Troubleshooting Your RF Explorer Spectrum Analyzer
When it comes to measuring or detecting radio signal transmissions and RF energy then an RF spectrum analyzer is the tool of choice — in fact, it is the only tool. Often times a user will immediately begin using the device to solve a wireless problem, and when they don’t observe what they think is the expected result then they may assume there is something wrong with the device. An RF spectrum analyzer is simply a tool — like any other. And your chances of success depend as much on your understanding of the problem you are trying to solve as well as the tool you are using. Troubleshooting wireless issues requires that you be a good detective and it also requires some experimentation. If you approach the problem with preconceived notions of what the expected result should be and your notions are wrong — then you won’t solve the problem.
When you first begin using the RF Explorer device you might want to convince yourself it really does measure RF signals. In this way you’ll gain confidence the device is working as expected. The best way to become familiar with an RF spectrum analyzer is to begin measuring something that is known — e.g. FM stations in the 88 – 108 MHz frequency range (if you have a model 3G Combo), or DTV stations in the 580 – 650 MHz frequency range (if you have a model WSUB1G).
When scanning the frequency range 88 – 108 MHz you should see a result similar to the one below — the narrow peaks represent FM broadcast stations.
When scanning the frequency range 580 – 650 MHz you should see a result similar to the one below — the broad peaks represent DTV broadcast stations.
The RF Explorer spectrum analyzer has excellent performance characteristics. How well the device detects an RF signal depends more on the nature of the signal than on the device. In other words, the amplitude of an RF peak (as displayed by the analyzer) depends on:
- The signal strength of the transmitted signal at the point of measurement. If the signal is far away or too weak then it can not be measured. This is not a limitation of the device.
- The transmitted signal must be continuous (as opposed to a very short pulse).
- The antenna should be properly tuned for the frequency range being scanned — otherwise the strength of the input signal will be diminished and not truly reflect the signal strength at the point of measurement.
- Many wireless systems only transmit when a receiver and transmitter are associated and there is data to be exchanged. So, even though a transmitter may be nearby, if it is not actively transmitting data to a receiver then there won’t be a broadcast signal or RF transmission energy for the RF spectrum analyzer to measure.