysers measure up

Rohde & Schwarz (Australia) Pty Ltd
By Richard Popple*
Wednesday, 29 October, 2008

While it sometimes seems a little difficult to engender much enthusiasm among some of the more technologically jaded members of the radio communications profession, there seem to be very few things likely to bring out the little-kid-on-Christmas-morning attitude than laying hands on the latest and greatest device tool of the trade.

From my perspective, as someone who has been involved in the RF world for over 20 years now, one of the greatest changes in our environment has been the vast improvements in the test equipment space.

When I first started in the RF world, as a trainee radar technician with the Royal Australian Navy, you needed at least 12 months’ experience before you were even allowed to touch a spectrum analyser and the first attempts to use said spectrum analysers were accompanied by dire warnings regarding the massive cost and fragility of said device.

Never mind the fact that you needed two strong men, a lifting plan and a safety observer to move the beast around a ship.

If you had told me at the time that not so very far down the track I would one day be able to lay hands on an 6 GHz spectrum analyser that weighed 2.5 kg, had a resolution bandwidth of 100 Hz, was also capable of performing the functions of a power meter, a vector voltmeter, a vector network analyser, a receiver, a time (actually frequency) domain reflectometer, a field strength meter and be easier to operate than most scientific calculators, I would have been somewhat sceptical to say the least.

So what has driven this change? In large part we would trace this astounding evolution of capability back to the advent of the ‘digital’ spectrum analyser, realised in part by the Rohde & Schwarz FSE family and then fully in the FSP family released in 1999. The FSP family in particular really showed the advantages of a modern digital architecture by comparison with its competitors at the time.

In particular in terms of size, weight and speed of measurement but also in the elimination of most of the analog filtering and analog signal conditioning, ie logarithmic amplifiers, the FSP achieved huge levels of power measurement for a spectrum analyser.

So where are we now and what is driving further developments in spectrum analysers?

As of right now there are solutions available for basically all the currently deployed communications technologies, with a range of analysers to serve pretty much all requirements from undergraduate teaching labs and basic radio service below 3 GHz to high-end research and development at 67 GHz and even higher.

However, the competing requirements of bandwidth for new technologies like WiMAX and LTE or 3.9G and portability for measurements in the field is continuing to drive developments. Also, planning for future technology rollouts is well underway.

For the people involved this means it’s time to focus on new tools required to enable these new technologies. And, of course, as perhaps the leader in worldwide spectrum analyser technology, this company has an exciting new answer to the new requirements, the FSV signal analyser is the new reference in the mid-range.

This instrument is faster, more wideband-capable, more accurate and easier to use than any other instrument in this price class. It is the fastest signal analyser available, with up to 1000 sweeps/s in remote-control mode. It offers 40 MHz analysis bandwidth, for wideband technologies including WLAN 802.11n, LTE and WiMAX. We have enabled intuitive operation via touch screen and control panel and it provides the highest level accuracy: measurement uncertainty <0.4 dB up to 7 GHz with excellent RF performance and power measurement functions, interchangeable hard disk, Gbit LAN interface, simple retrofitting of hardware options and a weight of less than 10 kg.

* Richard Popple started his career as a sales engineer at Rohde & Schwarz and worked his way up through the ranks to become national sales manager – Test & Measurement Products.

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