Understanding Cable and Antenna Analyzers: Unlocking RF System Performance | Blog

Understanding Cable and Antenna Analyzers: Unlocking RF System Performance

Posted 09/15/2022 by Bird Applications Engineer

What Is a Cable and Antenna Analyzer and How Does It Work?

A cable and antenna analyzer is a valuable tool for anyone working with cable and antenna radio frequency (RF) systems. It serves multiple purposes, including assessing the health of antenna and cable systems, providing an operational baseline during antenna site commissioning, testing the overall integrity of antenna system installations, verifying that antenna system components meet manufacturer's design specifications, and pinpointing the location of faults in antenna systems before they are put into use.

Who Needs a Cable and Antenna Analyzer?

A cable and antenna analyzer is essential for various professionals and industries. It is particularly useful for those working in Land Mobile Radio, Public Safety, Semiconductor, Wireless, Cellular and Broadcast, Military & Government, Medical, Aviation, Marine, Amateur Radio, and Automotive sectors. It is utilized for commissioning, maintenance, and fault-finding of ground-to-air radios, airborne radios, repeaters, antennas, antenna combiners, and transmission cables. By using a cable and antenna analyzer, you can locate issues such as opens, shorts, improper crimps, bends, moisture, loose connectors, and defective antenna elements that can lead to weak or intermittent RF operations.

Common Causes of Signal Reflections

Some common causes of signal reflections that can be identified and addressed using a cable and antenna analyzer include cable problems like openings, shorts, dents, kinks, crimps, deformations, bullet holes, over-tightened ground kits, over-tightened clamps, water intrusion, and improper bend radius. Connector problems such as poor quality, improper installation, improper center pin depth, corrosion, and water intrusion can also be identified. Additionally, defective antennas due to improper mounting, UV damage, damage from icing, lightning strikes, and wrong frequency range can be detected.

Key Types of Measurements

Frequency Domain Reflectometry (FDR): FDR is a highly reliable measurement method that assesses the health of critical components in your system. It tests and verifies antennas and cables individually or as a complete system, providing advanced warning of potential failures.

Voltage Standing Wave Ratio (VSWR): VSWR measures how well the components in a system match impedance. It is expressed as a ratio without units and indicates the efficiency of power transfer in the system.

Return Loss: Return loss measures the ratio of maximum forward power in a transmission line to the power reflected back to the source. Expressed in decibels, it indicates how well the system components match and helps identify potential damage to transmitters.

Insertion Loss: Also known as cable loss, insertion loss refers to the signal power lost within the feed line itself, including losses at joints, connectors, transitions, and adapters. It is measured in decibels and affects the overall system performance.

Distance to Fault (DTF): DTF measurement determines the distance from the test point to a fault in the system. This feature eliminates the need for manual checking along the entire length of the feed line and provides a precise location for troubleshooting.

In conclusion, a cable and antenna analyzer is an indispensable tool for professionals working with cable and antenna RF systems. It enables the assessment, troubleshooting, and maintenance of these systems, ensuring optimal performance and minimizing downtime.

Watch our webinar: Cable & Antenna Measurement Basics