Understanding Cable &
Antenna Analysis
In this guide, the fundamentals of line sweeping cable and antenna systems are
discussed. After reading this guide, the reader will understand what a line sweep
is, why it is necessary, what affects its quality, how it is conducted, and how to
best determine if a system is performing properly. Specific topics to be covered
include Return Loss, Voltage Standing Wave Ratio (VSWR), Cable Loss, and
Distance-to-Fault (DFT) measurements. Information on finding trouble locations
will also be provided.
Table of Contents
FUNDAMENTALS OF CABLE AND ANTENNA ANALYSIS ................................................. 2
Why Line Sweeping is Needed ..................................................................................... 2
Basic Measurements ...................................................................................................... 2
Return Loss ............................................................................................................ 3
VSWR ...................................................................................................................... 4
Cable Loss .............................................................................................................. 4
Distance-To-Fault (DTF) .......................................................................................... 4
Measurement Theory .................................................................................................... 5
FDR versus TDR ............................................................................................................. 6
Return Loss and VSWR Fundamentals ......................................................................... 10
Cable Loss Fundamentals ............................................................................................ 13
DTF Fundamentals ...................................................................................................... 16
Fault Resolution, Display Resolution, and Max Distance ............................................. 18
Interpreting DTF Measurements ................................................................................. 20
Finding Trouble Locations ........................................................................................... 24
Fundamentals of Cable and Antenna Analysis Summary ............................................ 25
BASIC TRANSMISSION MEASUREMENTS ....................................................................... 26
Calibration ................................................................................................................... 27
Dynamic Range ........................................................................................................... 29
Measuring Passive Devices .......................................................................................... 30
Measuring Active Devices ........................................................................................... 31
Applications of TMAs .................................................................................................. 33
TMA-S ................................................................................................................................... 33
TMA-DD ................................................................................................................................ 34
TMA-D .................................................................................................................................. 35
Transmission Measurements ....................................................................................... 36
Measuring System Gain ............................................................................................... 38
Measuring Antenna Isolation ...................................................................................... 39
Bias Tee Option ........................................................................................................... 40
Basic Transmission Measurements Summary .............................................................. 41
ADVANCED CABLE MEASUREMENTS ............................................................................. 42
Advanced Cable Measurements ................................................................................. 42
VNA Fundamentals ..................................................................................................... 43
Phase and Group Delay Parameters ............................................................................ 45
Smith Chart ................................................................................................................. 45
Making Cable Phase Measurements in the Field ......................................................... 48
Two-Port Measurements ............................................................................................. 51
One-Port Phase Measurements .................................................................................. 53
Exploiting the Time-Domain Algorithm ...................................................................... 55
Frequency Domain Reflectometry ............................................................................... 55
Waveguide Transmission Lines .................................................................................... 57
One Way Versus Round Trip ........................................................................................ 57
Gated Time Domain .................................................................................................... 60
Measurement Readout and Interpretation .................................................................. 60
Setup Considerations .................................................................................................. 61
Gate Setup to Simultaneously Measure Cable Loss and Return Loss ........................ 61
FGT Reveals Return Loss and Cable Loss .................................................................... 63
Gate Shape: Minimal, Nominal, Wide, and Maximum ................................................ 63
Time Domain Diagnostics for Balanced/Differential Transmission Lines ..................... 64
Time Domain Seperation of S-Parameters .................................................................. 65
Advanced Cable Measurements Summary ................................................................. 68
REFERENCES ..................................................................................................................... 68
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Why Line Sweeping is Needed
Wireless communication systems rely on good system integration and antenna
performance at cell sites, repeaters and base stations. At a site, antennas are connected to the transmitter/receiver by coaxial cable or waveguide. When an issue
occurs (e.g., a break, a crushed cable, moisture, or a bad connector splice in the
transmission line), signal power is compromised and the site falls below specified
performance limits, resulting in dropped call, loss of data or missed connections.
The cable and antenna system is therefore crucial to the overall performance of a
wireless communication system and must be properly maintained.
Because the cable and antenna system cannot simply be replaced when a problem occurs, troubleshooting the system to ensure it performs as expected and
meets specification is a critical task for the contractor, field technician or engineer.
Line sweeping—a technical method of measuring the quality of a transmission
line and/or antenna system—offers the ideal means of accomplishing this goal.
Basic Measurements
When properly applied, line sweeping can accurately measure the losses in a line
at any frequency and locate any faults in the line. In a cable system, a line sweep
is performed to check the system’s coaxial portion. Performing a line sweep when
the transmission lines and antenna system have initially been installed can be very
helpful when problems occur later.
When a problem does occur, the contractor, field technician or engineer is
required to identify, locate, document and resolve all areas of the line sweep that
do not meet specification. While this task may sound simple, it is not. The goal of
a wireless communication system is to deliver RF signal energy as efficiently as
possible, but transmission and antenna systems have a number of characteristics
that can affect signal quality (e.g., RF signal frequency, type of transmission line,
length of a transmission line, type of cable, size of cable, and quality of installation).
Two factors that affect the quality of the system are excessive reflections, caused
by impedance mismatches, and excessive insertion loss (energy dissipated in the
transmission line). Reflections are not desirable as they degrade the maximum
Understanding Cable and Antenna Analysis
transfer of electrical energy and therefore, are generally at the root of most problems in the cable and antenna system.
It should be noted that common faults in cable and antenna systems include
antenna, cable and connector faults. Most faults are typically connector related
and pertain to such things as loose and corroded connectors, as well as poorly
installed connectors. The remaining faults are usually related to the cable portion
of the system and are attributed to everything from water in the cable, loose
weather wrap, pinched cables, poorly installed ground kits, and bullet holes, to
nails in the cable. Antenna failures also happen but are much less common.
To better understand the problem with reflections consider that in a wireless communication system antennas are connected to the transmitter/receiver by means
of a coaxial cable. Ideally, each of these system components would be set to
exactly 50 ohms, allowing the system to transfer the maximum amount of signal
energy. But, if one or more of the system’s components are not properly matched,
reflections will occur. If the level of reflections becomes excessive, the quality and
performance of the cable and antenna system is greatly degraded.
All communications systems will have losses (e.g., reflections and insertion loss).
The trick is to determine if they are excessive and if so, to find the problem.
Handheld cable and antenna analyzers are the solution of choice for field technicians and engineers looking to analyze, troubleshoot, characterize, and maintain
a cable and antenna system. By line sweeping the system, such instruments make
a number of key measurements that are critical for cable and antenna analysis and
can determine whether or not there are excessive losses in the system, including:
Return Loss
The Return Loss is the reflection of signal power resulting from the insertion of a
device in a transmission line and measures the reflected power of the system
compared to the input power. It is usually expressed as a ratio in dB relative to
the transmitted signal power. Return Loss is caused by impedance mismatch
between two or more circuits. For example, in a simple cable assembly, a mismatch will occur where the connector is mated with the cable. As a general rule
of thumb, a high return loss denotes better quality of the system under test. A
cable with a return loss of 21 db therefore, is better than a similar cable with a
return loss of only 14 db.
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VSWR is a measure of the ratio of the minimum and maximum voltage in the
transmission line. As an example, the VSWR value 1.2:1 denotes a maximum
standing wave amplitude that is 1.2 times greater than the minimum standing
wave value. High reflections cause a high ratio of minimum to maximum voltage.
Note that the Return Loss and VSWR parameters are interrelated. Only one measurement is usually done, since both are methods of looking at system reflection.
Cable Loss
Insertion loss (Cable Loss) of the transmission line is a measure of the amount of
energy that is absorbed by the transmission line as a signal travels down the
cable. This loss is caused by the resistance of the cable and is measured in decibels (dB). The Cable Loss measurement includes losses of mated connectors from
reference cables to both connectors on the cable under test, plus the loss of the
fiber in the cable under test.
In general, a smaller diameter cable has more loss than larger diameter cable. For
a specific cable type, the longer the cable length the greater the amount of
energy it absorbs. Different cable types have different losses. Also, loss is specific to the frequency range—the higher the frequency range the greater the loss.
Distance to Fault (DTF)
DTF is another key measurement that the cable and antenna analyzer performs. It
measures the distance-to-fault along the various system components of the transmission line in order to find locations of excessive reflections measured with Return
Loss (DTF-RL) or VSWR (DTF-VSWR) and to predict future failure conditions. It displays RF Return Loss or SWR data versus distance to quickly identify the effects of
poor connections, damaged cables or faulty antennas. Since DTF automatically
accounts for attenuation versus distance, the display accurately indicates the
Return Loss or VSWR of the antenna. DTF uses the Frequency Domain Reflectometry
(FDR) measurement technique—a transmission line fault isolation method which
precisely identifies signal path degradation for coaxial and waveguide transmission lines.
Understanding Cable and Antenna Analysis
Measurement Theory
Before taking a more detailed look at the basic measurements necessary for cable
and antenna system analysis, it’s first critical to understand some of the fundamentals of TDR and FDR techniques. The more traditional technique, TDR, determines
the characteristics of electrical lines by observing reflected waveforms. It begins
with the propagation of a step or impulse of energy into a system and the subsequent observation of the energy reflected by the system. By analyzing the magnitude, duration and shape of the reflected waveform, the nature of the impedance
variation in the transmission system can be determined.
The FDR measurement technique requires a swept frequency input to the transmission line. An inverse FFT (Fast Fourier Transform) is performed on the reflected signals, transforming this information into the time domain. By knowing the propagation velocity, the distance can be calculated using this information (Figure 2-1).
Note that the relative propagation velocity of a coaxial transmission line is required
for the distance calculation. The attenuation per foot or meter for the cable is also
required in order to compensate for the attenuation versus distance. Likewise, the
cutoff frequency and waveguide loss are required for DTF measurements of waveguide transmission lines.
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FDR versus TDR
FDR and TDR techniques are used for similar purposes, but are very different in
their technical implementation. First consider TDR techniques. TDR equipment
sends pulsed DC or 1⁄2 sine wave signals into the transmission line and then
digitizes the return response of reflected pulses. Pulse TDR was the original TDR
methodology used to evaluate input impedance of components. Because it
employs a fast rising DC pulse as the source, only a small amount of energy is sent.
This technique is used for 50  transmission lines and typically covers distances of
less than 200 feet with an accuracy of ±1%. Some TDRs use a 1⁄2 sine wave source
to test telecommunication transmission lines. Because the source services large
amounts of energy, it is able to make measurements over a longer distance. For
50  and 75  transmission lines, for example, it can cover distances up to 50,000
feet with an accuracy of ±1%.
Inverse FFT
Figure 1-1. This graphic depicts the actual Return Loss versus distance.
Understanding Cable and Antenna Analysis
Reference Plane t = 0
Line 1
Open End
Line 2
Matching Line
Shorted End
Figure 1-2. DTF with impedance
DTF with impedance information uses TDR pulse (Figure 1-2). This technique
measures the impedance change of a cabling system versus distance using the
cable propagation velocity (vp). It can identify the precise location of potential
sources of DC level failures; however, no information regarding performance
problems at actual operating RF frequencies is available.
In contrast to TDR, the FDR technique requires a swept frequency RF signal (Figure
1-3). The FDR principle involves vector addition of the sources output signal with
reflected signals from faults and other reflective characteristics within the transmission line.
Less than 2% of
TDR source energy
is in the RF band
Figure 1-3. A key benefit of analyzing a cable and antenna system using the RF sweeps made possible with FDR is
that antennas can be tested at their correct operating frequency and the signal goes through frequency-selective
devices like filters, lightning arrestors, high-pass filters, and duplexers, which are common to cellular antenna
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Historically TDRs have been less expensive than FDR-based analyzers. While the
price discrepancy no longer holds true today, the technical differences remain.
For all practical purposes, TDRs do not measure RF performance. Rather, they
identify opens or shorts in the conductors. Consequently, neither cables nor
antennas can be tested to their RF specifications. FDR-based analyzers, on the
other hand, can predict future failure conditions and precisely locate faults and
degradation in system performance. As a result, many TDR devices have now
become obsolete.
Figure 1-4 provides a visual comparison of a TDR versus FDR display, both measuring
a kink in a coaxial cable at 14.2 feet. The cable anomaly can be clearly seen using
FDR techniques. The same cannot be said for TDR, since TDR-based analyzers are
limited by the fact that a corroded junction or over-crimped cable might easily
pass a DC signal but cause large reflections of RF power. Despite commercial
claims of high equivalent bandwidth, pulse TDRs do not provide sufficient effective directivity for accurate RF frequency tests such as Return Loss. Sensitivity is
simply not adequate enough to identify small changes in Return Loss characteristics. Furthermore, TDRs frequently fail to measure in the presence of RF interference from nearby transmitters. They support only catastrophic open and short
circuit failure conditions.
Understanding Cable and Antenna Analysis
Figure 1-4. Illustrated here is the graphic representation of a TDR versus FDR measurement.
Because of these reasons, most modern analyzers used to characterize the cable
and antenna system utilize the far more sensitive FDR measurement technique.
Analyzing the data in the frequency domain, as opposed to the more traditional
time domain, enables users to find small degradations or changes in the system,
thereby preventing severe system failures.
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Return Loss and VSWR Fundamentals
Return Loss and VSWR measurements are two key measurements for anyone making cable and antenna measurements in the field. They show the field technician
or engineer the match of the system and whether or not it conforms to system engineering specifications. If problems show up during this test, the system is likely to
have problems that will affect the end user. A poorly matched antenna, for
example, will reflect costly RF energy that will not be available for transmission
and will instead end up in the transmitter. The extra energy returned to the transmitter will not only distort the signal, but it will also affect the efficiency of the
transmitted power and the corresponding coverage area.
RL: 20 dB
1% Power Returned
RL: 10 dB
10% Power Returned
Figure 1-5. This example shows that a poorly matched antenna can impact the Return Loss measurement and, in
turn, affect the efficiency of the transmitted power.
For instance, a 20 dB system Return Loss measurement is considered very efficient as only 1% of the power is returned and 99% of the power is transmitted
(Figure 1-5). If the return loss is 10 dB, 10% of the power is returned. While different
systems have different acceptable Return Loss limits, 15 dB or better is a common
system limit for a cable and antenna system.
Return Loss and VSWR both display the match of the system but they show it in
different ways. When a signal is sent through a transmission line to an antenna,
most of the signal reaches the antenna. Some of the signal is reflected from various discontinuities in the system, such as links in the cable, loose connectors or
jumper problems. These reflections are measured to give an idea of the integrity
of the overall antenna system. Return Loss is a way to show the power, in dB, that
10 Understanding Cable and Antenna Analysis
doesn’t reach the destination but rather is reflected back to the transmitter. In
other words, it is the ratio of reflected power to reference power. The goal is to
make the reflected power as small as possible. For a Return Loss measurement,
a higher value is better than a smaller value.
The Return Loss view is usually preferred due to the benefits associated with logarithmic displays; one of which is that it is easier to compare a small and large number
on a logarithmic scale. Note that the Return Loss scale is normally set up from 0 to
60 dB, with 0 being an open or a short and 60 dB being close to a perfect match.
In contrast to Return Loss, VSWR displays the match of the system linearly. It measures the ratio of voltage peaks and valleys. The greater this number is, the worse the
match. In VSWR, the best possible value (perfect match) is 1:1, which means that
all of the power generated by a transmitter is either radiated from the antenna,
or absorbed by losses in the system, with none returning to the transmitter. A
more realistic match for a cable and antenna system is in the order of 1.43 (15 dB).
Antenna manufacturers typically specify the match in VSWR. The scale of a VSWR
is usually defaulted to setup between 1 and 65.
Note that for systems with low reflections, it is often easier to understand performance variations when the results are displayed as Return Loss rather than SWR.
For example, 26.44 dB Return Loss is an SWR of 1.10, while 23.13 dB Return Loss
is an SWR of 1.15.
VSWR can be converted to Return Loss using the following equations:
VSWR = 1+10–RL/20 /1-10–RL/20
Equation 1-1
Return Loss = 20 log |VSWR+1/VSWR–1|
Equation 1-2
The trace in Figure 1-6 shows a Return Loss measurement of a cellular antenna
matched between 806-869 MHz. The Return Loss amplitude scale is setup to go
from 0.5 dB to 28 dB. The VSWR display in Figure 1-7 measures the same antenna and the amplitude scale has been setup to match that of the Return Loss
measurement. The two graphs illustrate the relationship between VSWR and
Return Loss, which in this case, can be stated simply as: 8.84 dB RL 2.15 VSWR.
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Figure 1-6. Display of a Return Loss measurement.
Figure 1-7. Display of a VSWR measurement.
12 Understanding Cable and Antenna Analysis
Cable Loss Fundamentals
As a signal travels through the transmission path, some of its energy is dissipated
in the cable and the components. Different transmission lines have different losses,
with the loss being frequency and distance specific. To account for this loss, a
baseline Cable Loss measurement is typically made at the installation phase to
ensure that the cable loss is within the manufacturer’s specification and to show
that the system has been installed correctly and is working properly. This measurement can be made with either a portable vector/scalar network analyzer or a
power meter.
Cable Loss can also be measured using the Return Loss measurement available in
a cable and antenna analyzer. For this measurement, a precision short circuit is
placed at the end of the cable. A signal is then sent down the cable. When the
signal is reflected back, the energy lost in the cable can be computed. The
higher the return signal, the lower the Cable Loss. With coaxial cable, the higher
the frequency or longer the cable, the greater the loss that will occur. Equipment
manufacturers suggest that contractors, field technicians and engineers should
use the average Cable Loss of the swept frequency range. This can be obtained
by adding the peak of the trace to the valley of the trace and dividing by two in
Cable Loss mode or, by dividing by four in Return Loss mode to account for the
fact that the signal travels back and forth.
Most portable cable and antenna analyzers today are equipped with a Cable Loss
mode that displays the average Cable Loss of the swept frequency range. This is
usually the preferred method since it eliminates the need for any math. An example of a Cable Loss measurement made using a cable and antenna analyzer is
shown in Figure 1-8. Note that, increasing the RF frequency and the length of the
cable also increases the insertion loss. Cables with larger diameter have less insertion loss and better power handling capabilities than cables with smaller diameter.
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Figure 1-8. Shown here is a Cable Loss measurement of a cable between 1850 and 1990 MHz that was made using a
portable cable and antenna analyzer. The markers at the peak and valley can be used to compute the average. This
particular handheld instrument has the ability to compute the average Cable Loss for the user, as can be seen in the
left part of the display,
Antenna RL
15 dB
System Return Loss:
25 dB
Cable Loss 5 dB
Figure 1-9. Illustrated here is the setup for measuring system Return Loss.
14 Understanding Cable and Antenna Analysis
Since Cable Loss can have a significant effect on the cable and antenna system’s
Return Loss, it is vital to take in into consideration when making system Return
Loss measurements. Figure 1-9 illustrates how the Cable Loss changes the perceived antenna performance. Here the antenna has a Return Loss of 15 dB, but
the 5 dB insertion loss improves the perceived system Return Loss by 10 dB (5
While system designers generally take this information into consideration when
setting up a site’s specifications, it is important to be aware of the effects that the
Insertion Loss and cable Return Loss can have on the overall system Return
Loss. A very good system Return Loss may not necessarily be the result of an
excellent antenna and therefore, might not always be a good things; it could be
due to a faulty cable with too much insertion loss and an antenna that is out of
specification. This would result in a larger than expected signal drop and once the
signal reaches the antenna, a greater portion of it would be reflected since the
match is worse than expected. As a result, the transmitted signal would be lower
than needed and the overall coverage area would be affected.
Figure 1-10. The antenna Return Loss is shown on the left, while Cable Loss is on the right.
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As an example, consider the Cable Loss measurement of two 40 feet cables connected together, as shown in Figure 1-10. The combined Cable Loss averages
about 4.5 dB. The graph on the left illustrates the differences between measuring
the Return Loss at the antenna and measuring it for the entire system, including the
4.5 dB insertion loss of the cable. The graph on the right—the Cable Loss graph—
shows how the insertion loss of the cable increases with frequency. Note that the
delta in the graph on the left is proportional to 2-x-CL. Also, notice that the difference between the two traces in this graph is greater at 1100 MHz than it is at 600
MHz. The majority of this delta is a result of the Cable Loss increasing as the frequency increases. If both the Return Loss of the antenna and system Return Loss
is known, the Cable Loss can be estimated from this information.
DTF Fundamentals
Return Loss/VSWR measurement characterizes the performance of the overall system. If either of these is failing, the DTF measurement can be used to troubleshoot the system and locate the exact location of a fault. It is a troubleshooting
tool and best used to compare relative data and monitor changes over time with
the main purpose of locating faults (e.g., with connector transitions, defective
jumpers, kinks in the cable, and moisture intrusion or other similar defects that
cause reflections) and measuring the length of the cable.
Using the DTF absolute amplitude values derived from the DTF data as a replacement for Return Loss or as a pass/fail indicator is not recommended. There are
simply too many variables that affect the DTF readings (e.g., propagation velocity
variation, insertion loss inaccuracies of the complete system, stray signals, temperature variations, and mathematical discontinuities), making it is very challenging
for the engineer to come up with numbers that take all of this into consideration.
When used correctly, the DTF measurement is by far the best method for trouble
shooting cable and antenna problems.
The DTF measurement is based on the same information as the Return Loss or
Cable Loss measurement. The measurement is done on a normal load, such as an
antenna or a good quality 50  load, connected to the far end of the transmission
line. Usually the antenna is replaced with a load to avoid receiving interference from
nearby sites. It sweeps the cable in the frequency domain and, with the help of
the Inverse Fast Fourier Transform (IFFT), converts the data from the frequency
domain to the time domain. In other words, if you forgot to do a DTF measure-
16 Understanding Cable and Antenna Analysis
ment but have the Return Loss and access to the magnitude and phase data of the
1-port measurement, you can use this data to create a DTF plot in software.
The dielectric material in the cable affects the propagation velocity which, in turn,
affects the velocity of the signal traveling through the cable. The accuracy of the
propagation velocity (vp) value determines the accuracy of the location of the discontinuity. A ±5% error in the vp value will affect the distance accuracy accordingly and the end of an 80 ft cable could show up anywhere between 76 and 84
ft. Even if the vp value is copied out of the manufacturer’s data sheet, there could
still be discrepancies between the interpreted and actual distance discontinuities,
due to the adding of all the components in the system. Common base station
systems can include a main feed line, feed line jumper, adapters, and top jumpers,
and, even though the main feed line contributes with the largest amount, the
velocity of the signal through the other parts of the system could be different.
The accuracy of amplitude values is usually of less importance because DTF is
used solely to troubleshoot a system and find problems. Therefore, whether a
connector is at 30 or 35 dB may not be as interesting as if the connector was at 35
dB one year ago and now is at 30 dB. While the propagation velocity value remains
fairly constant over the entire frequency range, the insertion loss of the cable does
not and this also affects the amplitude accuracy.
Most handheld instruments available today have built-in tables that include propagation velocity values and cable insertion loss values for different frequencies of
the most commonly used cables (Table 1-1). This simplifies the task for the field
technician as he/she can locate the cable type and obtain the correct vp and
Cable Loss values.
Prop Velocity
1000 MHz
2500 MHz
Andrew LDF4-50A
0.073 dB/m
0.120 dB/m
Andrew HJ4.5-50
0.054 dB/m
0.089 dB/m
Table 1-1. Different Cable Loss levels for two commonly used cables.
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Fault Resolution, Display Resolution and Max Distance
The term resolution can be confusing and its definitions can vary. For DTF, it is important to understand the difference between fault resolution and display resolution
since the meanings are different.
The fault resolution is the systems’ ability to separate two closely spaced signals.
Two discontinuities located 0.5 ft apart from each other will not be identified in a
DTF measurement if the fault resolution is 2 ft. Because DTF is swept in the frequency
domain, the frequency range affects the fault resolution. A wider frequency range
therefore means better fault resolution and a shorter maximum distance. Similarly,
a narrower frequency range leads to wider fault resolution and greater maximum
horizontal distance. The only way to improve the fault resolution is to increase the
frequency range.
The MATLAB simulations shown in Figures 1-11 and 1-12, based on the DTF algorithm, show how two –20 dBm faults simulated to take place 2 ft apart at 9 ft and
11 ft, only show up when the frequency range has been widened from 1850-1990
MHz to 1500-1990 MHz. The 1850-1990 MHz sweep gives a fault resolution of
3.16 ft (vp=0.91), while the 1500-1990 MHz sweep gives a fault resolution of 0.9
ft. More data points in the example in Figure 1-11 would have given us finer display
resolution, but it would only be a nicer display of the same graph. It would not
matter if there were 20,000 data points, the two faults would still not show up
unless the frequency range was widened.
Figure 1-11. DTF sweep 1850-1990 MHz.
18 Understanding Cable and Antenna Analysis
The curious observer will also note that the amplitude of the two discontinuities
show up at –20 dBm in Figure 1-12. In the first example, the two amplitudes add up
to create one fault with greater amplitude than the two individual faults.
To better understand these concepts, consider that:
Fault Resolution (m) = 150*vp/F (MHz)
Equation 1-3
Fault Resolution (ft) = 15000*vp/(F*30.48)
Equation 1-4
Figure 1-12. DTF sweep 1500-1990 MHz.
Now, consider the example in Figure 1-13:
Fault Resolution (ft) = 15000*0.88/((1100-600)*30.48) = 0.866 ft
Note that Dmax is the maximum horizontal distance that the instrument can measure. It is
dependent on the number of data points and the fault resolution, and is calculated according to:
Dmax = (datapoints-1)*Fault Resolution
Equation 1-5
Therefore (ft) = (551-1)*0.866 ft = 476.3 ft.
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Figure 1-13. DTF measurement.
Interpreting DTF Measurements
In the ideal world, the DTF measurement would be done with no frequency selective components in the path and just a termination at the end of the cable. Most
of the time, this is not the case. Consequently, the contractor, field technician or
engineer must be able to make the measurement with different components in
the path and at the end of the cable.
Figures 1-14 and 1-15 depict graphs of DTF measurements with the same instrument setup. The two 40 ft LDF4-50A cables are connected together with an open
at the end of the cable in Figure 1-14. In Figure 1-15, the two 40 ft LDF4-50A
cables are connected together with a PCS antenna at the end of the cable. The
only difference between the two graphs is the amplitude level of the peak that
shows the end of the cable. Figure 1-16 shows the DFT PCS antenna measurement with the fault visible.
20 Understanding Cable and Antenna Analysis
Figure 1-14. DTF open.
Figure 1-15. DTF PCS antenna.
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Figure 1-16. DTF PCS antenna with fault.
Figure 1-18 shows how the electrical length of the Tower Mounted Amplifier (TMA)
in Figure 1-17 affects the distance measurement of the system. The graph in Figure
1-17 shows a Transmission Measurement of a 2-port dual duplex LNA. Figure 1-18
shows the DTF measurement of this system swept with the TMA in the path. The
end connection shows up at 106 ft because the TMA was swept over both the
uplink and downlink bands of the TMA. The end of the same system without the
TMA in the path shows up at 83 ft (Figure 1-15).
22 Understanding Cable and Antenna Analysis
Figure 1-17. 2-port measurement of TMA.
Figure 1-18. DFT measurement with the TMA in the path.
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Finding Trouble Locations
In a cable and antenna system, there are many
types of problems which can occur. In the cable,
these problems include: cable discontinuities,
damaged/dented ground shield, moisture and
corrosion, and fasteners pinching cables. In contrast, problems with the antenna may include: performance out of specification, storm/shipping
damage and a damaged lightning arrestor (Figure
1-19). While it easy to understand the types of
faults that may occur, finding their exact location
in the cable and antenna system can be difficult.
Figure 1-19. While an antenna
system could be faulty for any
number of reasons, poorly installed
connectors, dented/damaged coax
cables and defective antennas tend to
dominate the failure trends.
If there are problems in the cable and antenna, a
DTF measurement provides the best insight
regarding the locations of the problems (refer to
DTF Fundamentals). Trace comparisons are often
used for diagnostics because small changes in cables will have large effects on
the DTF trace. Because of this, it is accepted practice to take reference sweeps of
each cable using a cable and antenna analyzer at commissioning time for later
comparison. Changes are often more significant than actual values. Even so,
typical values with a good setup are:
• Open or Short: 0 to 5 dB
• Antenna: 15 to 25 dB
• Connectors: 30 to 40 dB
Propagation Velocity (vp) directly affects distance accuracy. When making DTF
measurements, vp must be set either manually or by entering a cable type. Cable
Loss also needs to be set accurately, either manually, or by selecting a cable type.
False Cable Loss values can mask Return Loss or VSWR problems.
Another thing to keep in mind with DTF sweeps is the frequency range, which should
be set to stay within the load’s bandwidth. If an antenna is used for the load, any portion of the DTF sweep that goes outside of the pass band is mostly reflected, thereby
reducing the accuracy of the vertical axis Return Loss or VSWR measurements. A wider
frequency range improves distance resolution and lowers the maximum measureable
distance. However, if an antenna is in place at the other end of the cable, the DTF
24 Understanding Cable and Antenna Analysis
frequency range should be restricted to the antenna’s pass band.
The cable and antenna system is crucial to the overall performance of a wireless
communication system and must be properly maintained. Line sweeping is a
method of measuring the quality of a transmission line and/or antenna system. In
an ideal world, the line sweep tells the contractor, field technician or engineer
two things: the quality of the transmission system in question and its characteristics.
During the line sweep, Return Loss, VSWR, and Cable Loss measurements can be
made to determine if there are excessive losses in the system. Once a problem is
identified with either the Return Loss or VSWR measurement, the DTF measurement can be used to troubleshoot the system and locate the exact location of a
fault. Each of these measurements is critical to ensuring the cable and antenna
system operate according to specification.
During the line sweep, Return Loss, VSWR, and Cable Loss measurements can be
made to determine if there are excessive losses in the system. Once a problem is
identified with either the Return Loss or VSWR measurement, the DTF measurement can be used to troubleshoot the system and locate the exact location of a
fault. Each of these measurements is critical to ensuring the cable and antenna
system operate according to specification.
w w w. a n r i t s u . c o m
This section introduces the reader to basic transmission measurements. It underscores the importance of calibration to ensuring accurate, reliable measurements
and provides practical tips for making transmission measurements on Tower Mounted
Amplifiers (TMAs).
There are two fundamental scalar measurements—reflection and transmission. A
scalar transmission measurement measures how much signal passes through the
device under test (DUT) and can be used to determine its gain or insertion loss.
Insertion Gain is defined as the gain that results from inserting a device in a transmission line. It is expressed in dB as the ratio of the signal power delivered to that
part of the line following the device, to the signal power delivered to the same
part of the line prior to insertion. Insertion Loss is the exponential decrease with
distance, in the amplitude of an electrical signal traveling along a very long uniform transmission line, due to conductor and dielectric losses.
To better understand how to make a
transmission measurement it’s first
necessary to learn a few basic transmission terms. The transmission coefficient, , is defined as the ratio of the
transmitted voltage, Vtransmitted, to the
incident voltage, Vincident, as shown in
Figure 2-1.
Figure 2-1. This graphic depicts the transmission and
reflection parameters that are important to know when
making a transmission measurement.
 = Vtransmitted/Vincident
Equation 2-1
Since typical spectrum analyzer displays are logarithmic, the transmission coefficient can be expressed in dB as:
20 log [] or 20 log [Vtransmitted] – 20 log [Vincident]
Equation 2-2
This coefficient can be applied to all transmission measurements, with both passive and active DUTs.
Traditionally, transmission measurements have been made using a tracking generator (TG). The TG is a signal generator with an output that tracks or follows the
tuning of a spectrum analyzer and allows a spectrum analyzer to perform scalar
network measurements. It has an adjustable-level output that is used with a fixed-
26 Understanding Cable and Antenna Analysis
level input. While the TG can be a relatively inexpensive addition to a spectrum
analyzer for making scalar frequency response measurements, it is not ideal for
wireless measurement applications where the low-power, input device limits the
source power that can be applied to the input of the DUT. Here, a low noise floor
is required and nonlinear measurements must be made.
In this type of environment, a more appropriate measurement solution is the vector network analyzer equipped with a transmission measurement option that
combines the capabilities of a TG with a spectrum analyzer to realize significant
performance benefits. This alternative offers the ideal solution for verifying the
performance (e.g., measuring the loss or gain) of two-port devices such as filter,
cables, duplexers, attenuators, and amplifiers. It can also be used to verify antenna isolation between two sectors.
Prior to making transmission measurements, the measurement instrument must
be calibrated. Re-calibration is required whenever the temperature exceeds the
calibration temperature range or when the instrument’s test port extension cable
is removed or replaced. The instrument must also be re-calibrated every time the
setup frequency changes.
Calibrations are a vital part of ensuring accurate, repeatable transmission measurements, or any measurement for that matter, and are critical to establishing a reference
baseline. Three types of errors that are associated with measurements include:
• Systematic. These types of errors are caused by imperfections in measurement
equipment and accessories (e.g., cables and adapters). Because systematic errors do
not change over time, they are both repeatable and predictable. Proper calibration can
be used to mathematically eliminate these errors.
• Drift. These errors occur after a calibration has been performed and are most commonly
associated with temperature changes. In some vector network analyzers, an error icon
will display when the temperature has changed enough since calibration to cause
excessive errors. Drift errors can be eliminated by properly recalibrating the vector
network analyzer.
• Random. These types of errors are unpredictable and time varying. Common random
errors are instrument noise floor and connector repeatability. Random errors cannot be
removed by the vector network analyzer.
Performing accurate, repeatable measurements with a network analyzer requires
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precision calibration components. Such components allow the contractor, engineer or field technician to maintain measurement integrity and also remove both
systematic and drift errors. Proper maintenance and care for these components
is also critical.
Phase-stable test port cables provide the contractor, engineer of field technician
with one way to ensure accurate, repeatable measurements. Phase stable means
that after performing a calibration at the end of a test port cable, any subsequent
measurements will be repeatable regardless of the cables’ physical position. In
contrast, when poor quality cables (e.g., those that are not phase stable) are
moved, even slightly, they introduce large errors into the measurements. Note that
phase-stable cables are reliable as long as they are well cared for and therefore,
must be periodically examined for damage, especially at the connectors.
As an example, consider the measurement of a TMA-Dual Duplex (TMA-DD) using
the basic setup shown in Figure 2-2. This is a typical measurement that can be
taken before the TMA is installed.
Here, the output of the measurement instrument transmits a
signal (Tx) to the amplifier, while
the receiver tracks the signal
(Figure 2-3). The measurement is
swept across the entire frequency range of the 1960 to 1990
MHz transmit and the 1880 to
MS2711D with TM
1910 MHz receive (Rx) bands.
Markers M1 and M2 highlight
the signal level in the TMA’s
Figure 2-2. In this basic setup, the RF output of spectrum
receive band where gain is meaanalyzer with transmission measurement is connected to the
input of the DUT. The output of the DUT is connected to the
sured. Note that in all TMA
Site Master input
types, gain is measured between
the antenna port and the Rx
port of the amplifier.
28 Understanding Cable and Antenna Analysis
Gain/Insertion Loss
1825.00 - 2100.00 MHz (Cal on, Bias-Tee on, -30.0 dBm)
M1:12.05 Trans. @1880.40 MHz
M2: 11.52 Trans. @1910.30 MHz
M3: -1.11 Trans. @ 1959.30 MHz
M4: -1.16 Trans. @ 1989.10 MHz
RF Input
650 mA
Figure 2-3. The set-up for a TMA-DD gain measurement using a Site Master with transmission measurement option
is illustrated here. Note that to prevent over-saturation of the receive signal or possible damage to the TMA, this
test requires an external 30 dB attenuator.
Dynamic Range
Dynamic range is a critical factor when making transmission measurements. Some
applications like repeaters, for example, require additional dynamic range. It is
also necessary for the accurate measurement of antenna-to-antenna isolation in the
presence of high RF activity.
Moreover, an excellent dynamic
range allows the contractor, engineer or field technician to view and
adjust the RF performance of critical RF devices including filters,
duplexers, transmitter combiners, receiver multicouplers, and
tower top amplifiers.
Some measurement instruments
offer a high dynamic range or
dynamic attenuation mode (e.g.,
a fixed-level output with a dynamically-adjustable input) that can
Figure 2-4. Measurement of an amplifier with normal
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deal with this need, although using
the mode generally slows down the
instrument’s sweep speed. The
dynamic attenuation mode automatically tracks the input signal
level and adjusts the input attenuator value to appropriately display gain at each measurement
frequency (Figure 2-4 and 2-5).
The reference level remains fixed
at all times, regardless of dynamic
attenuation changes. The result is
Figure 2-5. Amplifier characteristics with the dynamic
a wider dynamic range display.
attenuation mode enabled.
Also, the power to the input mixer
is always maintained in the linear
region. This delivers excellent
dynamic range in difficult measurement situations such as when external attenuation
is needed to reduce the input level as a means of keeping the signal in the linear
region of an amplifier.
Measuring Passive Devices
The transmission measurement can be used to measure passive devices like filters
(Figure 2-6). Depending on the TMA application, one of four basic filter types may
be used. The filter types include:
• A low-pass filter which passes only those
signals below a certain frequency. Low-pass
filters are normally found in applications
where the reduction of the harmonic
content of a transmitter is desired. They are
also used in the telephone and broadcast
industry to limit the higher frequencies of a
voice broadcast.
RF Ou t
• A high-pass filter which passes only those
signals above a certain frequency. A highpass filter blocks the low-frequency signal
Figure 2-6. Transmission measurement connections
for a passive device.
30 Understanding Cable and Antenna Analysis
and allows high frequencies to pass. A good example of using both low-pass and highpass filters to create a band-pass filter is the bass and treble controls on a stereo or car
audio system.
• A band-pass filter which passes only those signals within the pass band. Band-pass filters
are built into TMAs and duplexers.
• A band-stop or notch filter that attenuates a narrow slice of spectrum. A notch filter is
typically used to reduce the amplitude of an off-frequency interfering signal at a
receiver input. Often more than one notch filter is employed to mitigate odd-order
intermodulation problems at high-level sites that are populated with many transmitters.
A duplexer allows simultaneous transmitter and receiver operation in a single
antenna system. It isolates the receiver from the transmitter and reduces Tx noise.
By comparison, a diplexer is a device that permits parallel feeding of one antenna
from two transmitters at different frequencies, without the transmitters interfering
with each other. Duplexers and diplexers are very similar and frequently confused.
The duplexer separates two frequencies within the same band, while the diplexer
separates two different bands.
Diplexers are three-port frequency-dependent devices that may be used as a
separator or a combiner of signals. The device consists of two fixed, tuned bandpass filters sharing a common port. The common port and the output of the two
filters (Rx and Tx) form the three terminals of the diplexer. Signals applied to the
common port are combined in accordance with the passband frequencies of the
filters. Signals applied to one uncommon port are isolated from the other uncommon port and are then combined at the common port.
Diplexers are the simplest form of a multiplexer. In contrast, duplexers allow a transmitter operating on one frequency and a receiver operating on a different frequency to share one common antenna with minimal interaction or degradation of the
different RF signals.
Measuring Active Devices
In addition to measuring passive devices, the transmission measurement can be
used to measure active devices like amplifiers. TMAs are active devices that are
often installed at the top of cell towers, near the receiver antenna as a means of
extending the receive coverage area, improving the reception of weak signals,
increasing uplink sensitivity (Rx), and reducing dropped calls. Their use with any
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new installation is another way to provide better coverage and increase the number
of subscribers without deploying new base stations in the same geographic area
(Figure 2-7).
In a cell site, the TMA combines the receive/transmit signals to/from the antenna
and provides pre-amplification of the signals received from cellular phones. It is
mounted close to the antenna to derive the greatest benefit. Verifying the correct
receive and transmit signal path is essentially a measurement of filter performance for the two distinct paths and the separation between them.
While a Return Loss or VSWR measurement of an antenna system provides the
contractor, field technician or engineer with a clear indication of how well the
antenna transmits power, the same cannot be said of an antenna system with a
TMA. The addition of the TMA complicates the testing of the antenna system,
requiring that the TMA itself be tested. An Insertion Loss/Gain Loss measurement
is well suited for this purpose. The Insertion Loss measurement can also be used
to perform antenna-to-antenna isolation measurements, which is crucial when
more than one antenna is located on a tower.
in Base Station
to Base Station
Figure 2-7. Shown here is an example of how TMA usage increases coverage at the PCS base station. The
low noise TMA, in the uppermost image, provides better coverage to the subscriber by minimizing fading in the
communication system. The larger coverage area is depicted in the bottom image. This reduces call drop outs and
extends battery life to the cell phone subscriber as the transmit power required is decreased because the base
station becomes more sensitive to weaker signals.
32 Understanding Cable and Antenna Analysis
Applications of TMAs
Depending on the requirements of the base station, there are a number of different
TMA configurations in use today. Three common configurations are:
• TMA-S - The TMA-Single is a
Rx-receive only TMA that connects between the Rx-receive
antenna and the radio (Figure
2-8). Its purpose is to boost weak
signals from the subscriber. This
configuration is specific to systems that use separate antennas
for Tx-transmit and Rx-receive.
Tower Mounted
Base Station
The main components in the
TMA-S are a band-pass filter
Figure 2-8. Shown here is a TMA-S. This configuration
which passes only signals at the
is specific to systems that implement separate
receive bandwidth, a low noise
antennas for transmit and receive.
amplifier (LNA) which provides the
signal gain, and a bypass switch
which opens when the TMA is powered up and closes when there is no power
(Figure 2-9).
Two-port Tower Mounted
To Antenna
Band Pass Filter
Rx (Receive)
Figure 2-9. Shown here is a receive-only TMA-S with bypass switch.
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• TMA-DD - The dual-duplex TMA
(TMA-DD) is commonly called a
transceiver as one port is connected to the antenna while the
other connects to the base station. Unlike the TMA-S, the TMADD is used in systems where a
single antenna is used to transmit
AND receive (Figure 2-10). Also,
there must be a single connection
to the base station for both transmit and receive. Even though
both transmit and receive signals
pass through the TMA-DD, the
receive signal is the only one that
passes through the LNA. No gain
is applied to the transmit signal.
Base Station
Figure 2-10. Shown here is a TMA-DD configuration.
The TMA-DD is composed of the same components as a TMA-S, with the addition
of two duplex filters that provide isolation between the Tx and Rx at the antenna
and the base station (Figure 2-11).
To Antenna
Two-port Tower Mounted
Duplex Filter
Band Pass Filter
Duplex Filter
Tx/Rx (Transmit/Receive)
Figure 2-11. Shown here is a two-port TMA-DD with bypass switch.
34 Understanding Cable and Antenna Analysis
TMA-D - The duplex TMA (TMAD) is used for radio systems with
a single antenna port connection
for transmit and receive (Figure
2-12). There are separate ports
for transmit and receive (to/from
the base station), and a third
connection to the antenna. Even
though both transmit and receive
signals pass through the TMA-D,
the receive signal is the only one
that passes through the LNA.
There is no gain applied to the
transmit signal.
Base Station
Figure 2-12. Shown here is a TMA-D configuration.
The TMA-D is comprised of the same
components as a TMA-DD, with one
exception. The TMA-D requires only one duplex filter to provide isolation between
Tx and Rx at the antenna (Figure 2-13).
Transmit/Receive Antenna
Three-port Tower Mounted
Duplex Filter
Band Pass Filter
Base Station
Figure 2-13. Shown here is a three-port TMA-D with bypass switch.
The various types of TMAs include a two-port TMA-S, two-port TMA-DD, threeport TMA-D, and four-port dual-TMA-DD (Figure 6-14). In a two-port TMA-S, for
example, one port is connected to the receive antenna while the other is connected to the base station. Two antennas are required: one for transmit and one for
receive. The transmit side is not connected to this type of TMA.
w w w. a n r i t s u . c o m
(Bias Tee)
S251C S251C
(Bias Tee)
S251C S251C
(Bias Tee)
(Bias Tee)
(Bias Tee)
S251C S251C S251C S251C
S251C S251C
Two-Port Tower Mounted Amplifier
Three-Port Tower Mounted Amplifier
Four-Port Tower Mounted Amplifier
Dual-Duplex with Non Bypass
Figure 2-14. Some of the various types of TMAs are pictured here.
Tower Mounted Filters are used to limit and direct the correct signals coming
from cellular and PCS phones. The two types of Tower Mounted Filters used with
cellular antennas are a two-port band-pass filter and a three-port duplex filter.
The filter is a frequency-selected device. In the TMA it passes signals with very
little loss inside its frequency bands, while attenuating all signals outside its band.
Both filters and amplifiers affect the Return Loss measurement. Consider, for
example, an antenna system that has a TMA-DD between its feed line and the
antenna, and also includes bypass circuitry. Measuring the Return Loss with the
bypass relay opened produces a different result than if the circuitry is closed. When
opened, the performance inside the Rx and Tx frequency bands would not be
affected, but outside these bands, the Return Loss would be much lower. This is
caused by the filter’s very low Return Loss at those frequencies, which dominates
the performance of the antenna system.
Transmission Measurements
To measure the TMA before it is installed in the antenna system, the contractor,
field technician or engineer must ensure that the input level on the antenna side of
the TMA does not significantly exceed the maximum input level value specified
RF Output
Under Test
S362E Input
RF Input
Figure 2-15. Here, the two critical power levels that must be managed are the specified amplifier output power for
1 dB gain compression and the power level at the measurement instrument’s input mixer.
36 Understanding Cable and Antenna Analysis
in the TMA data sheet (generally about –40 dBm). Most portable solutions provide a high power (0 dBm) and low power (–30 dBm) setting so that the power
level can be optimized for both passive and active DUT’s.
If an overload occurs on the TMA, an
invalid, low-gain value will be measured. To determine the gain of the
TMA in this situation, the contractor,
field technician or engineer will need
to make a measurement with the
supply voltage connected and then
disconnected. The two test results
must then be compared.
Note that most TMAs require a DC
source, typically 18 volt DC, provided by the base station, to power
them up. Also, since not all TMAs
have a bypass switch installed, the
TMA may need to be bypassed with
a jumper.
Examples of the typical measured
gain response from a TMA-S, TMADD and TMA-D are shown in Figure
2-16, Figure 2-17, and Figure 2-18,
Gain/Insertion Loss
M1: 13.57 dB@ 836.82 MHz
Frequency (750.0 - 925.0 MHz)
Figure 2-16. This is the typical measured gain response
from a TMA-S for a cellular system. A reference line has
been placed at 0 dB after calibrating the Spectrum Master.
Note that the gain is only in the Rx band.
Gain/Insertion Loss
M1: 12.17dB @ 1882.36 MHz
Since amplifiers increase power over
a limited power range, care must be
taken to manage the power levels at
the input and output of the amplifier.
If linear operating-power levels are
exceeded, then the amplifier gain
measurements may have errors
(Figure 2-15).
Frequency (1825.0 - 2025.0 MHz)
Figure 2-17. This graph illustrates the typical gain response
from a TMA-DD. The gain is only applied to the receive
signal. A gain of about 12 dB above the reference line is
achieved. Because the transmit signal also passes through
the same cable as the receive signal, but no gain is added
to it, the transmit band is at the 0 dB reference line.
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Gain/Insertion Loss
M1: 7.11dB @ 1892.44 MHz
Frequency (1825.0 - 2025.0 MHz)
Figure 2-18. This graph reflects the typical gain response from a TMA-D for a cellular system. A reference line was
placed at 0 dB after calibrating the Spectrum Master. Note that the gain is only to the Rx band. The insertion gain
trace for TMA-D looks similar to that of TMA-S. Only the receive band shows any gain. The transmit port is left
disconnected for this measurement.
Measuring System Gain
A system gain measurement can be used on a TMA after it has been installed on a
tower, to verify the TMA and the installation—saving both the time and expense
of hiring a tower crew to bring the TMA down. It requires the use of the system’s
Tx antenna to deliver a signal to the Rx antenna (Figure 2-19).
Antenna 2
Antenna 1
RF Input
RF Output
Figure 2-19. Here is a typical system gain measurement setup for a TMA-D.
38 Understanding Cable and Antenna Analysis
When measuring TMA gain, the components in the receive path of the mobileradio base station must be considered. The TMA should compensate for the
receive Cable Loss. Also, the TMA may not be used for excessive level gain as this
can make the defined Rx parameters (e.g., for detecting Rx level handover or for
power regulation at the mobile station) impracticable or even dangerous.
Due to insertion losses in the system from such things as cables, connectors and
antennas, the reference level used for measuring gain is not 0 dB. Rather, the gain
is the difference between measurements taken with the bias tee turned off and
then on (refer to Bias Tee Option). Be advised that the gain of a TMA without a
bypass switch cannot be measured. However, by connecting and disconnecting
the power, it is possible to determine whether the TMA is functional. While bias
tee activation will not produce great accuracy, it will provide a good test for
operation and verification of the TMA-DD, TMA-D, TMA-S or dual-TMA-DD.
Note that the relative gain measurement of the TMA, after installation, is very
similar to other gain measurements, with the exception of signal-level offsets due
to cable losses and the system isolation level.
Measuring Antenna Isolation
An antenna isolation test can be
performed on systems with or
without a TMA (Figure 2-20). It is
used to determine the presence
of any unwanted coupling
between antennas in adjacent
systems. If the transmit antenna
were to transmit in a specific
direction, then the amount of
signal from it to the adjacent
receive antenna would need to
be minimized.
Typical antenna-to-antenna isolation shows results from –50 to
–100 dB below the 0 dB reference line established by calibration. When the measured isolation level is more negative, there
Antenna 2
Antenna 1
Figure 2-20. Transmission measurement setup for measuring
antenna isolation.
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is a better chance of co-location without system degradation. An isolation level
of –89 dB is considered very good. The contractor, field technician or engineer
must determine the “acceptable level” for their particular system. If the measured
antenna-to-antenna isolation is closer to –60 dB, then re-alignment of the antennas may be necessary to improve isolation. In some cases, alternative channel
plans must be used to ensure that all systems at the same location can operate
When conducting an antenna isolation test, make sure that the input level on the
antenna side of the TMA does not significantly exceed the maximum input level
value specified in the TMA data sheet (generally about –40 dBm). An example of
typical antenna isolation measurement results is shown in Figure 2-21.
Gain/Insertion Loss
M1:–88.11 dB@ 1979.30 MHz
M1 :–92.62 dB@ 1910.80 MHz
Transmission (dB)
Frequency (MHz)
Figure 2-21. Typical antenna isolation measurement results.
Bias Tee Option
Some measurement instruments used for making transmission measurements will
offer an integrated bias tee option (Figure 2-22). This can be especially useful
when measuring applications where both DC and RF signals must be applied to a
DUT and eliminates the need for external supplies.
In the Anritsu Site Master, for example, an optional bias tee can be installed inside
the instrument. The bias arm is connected to a 12 to 32 VDC power source that can
be turned on as needed to place the voltage on the center conductor of the
instrument’s RF In port. This voltage can be used to provide power to block
down-converters in satellite receivers and can also be used to power some tower-
40 Understanding Cable and Antenna Analysis
(Bias Tee)
Figure 2-22. A variable bias tee, shown here,
can be very useful when conducting two-port
transmission measurements.
mounted amplifiers. The bias can be turned on when the instrument is in transmission measurement mode. When it is turned on, the bias voltage and current
are displayed in the lower left corner of the display. The 12 to 32 VDC power
supply is designed to continuously deliver a maximum of 6 Watts.
A transmission measurement measures the amount of signal that passes through
a DUT and is used to determine its gain or insertion loss. It can be used to verify
the performance of both passive (e.g., filters) and active devices (e.g, TMAs). It
can also be used to verify antenna isolation. When making transmission measurements, dynamic range is a critical factor. Proper calibration is also important as it
ensures the accuracy and repeatability of any measurements. Some transmission
measurements will benefit greatly from the use of a bias tee—especially in applications where both DC and RF signals must be applied to a DUT.
w w w. a n r i t s u . c o m
In This Section
At the start of this booklet, the theory and practice of cable and antenna testing
was presented, along with a variety of standard test techniques. However, for some
complex test parameters of modern systems, advanced cable measurement techniques are needed to provide the comprehensive test data used for field maintenance of those systems. This section will discuss phase-matching cables,
S-parameter definitions as they apply to cable characterization and other cable
parameters such as Phase Shift and Group Delay. Advanced Time-Domain measurements will also be presented as enhancements to the well-known Distance-toFault (DTF) techniques. In addition, diagnostic tools like the Smith Chart will be
briefly described.
Advanced Cable Measurements
For the contractor, engineer or field technician burdened with bringing powerful
instrumentation such as vector network analyzers or vector voltmeters—connected to a power cord—to a remote field site, the latest generation of handheld,
portable tools offers an amazing array of performance, capabilities, and ease-ofuse. The need for precision measurements in both magnitude and phase at RF and
microwave frequencies is driving a trend toward more portable, field-friendly instruments. The benefit of portable instruments is in their ability to bring diagnostic tools
to the Device-under-Test (DUT), instead of sending them back to the factory for
maintenance or repair operation. Conducting measurements any time, anywhere is
critical in deploying and maintaining the wireless applications we take for granted
Measuring and computing the most sophisticated cable parameters requires the
full precision of a Vector Network Analyzer (VNA) because it provides both magnitude and phase of the test parameters. While phase measurements are important,
the availability of phase information provides the potential for many new computed-measurement features, including Smith Charts, time domain and group delay.
Phase information also allows greater measurement accuracy through vector-error
correction of the measured signal. The Anritsu VNA Master, for example, corrects
errors with a 12-term mathematical model for the utmost measurement accuracy.
42 Understanding Cable and Antenna Analysis
VNA Fundamentals
Any RF or microwave component
(DUT), or cable with 2-ports can be
functionally described by four comS11
plex, frequency-dependent parameters
which are called S-parameters. Figure
3-1 shows that for Port 1, the S11
parameter reveals the forward reflectS12
ed function, while S21 describes the
3-1. Four scattering parameters describe the
forward transmission function. In turn, Figure
frequency-dependent transfer function of a 2-port
at Port 2, the S22 parameter is the device or cable under test.
“transfer function” of the reverse
reflection and S12 is the reverse transmission function.
The Anritsu VNA Master has an architecture that automatically measures these
four S-parameters with a single connection. There are three tuned receivers, all
phase locked to the test generator and tracking its signal as it sweeps the frequency range set by the operator (Figure 3-2). The forward sweep from Port 1
simultaneously yields S11 and S21 and the reverse sweep from Port 2 simultaneously yields S22 and S12. With a single connection, the VNA Master provides both
precision measurements and hands-free operation.
Port 1
Port 2
Port 1
RF Test
Port 2
Figure 3-2. The 3-receiver architecture of a modern VNA tracks the test signal and delivers magnitude and phase
information on all 4 S-parameters with a single connection.
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Phase data and measurement in all three receivers is carefully maintained to great
accuracy. The microwave test signal is down converted into the passband of the
intermediate frequency (IF) of both test channels. To measure the phase of this
signal as it passes through the DUT, the reference receiver provides the phase
comparison. If the phase of the DUT test signal is 90 degrees, it is 90 degrees
different from the reference signal. The VNA reads this as –90 degrees, since the
test signal is delayed by 90 degrees with respect to the reference signal. The
phase reference can be obtained by splitting off a portion of the microwave signal
before the measurement.
A VNA automatically samples the reference signal so no external hardware is
needed. A variety of complex mathematical computations then provide userfriendly parameters such as Group Delay or Smith Chart formats for display. The
VNA is available as an economical 2-port, 1-path version or a full 2-port, 2-path
version (Figure 3-3). Both furnish the all-important phase data for the user.
Port 1
Port 2
Port 1
RF Test
Port 1
Port 2
Port 1
RF Test
Port 2
Full Two-Port
Figure 3-3. Two versions of VNA instruments are available. On the left is an economical 2-port, 1-path, version, while
the full 2-port, 2-path version that can measure all 4 S-parameters without reconnection is on the right. Either
version provides accurate cable measurements.
44 Understanding Cable and Antenna Analysis
Frequency W
Group Delay
Phase F
Average Delay
Group Delay t g =
-d F
Figure 3-4. Phase performance of a cable or component is crucial to its linearity versus frequency.[l] When phase
linearity is mathematically differentiated, the parameter is called Group Delay (right). If the Group Delay of a
component or cable is not flat, the signals within a frequency band will intermodulate.
Phase and Group Delay Parameters
The phase characteristics of cables are fairly well behaved. Whether an air dielectric or a plastic, the phase shift of a signal traveling through a cable is generally
linear versus frequency. Figure 3-4 shows a plot of phase shift versus frequency,
although the lumpy phase behavior in this figure might be more typical of an
active component such as an amplifier. The importance of a linear phase shift
versus frequency is shown in the plot on the right, which is the differentiated
results and is called Group Delay. If Group Delay is not flat, multiple signals
within a transmitter band will intermodulate, causing serious distortion or bit
errors in the case of digital modulations. If video pulses are being transmitted, the
pulse shape will become distorted.
Smith Chart
Antenna technology and design are far more sensitive to phase considerations.
Consequently, in field measurements, it is often crucial to characterize cables and
antennas (or their combination) with a full magnitude and phase measurement.
One of the most convenient display formats for field diagnostics is the Smith
Chart. Originally conceived in the 1930s by a Bell Laboratories engineer named
Phillip Smith, the Smith Chart is simply a plot of complex reflections overlaid with
an impedance and/or admittance referenced to a normalized characteristic
w w w. a n r i t s u . c o m
impedance, usually 50 . It provides a convenient graphical representation of tedious and repetitive
transmission line equations. Smith
cleverly warped the rectangular
grid by wrapping the infinity values
for both reactive ±x values around
to the right center, which was the
infinity value for resistive value. In
this manner, Smith allowed all numbers from 0 to ±  to be plotted
(Figure 3-5).
Smith Chart
Figure 3-5. The Smith Chart is a plot of r and x terms of the
impedance of a DUT, where r is the real or resistive term
The signal reflected from a DUT has
(horizontal axis) and +/-x is the imaginary or reactive term
both magnitude and phase. This is
of the impedance. By wrapping the normal plus and minus
because the impedance of the vertical axes around to the right infinity point, all values are
easily viewed.
cable or device has both a resistive
and a reactive term, which is represented as r+jx, where r is the real or resistive term and x is the imaginary or reactive term. The j, which is sometimes denoted as i, is an imaginary number and is
the square root of –1. If x is positive, the impedance is inductive. If x is negative,
the impedance is capacitive. The size and polarity of the reactive component x is
important in impedance matching.
The best match to a complex impedance is the complex conjugate. This complex
sounding term simply means an impedance with the same value of r and x, but
with x of opposite polarity. This term is best analyzed using a Smith Chart that is
a plot of r and x, as shown in Figure 3-5. Depending on the format required, displaying all of the information on a single S-parameter requires one or two traces.
A very common requirement is to view forward reflection on a Smith Chart (one
trace), while observing forward transmission in log magnitude and phase (two
traces). This dual display is crucial when tuning filters where there is a functional
interaction between the reflection and transmission parameters caused by the
tuning itself.
The Smith Chart is one of the most useful graphical aids available to the RF field
engineer today and an advanced measurement capability available in handheld
cable and antenna analyzers. In one glance, the user can see the reflection signal
46 Understanding Cable and Antenna Analysis
plotted versus frequency and, if the plot is clustered near the 50  center point,
the component is well matched. Using it, such problems can be solved in mere
seconds, lessening the possibility of errors creeping into the calculations. Because
Smith Chart graphically demonstrates how various RF parameters (e.g., impedances, reflection coefficients, S-parameters, noise figure circles, and gain contours) behave at one or more frequencies, it offers an alternative to using tabular
Figure 3-6. A typical Smith Chart display, such as the one pictured here, can be used to measure the match of an
In a handheld cable and antenna analyzer with this advanced measurement capability, 1-port measurements are displayed in a standard 50  normalized Smith
Chart (Figure 3-6). When markers are used, the real and imaginary components
of the Smith Chart value are displayed. Some cable and antenna analyzers provide additional options and even a calculator to show the Return Loss, VSWR or
reflection coefficient values of a specific Smith Chart value. Note that limit lines
w w w. a n r i t s u . c o m
in a Smith Chart appear as circles (constant reflection coefficient) and can be
entered in VSWR units.
Figure 3-7 shows a typical combined quad-display of a Smith Chart and forward
transmission parameters including Group Delay (lower right). Group Delay is the
rate of change-of-phase versus frequency. If this rate of phase change versus
frequency is not constant, the DUT is nonlinear. This nonlinearity can create distortion in communication systems. The result is the intermodulation of multiple
signals which are transiting that particular amplifier or filter. Group Delay is a
powerful diagnostic tool offered as a view on the cable and antenna analyzer
trace, along with other advanced measurement capabilities like the Smith Chart.
Both log magnitude and Smith Chart formats are user-defined.
Making Cable Phase Measurements in the Field
For measuring absolute insertion phase characteristics of a cable or comparing
phase match between multiple RF/Microwave cables, especially in the field where
access to AC power is limited, a portable VNA is the most appropriate tool. Some
VNA models come with an optional built-in Vector Voltmeter (VVM) capability
that enables a contractor, field technician or engineer to accurately measure or
match the phase parameter in one or a multiple of cables with ease and high
accuracy. A VNA with a VVM capability effectively replaces the functional ratio
measurements of the now obsolete VVM and the signal generator.[1]
Many RF/Microwave systems depend on multiple antenna elements to create
their transmitted beam, often with exceedingly precise requirements on the insertion phase or the phase match between the transmit cables. As an example,
consider that precise directional characteristics are needed for the VHF
Omnirange (VOR) navigation antenna systems at most airports. Detailed procedures are published for maintenance personnel to provide the exact phase match
between cables. Glide slope antenna cables also require careful phase matching.
As shown in Figure 3-8, a VNA can be configured to make both 1-port and 2-port
phase measurements at selected Continuous Wave (CW) frequencies. Figure 3-9
shows that unlike VVMs, the portable network analyzer permits close access to
test cables and antennas.
48 Understanding Cable and Antenna Analysis
Figure 3-7. This image depicts a typical quad-display showing multiple characteristics of a filter, including: reject
skirts (upper left), passband (upper right), S11 (lower left Smith Chart) and Group Delay (lower right).
Figure 3-8. With built-in test signal source and directional devices to detect forward and reverse power, the battery
powered handheld VNA (on right) is self-configured for making field cable-phase measurements. The older VVM
technique (left) requires an external signal generator.
w w w. a n r i t s u . c o m
Insertion and Reflection are two common techniques employed by the VNA to
obtain cable-phase measurements. Both are based on S-parameters. The preferred method, Insertion, utilizes the VNA’s 2-port setup to make insertion phase
measurements by measuring the S21 vector transmission from Port 1 to Port 2
through the cable. This allows the operator to determine the phase shift of the
component or cable from its input connector to its output connector. Measured
S21 data is displayed as cable insertion loss in dB, while insertion phase is displayed in degrees.
Reflection, on the other hand, measures
the reflected signal S11 on a test cable,
and is dependent on the far end of the
cable being deliberately mismatched—
either shorted or left as an open circuit.
With the deliberate mismatch, virtually
100% of the input signal is reflected and
as a result, the phase delay of the measured reflected signal is equal to twice
the one-way phase of the cable. Similarly,
the cable measured return loss is twice
the one-way loss.
Figure 3-9. In contrast to a bulky VVM system with
power cords, the portable network analyzer moves in
close to the test cables and antennas to streamline
installation and maintenance of systems.
This reflection technique is especially
useful in situations where the operator
must manually create multiple phase-matched cables using the “measure-andsnip” operation. This operation requires the contractor, engineer or field technician to carefully snip small amounts of cable with a diagonal cutter, perhaps 1/8th
inch at a time, and re-measure the effect on the 2-way phase. The reflection
technique is also useful on already installed cables where the far end cannot be
brought near the VNA instrument.
50 Understanding Cable and Antenna Analysis
Two-Port Measurements
Figure 3-10. This VNA calibration procedure provides the zerophase reference out at the end of two extension test cables for later
insertion-phase measurements. The calibration algorithm requires
a through connection so it’s important to setup a male-female
interconnect scheme as shown to ensure a precise zero-phase
As shown above, phase measurements can be made in both
reflection (S11) and insertion
(S21) modes. The 2-port phase
measurement can use both high
(approximately 0 dBm) and low
(approximately –35 dBm) power
settings. However, prior to conducting a 2-port measurement
with a network analyzer, the
instrument must be calibrated
as shown in Figure 3-10. To
begin calibration, select a CW
frequency and choose 2-port
calibration. Set-up a 2-port connection to the DUT and then
select “insertion” as measurement type prior to commencing
the 2-port calibration process,
which in this case uses Short,
Open, Load and Thru (SOLT)
standard components (Figure
Note that when preparing system
cables for precise match to other
cables and the connectors of the cable
under test are both the same gender
(e.g., male-male), an extra femalefemale insert must be used in the calibration routine and its insertion effect
on phase shift computed out of the
final results.
Figure 3-11. Convenient calibration components for the
VNA provide the Open, Short and Load standards for the
SOLT calibration procedure.
w w w. a n r i t s u . c o m
For phase-matching cables, a good general practice is:
Step 1. Connectorize the first (reference) cable on both ends.
Step 2. Make an insertion phase measurement and store the data.
Step 3. Cut a second cable to length, being careful not to cut shorter than the
reference cable, and connectorize it on both ends.
Step 4. Measure the second connectorized cable and compare it to the first (reference) cable.
From the difference observed, the user can estimate the trim required for the
second cable. For more accurate trimming, one of the second cable’s connectors
must be removed and the center conductor trimmed. Re-connect the connector
back for another measured comparison with the first cable. Although, it may be
difficult to trim the cable correctly the first time, experienced users often achieve
success in the first two or three tries. However, this practice of measure-and-cut
varies with frequency. Lower frequencies (VHF) will likely be in the 1/16th to 1/8th
inch range for final iterations, while at 1 GHz and above, the re-connecting might
only involve unsoldering the center conductor and trimming it 1/32 the inch or
less, and just letting the solder cool.
For example, at 118.5 MHz, 1.0 inch
length of 1/4 inch diameter Andrew
Heliax with a phase velocity Vp =
0.84, equals approximately 4.28
degrees, while at 332.3 MHz, it
equals 12.05 degrees. Often times,
trimming the cable precisely for the
last few tenths of a degree can be
very exacting. Nevertheless, with
careful and clever attention to detail
and data, users can establish their
own learning curve. The 2-port measurements taken appear on the analyzer’s display window as shown in
Figure 3-12.
Figure 3-12. The VNA’s VVM display shows the
insertion signal loss (-0.70 dB) and phase shift (46.49
deg) for the test frequency of 110 MHz. These
quantities are derived from the VNA’s measurement
of S21.
52 Understanding Cable and Antenna Analysis
One-Port Phase Measurements
The reflection or 1-port phase measurement is favored when one end of the cable
cannot be brought up to the test instrument. Or, in cases where “measure-andsnip” operations must be performed to create cables of exactly the right phase
length for a prescribed frequency. Prior to making these measurements, the VNA
must be calibrated for 1-port measurements using the Open, Short, and Load
setup shown in Figure 3-13.
When using this technique to
measure a cable’s phase length,
it is assumed that the raw end of
the cable reflects back 100% of
the power. This condition is
dependent on frequency. An
open coaxial cable end will
reflect virtually all of the power
back at low frequencies (below
500 MHz), but might function as
a non-efficient antenna at microwave frequencies. Thus, at higher frequencies the reflection is
not complete. While in the VHF
range, 100 to 500 MHz, an open
end offers 100% reflection.
Depending on the model, the
VNA is capable of measureFigure 3-13. The reflection or 1-port phase measurement is the
up to 4, 6 or 20 GHz. At
preferred procedure for cable measurements when both ends
of the test cable cannot be brought to the instrument. Prior to
these higher microwave ranges,
making these measurements, the VNA must be calibrated for
users are advised to prepare the
1-port measurements using the Open, Short and Load setup.
cable center conductor and
braided shield to be electrically shorted, such as by soldering the two together
to ensure a good short. This extra soldering step complicates the “measure-andsnip” technique since once the required phase is obtained by multiple snips, the
final addition of the real connector starts with a slightly damaged cable end.
Nonetheless, with a little experience, the user will understand and adapt to the
w w w. a n r i t s u . c o m
While interactively measuring and snipping cables for matched phase may be a
tedious job, it is made faster by experience. Two tips that can help with this task
Tip 1. At any one frequency, cut the cable to be prepared several inches longer
than the final length. Solder the raw end, creating a good short and take a measurement. Next, cut off exactly one inch of cable, solder it identically again and
take another measurement. Note the change in phase from the removal of the
one inch segment and calculate the amount of phase difference for, say, 1/8th
inch. When the snip procedure brings you closer to the final desired value of the
measured phase, you will have a good idea of how much more to snip.
Tip 2. Using the 1-port method, make a shorted-end phase measurement and
note the value. Attach the final cable connector at that length using the normal
connector attaching process. Next, make a 2-port connector-to-connector insertion phase measurement, as described above in Tip 1, and note the difference in
phase. This correction value can be utilized in later steps when converting from
the raw end measurements to the final connectorized configuration.
For comparing multiple cables for matched phase, the VNA can save measured
phase and amplitude values of multiple cables in the memory of the portable
cable and antenna analyzer as a convenient table. With this feature, the operator
can save the first cable measurement as a reference, view the differences between
the reference cable and
other cables, and then output a final report showing
both absolute and relative
values of all cables. As an
example, Figure 3-14 shows
a display table with measured values of phase and
amplitude for each cable.
Their relative phase and
amplitude, with respect to a
chosen “golden standard
cable,” is shown in the top
box as the REL standard.
Figure 3-14. This screen capture displays results for multiple cables,
showing both measured values of phase and amplitude for each cable.
On the right is a typical soft key “Measurement Menu” cluster, showing
the operator choices as the measurement progresses.
54 Understanding Cable and Antenna Analysis
Exploiting the Time-Domain Algorithm
For contractors, engineers and field technicians, the ability of time-domain analysis to separate impairments by time or distance is a powerful tool to analyze
cables for faults. The instrument displays that provide DTF capture all the minor
discontinuities that may occur due to a loose connection, corrosion, aging effects,
or physical damage. Fundamentals for DTF were presented in Chapter 2. This
section will discuss special variations of Time-Domain measurements as applied
to cable characterization, and distributed transmission elements where the ability
to separate S-parameters by distance or time is a very valuable tool.[2]
Frequency Domain Reflectometry
If you send a single-frequency test signal down the cable of Figure 3-15, with its
distributed impairments, adapters, crushed cable, or end-short, you’ll get back a
single reflection made up of all the individual discontinuities, all added up in their
random phases, depending on their position.
Figure 3-15. Reflections from individual discontinuities add up in random phase at any one test frequency.
If you set up for a swept frequency range of test signals, and store all the resulting
magnitude and phase information, you have all the information needed for an
extremely powerful diagnostic technique called the inverse Fast Fourier Transform.
The measurement technique is called Frequency Domain Reflectometry (FDR)
and the VNA Master is configured to use operational frequencies (instead of
DC-based pulses from the classic TDR approaches) to more precisely identify
discontinuities. When access to both ends of the cable is convenient, a similar
time-domain analysis is available on transmission (S21) measurements too.[3], [4]
w w w. a n r i t s u . c o m
Figure 3-16. This typical standard DTF display of discontinuities versus distance gives the technician a head start on
tracking down faults.
Figure 3-17. Optional time-domain analysis offers trace selections for the horizontal axis in frequency, distance or time
scales. This screen simultaneously shows Distance-to-Fault and Cable Loss (Log Mag/2) for S11 and S22.
56 Understanding Cable and Antenna Analysis
Figure 3-16 shows the resulting computations, plotted in terms of reflection magnitude in dB versus the distance from the reference plane of the test.
Experienced technicians often run a DTF sweep when the system is operating in
proper performance, and store it as a reference. A current readout, during a fault
outage, can then be compared against previous measurements in order to determine whether any degradations have occurred since installation (or the last maintenance activity). Marker functions can be utilized to help identify the precise
location of those degradations. Moving left to right in the display, we can see the
initial launch (MK1), the adapter (MK2), and the short at the far end of the cable
(MK3). Using time-domain analysis, it is easy to interpret the discontinuities as
normal or faults by simply looking at the location and amplitude of the peaks
(Figure 3-17).
With the Time Domain Analysis (Option 0002), the VNA Master can also display
the S-parameter measurements separated in the time or distance domain using
this popular analysis mode. The broadband frequency coverage coupled with
4,001 data points means that you can measure discontinuities both near and far
with unprecedented clarity for a handheld tool. With this option, you can simultaneously view S-parameters in frequency, time, and distance domain to quickly
identify faults in the field.
Waveguide Transmission Lines
For microwave systems, with high power transmitters, the transmission line is
often fabricated of waveguide. In the field, waveguide flanges can leak moisture
and the condensation is a strong absorber. Also, the soft aluminum or brass waveguide is subject to physical damage in place. To handle waveguide lines in the
field, the VNA Master also contains the mathematical functions which can compensate for the dispersion effect of the velocity of propagation in waveguide
transmission lines.
One Way Versus Round Trip
With the ability to transform any S-parameter to the time domain, one question
that arises is whether the time or distance that is plotted represents a one-way or
a round-trip propagation. The one-way propagation represents the transmission
(or 2-port) measurement, in which the signal is transmitted from one port, propa-
w w w. a n r i t s u . c o m
gates through the DUT and is received on the second port. One-way propagation
occurs when transforming S21 or S12.
The round-trip propagation represents a reflection (1-port) measurement, in
which the signal is transmitted from one port, propagates through the DUT, fully
reflects at the end of the device, and is received back at the same port. One-way
propagation occurs when transforming S11 or S22.
The VNA Master handles one-way and round-trip propagation differently in the
time and distance domains. In the time domain, the VNA Master plots the
response against the actual time the signal travels from the transmission port to
the receiving port without accounting for whether the measurement is transmission (2-port) or reflection (1-port). In the distance domain, however, the VNA
Master compensates for the round-trip propagation by showing the actual length
of the DUT (essentially dividing the distance by 2 for the reflection measurements).
For example, look at the results of measuring a cable that is 3.05 meters (10 ft)
long. For a transmission measurement, approximately 14.4 ns are taken by a signal when traveling from one end of the cable to the other end of the cable. For
a reflection measurement, twice as long (approximately 29 ns) are taken by a
signal when traveling from one end of the cable, reflecting from the far end, and
returning. Figure 9-18 shows a measured time-domain response of a cable of this
length for both reflection (S11) and transmission (S21). The top trace is the S11 plot
showing the reflections from both ends of the cable (MK1 at the near end and
MK2 at the far end). You can see that the far end peak at MK2 is at approximately 29 ns. Looking at the bottom trace, you can see that the peak at MK3
(which represents the signal received at the end of the cable) is at approximately
14.4 ns.
Take a look at what happens in the distance domain for the same cable. As a user,
you want the reflection and transmission measurements to show you where the
end of the cable is located. Figure 3-19 shows a measured distance-domain
response of this cable for both reflection (S11) and transmission (S21). The top
trace is the S11 plot showing the reflections from both ends of the cable (MK1 at
the near end and MK2 at the far end). The bottom trace shows the transmission
S21 measurement with the peak representing the signal received at the end of the
cable (MK3). Looking at the signal at MK2 and MK3, you can see that the reflec-
58 Understanding Cable and Antenna Analysis
tion and transmission measurements produced the same result for the length of
the cable. The VNA Master compensated for the round-trip condition in the S11
measurement so that the distance information matches the physical length of the
cable, just as it does in the S21 measurement.
Figure 3-18. Time-domain measurements of a 3.05 m cable shows S11 and S21.
Figure 3-19. Distance-domain measurements of a 3.05-m cable shows S11 and S21.
w w w. a n r i t s u . c o m
Note that the measured cable had a propagation velocity of 70%, which was
entered into the VNA Master. Measurements in the distance domain use the
entered propagation velocity value to calculate the actual physical length of
cables. If the default value of 100% were used, then the measured cable length
would be wrong (4.4 meters in the above example). Time-domain measurements
are not dependent on the propagation velocity values.
Gated Time Domain
Gating is a popular technique for further analyzing discontinuities observed in the
time domain. In the most popular scenario, one would highlight a desired discontinuity with a gate consisting of start and stop criteria. Once selected and
enabled, the gate modifies measurements to show only the effect of the gate
from start to stop in the swept frequency display. As an alternative, the gate can
be configured as a notch to remove the effect of the gated portion from the current measurement. For closely spaced discontinuities, additional filtering options
are provided to control how the gate is applied to further optimize the current
Anti-aliasing is an important consideration for time-domain analysis to ensure
adequate distance/time is available for viewing discontinuities. For improved
distance resolution, closely spaced discontinuities may require greater frequency
spans. For greater maximum distance, more data points or narrower frequency
spans will increase the maximum alias-free viewable distance (e.g., Dmax).
Measurement Readout and Interpretation
When gating is enabled, the trace readout in frequency domain is labeled with
Frequency Gated with Time (FGT) to differentiate this applied post-processing
from normal measurements. Verifying deployed cable is operating properly usually requires, at a minimum, the measurement of Cable Loss and Return Loss. In
this typical field scenario, the far end of the cable is disconnected from the
antenna and replaced by calibration devices: open/short for Cable Loss and load/
termination for Return Loss. The following example shows how to use the new
gating features to observe Cable Loss and Return Loss with a single connection.
60 Understanding Cable and Antenna Analysis
Setup Considerations
Let’s start by configuring the instrument to show Cable Loss and Return Loss on
a single display. As a setup step, calibrate the instrument at Port 1 for 1-port
measurements between 1 GHz and 2 GHz with 201 data points. Two traces are
setup with S11 log magnitude displays as their assigned S-parameter: trace 1
(TR1) is Return Loss and trace 2 (TR2) is Cable Loss (e.g., Log Mag/2 graph type).
Following the 1-port calibration, we connect two 1.5 m cables in series, representing the DUT with propagation velocity (vp) of 0.7 for the sequence of measurements that follow.
In Figure 3-20, the Cable Loss is measured with the far-end short connection.
Additionally, Return Loss can be measured with the far-end load connection.
Note how the Return Loss results do not make sense when making Cable Loss
measurements and vice versa. These results confirm that the cable has both good
match and low loss, making it ideally suited for this transmission application.
Figure 3-20. These screen captures show Cable Loss on the left when the far-end connection is a short and Return
Loss on the right when the far-end connection is a load. In these measurement scenarios, the results for Cable
Loss do not make sense when measuring Return Loss (and vice versa) because both rely on different far-end physical
Gate Setup to Simultaneously Measure Cable Loss and Return Loss
For this next example, connect a far-end short for a Cable Loss measurement.
Next, a gate must be set up at the calibration reference plane because we want
w w w. a n r i t s u . c o m
to measure the Return Loss of the cable launch even though there are significant
discontinuities farther down the cable. When we enable the gate, the VNA
Master will essentially apply a filtering effect to the time-domain data as illustrated by the gate on the display (Figure 3-21).
Figure 3-21. These two screen captures illustrate how to set up a gate at the calibration reference plane to measure
the Return Loss of the DUT. The top capture displays the gate as an overlay on the available distance (or time)
62 Understanding Cable and Antenna Analysis
FGT Reveals Return Loss and Cable Loss
As shown in Figure 3-22, the gate is enabled and the domain selection is changed
from distance (or time) to FGT to view the updated S11 measurement of Return
Loss with gating applied. The gating applied indicator is located under the trace
with ‘FGT.’
Figure 3-22. This final screen captures shows the simultaneous measurement of Return Loss and Cable Loss with a farend short using the VNA Master gate features.
For comparison purposes, the original S11 Return Loss measurement using a farend load is saved in memory to overlay with these updated FGT results. The ripple
is caused by the mid-cable interconnect reflections; whereas, the gated response
is able to effectively filter this contribution for easier to interpret results. This final
screen capture shows one approach for simultaneous measurement of both
Return Loss and Cable Loss using a far-end short and the VNA Master gate feature.
Gate Shape: Minimal, Nominal, Wide, and Maximum
The default gate shape is nominal to provide optimum results for most situations.
Advanced users may want to optimize the gate shape for more resolution when
w w w. a n r i t s u . c o m
multiple discontinuities are in close proximity to each other. Here, other gate
shapes may be useful for further optimizing the final FTG results. As shown Figure
3-23, the overlay gate shape feature provides visual cues to further optimize the
final FTG results.
Time Domain Diagnostics for Balanced/Differential Transmission Lines
Modern digital communications systems utilize pulse rates in the 10 Gbps range.
Such pulses require frequency-response bandwidths of 25 GHz and more. When
those extremely high data rate signals are to be cabled from one sub-system rack
to another, simple shielded twisted pair wiring will not do. Yet, the signals must
be designed to be immune to noise pickup. This leads system designers to
specify balanced or differential coaxial transmission lines. The digital data stream
is contained between the two center conductors of regular coaxial transmission
lines. The terminology for the S11 parameter for such differential line set is Sd1d1.
Figure 3-23. The Anritsu VNA Master overlays the gate shape on the distance (or time) domain readout for
optimized FGT results. These additional gate-shape selections (e.g., minimal, nominal, wide, and maximum) can
be useful when dealing with multiple discontinuities in close proximity to each other. As shown in these screen
captures, the gate shape differences are easily viewable on the display.
64 Understanding Cable and Antenna Analysis
The VNA Master, with Option 0077, reconfigures Ports 1 and 2 to act like one
single balanced test port. It uses a full 2-port calibration to conduct 1-port differential measurements of Sd1d1. Similar to other S-parameters, Sd1d1 can be
viewed in the frequency, time or distance domain for signal-integrity measurements anytime, anywhere. This capability is especially valuable for applications in
high data rate cables where balanced data formats are used to isolate noise and
interference. Figure 3-24 shows a typical display of DTF for a balanced/differential line.
Figure 3-24. By using Option 0077, the two test-ports are reconfigured into a balanced mode for measurement of
Time Domain Separation of S-Parameters
While not strictly a cable or antenna characterization, the following tuning procedures for highly-complex passband filters demonstrates the powerful ability of
the Time Domain function to separate the S-parameters of a DUT in distance or
time.[5] In the quest for superior filter performance, and the ability to create specific filter specifications, filter designers now utilize extremely complex architec-
w w w. a n r i t s u . c o m
tures. This makes manufacturing and final test a difficult endeavor, not to mention
the challenges associated with the field servicing requirement.
In this case, a number of different resonators can be used; lumped LC circuits are
good for production on printed circuit type technology. Cavity resonators are
good for high power. Waveguide models have used “waffle iron” type machining
to develop filtering. Dielectric resonators tend to have higher Q factors.
Producing more sophisticated filter parameters, sharper skirts and flatter passbands, multiple “poles” or resonators need to be used. Suppose you use 5 resonators designed to “cross-couple” certain individual effects, multiplying their
features and producing sharper rejection skirts and deeper stop bands. Flat
passbands are still maintained with the desired flat Group Delay.
A generic diagram of a tuned multipole LC filter is shown in Figure 3-25. Individual
resonators may be tuned for the desired filtering performance. For filter characteristics with steeper slopes on the reject skirts, another wrinkle may be added,
which is shown as “cross-coupling.” The cross coupling can skip different numbers of resonators, even or odd, to achieve the selectivity that is needed for a
given system. In many cases, it is the separation of transmit and receive frequency channels that determines the specific design. Since the resonators are physically distributed, the VNA Master’s Time-Domain function can be used to display
the tuning effect of each resonator individually.
Cross Coupling
Figure 3-25. Filter designers use as many resonators as necessary to create the desired passband. A technique for
sharpening the reject skirt is to cross-couple some amount of signal between odd or even resonators, as required.
66 Understanding Cable and Antenna Analysis
While in general, the more poles or tunable resonant circuits used, the better the
flatness, this is not completely true. More resonances also mean more loss across
the passband, so practical filters might be 5 or 8 poles. But in the tuning stages,
if the only measurement instrument shows a frequency versus attenuation plot,
the tuning situation can be hopeless because of the extreme interaction between
almost all tuning screwdriver slots.
One measurement answer is the ability to electronically separate the display of
individual resonators by their physical position. This can be done with a powerful
time-domain feature found in modern VNAs. Figure 9-26 shows a typical measurement display where the time domain separation assists in tuning bandpass
characteristics. On the top overlay, two versions of the passband S21 are overlaid,
one being 0.5 dB per division and the other (showing sharp skirts) is 5.0 dB per
division. The lower display shows attenuation for the various resonators, separated by distance, with the markers MK1 and MK2 designating their physical
Figure 3-26. Powerful insights are now available with time-domain measurements of multiple resonator filters. This
screen shot shows two views of S21 passband, one with 0.5 dB and the other 5.0 dB per division. The bottom trace
shows the time-domain separated views of individual resonators, allowing the filter tuner person to have a better
idea of what the tuning is doing.
w w w. a n r i t s u . c o m
Finally, it should be noted that the Time Domain option for VNAs is not the traditional nanosecond-pulses-down-a-coaxial line of oscilloscope TDRs. Instead it is
based on the use of a FDR technique, which captures data over a band-limited
range of frequencies, and uses powerful inverse-Fourier transform data processing to develop and display a time separated view of transmission or reflection.
The use of band-limited data also means it is also useful for waveguide lines which
are band-limited by definition.
The insight and diagnostic power that the handheld VNA brings to field test and
maintenance is stunning. For all the simple routines of characterizing components, cables and antennas, its accuracy and speed is expected. But, for the
complex and sophisticated test routines of Time Domain and Precision Phase
measurements, the specialized options of the VNA are crucial. Although not discussed herein, the ability of the contractor, field technician or engineer to add a
powerful spectrum analyzer to the basic VNA takes a brand new test system on
the road, anytime, anywhere.
1. Practical Tips on Making “Vector Voltmeter (VVM)” Phase Measurements using
VNA Master (Opt 15), Anritsu Application Note 11410-00531.
2. Distance to Fault, Anritsu Application Note 11410-00373.
3. Reflectometer Measurements—Revisited, Anritsu Application Note 1141000214.
4. Time Domain Measurements Using Vector Network Analyzers, Anritsu
Application Note 114 10-00206.
5. Primer on Vector Network Analysis 11410-00387.
68 Understanding Cable and Antenna Analysis
w w w. a n r i t s u . c o m
Handheld Cable & Antenna Analyzers - Site Master
Since 1995, the Site Master™ has been the leader in handheld Cable and
Antenna Analyzers for installers, contractors, and wireless service providers
worldwide. With its unsurpassed measurement uncertainty and best-in-class
sweep speed, the Site Master gives you extremely accurate and fast measurements that you can totally trust, whenever and wherever.
The Site Master family includes seven models to meet a variety of needs. They all
can make traditional line sweep measurements such as Return Loss, VSWR, Cable
Loss, and Distanceto-Fault (DTF). To increase productivity, the Site Master completes sweeps quickly, performs calibrations quickly with InstaCal™, provides fast
trace naming, and comes with automatic report generating capabilities.
The 2-port transmission measurement option with its excellent dynamic range
allows you to measure gain, insertion loss, or isolation of critical RF devices
including tower mounted amplifiers (TMA), repeaters and passive RF components
such as filters and antennas. Models with Spectrum Analyzers can make RF channel measurements and hunt down interference. Get the most trusted name in
cable and antenna analyzers – the worldwide standard – the Site Master.
70 Understanding Cable and Antenna Analysis
Frequency Range
Site Master
Cable & Antenna
S311D Cable and Antenna
25 MHz to 1600 MHz
S331E Cable and Antenna
2 MHz to 4 GHz
S361E Cable and Antenna
2 MHz to 6 GHz
S332E Cable and Antenna
2 MHz to 4 GHz
100 kHz to 4 GHz
S362E Cable and Antenna
2 MHz to 6 GHz
100 kHz to 6 GHz
S412E Cable, Antenna, Spectrum,
Interference, P25/NXDN Modulation
100 kHz to 1.6 GHz
S810D Broadband Microwave
Transmission Line Analyzer
25 MHz to 10.5 GHz
S820D Broadband Microwave
Transmission Line Analyzer
25 MHz to 20 GHz
• Return loss
• Cable loss
• Distance-to-fault
• Return loss
• Cable loss
• Distance-to-fault
• PIM analysis
• Adjacent channel
power ratio
• Interference analysis
• Coverage mapping
• AM/FM/PM analyzer
• Transmission measurement
• Channel power
• S412E includes VNA
• Return loss
• 1-port cable loss
• Distance-to-fault
• 2-port cable loss
• Coax and waveguide VSWR
w w w. a n r i t s u . c o m
Specifications are subject to change without notice.
• United States
Anritsu Company
• Italy
Anritsu S.r.l.
1155 East Collins Blvd., Suite 100, Richardson,
TX 75081, U.S.A.
Toll Free: 1-800-267-4878
Phone: +1-972-644-1777
Fax: +1-972-671-1877
Via Elio Vittorini 129, 00144 Roma, Italy
Phone: +39-6-509-9711
Fax: +39-6-502-2425
• Canada
Anritsu Electronics Ltd.
• India
Anritsu Pte. Ltd.
India Branch Office
3rd Floor, Shri Lakshminarayan Niwas, #2726, 80 ft Road,
HAL 3rd Stage, Bangalore - 560 075, India
Phone: +91-80-4058-1300
Fax: +91-80-4058-1301
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Anritsu AB
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Phone: +46-8-534-707-00
Fax: +46-8-534-707-30
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Ontario K2V 1C3, Canada
Phone: +1-613-591-2003
Fax: +1-613-591-1006
Anritsu AB
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Anritsu Eletrônica Ltda.
Teknobulevardi 3-5, FI-01530 VANTAA, Finland
Phone: +358-20-741-8100
Fax: +358-20-741-8111
Praça Amadeu Amaral, 27 - 1 Andar
01327-010 - Bela Vista - São Paulo - SP - Brazil
Phone: +55-11-3283-2511
Fax: +55-11-3288-6940
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Anritsu A/S (Service Assurance)
Anritsu AB (Test & Measurement)
• Mexico
Anritsu Company, S.A. de C.V.
Kay Fiskers Plads 9, 2300 Copenhagen S, Denmark
Phone: +45-7211-2200
Fax: +45-7211-2210
Av. Ejército Nacional No. 579 Piso 9, Col. Granada
11520 México, D.F., México
Phone: +52-55-1101-2370
Fax: +52-55-5254-3147
• United Kingdom
Anritsu EMEA Ltd.
200 Capability Green, Luton, Bedfordshire, LU1 3LU, U.K.
Phone: +44-1582-433200
Fax: +44-1582-731303
• Finland
• Russia
Anritsu EMEA Ltd.
Representation Office in Russia
Tverskaya str. 16/2, bld. 1, 7th floor.
Russia, 125009, Moscow
Phone: +7-495-363-1694
Fax: +7-495-935-8962
• United Arab Emirates
Anritsu EMEA Ltd.
Dubai Liaison Office
12 avenue du Québec, Bâtiment Iris 1- Silic 612,
Phone: +33-1-60-92-15-50
Fax: +33-1-64-46-10-65
P O Box 500413 - Dubai Internet City
Al Thuraya Building, Tower 1, Suit 701, 7th Floor
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Phone: +971-4-3670352
Fax: +971-4-3688460
• Germany
Anritsu GmbH
Nemetschek Haus, Konrad-Zuse-Platz 1
81829 München, Germany
Phone: +49-89-442308-0
Fax: +49-89-442308-55
Room 1715, Tower A CITY CENTER of Shanghai,
No.100 Zunyi Road, Chang Ning District,
Shanghai 200051, P.R. China
Phone: +86-21-6237-0898
Fax: +86-21-6237-0899
• P.R. China (Hong Kong)
Anritsu Company Ltd.
Unit 1006-7, 10/F., Greenfield Tower, Concordia Plaza,
No. 1 Science Museum Road, Tsim Sha Tsui East,
Kowloon, Hong Kong, P.R. China
Phone: +852-2301-4980
Fax: +852-2301-3545
• Japan
Anritsu Corporation
8-5, Tamura-cho, Atsugi-shi, Kanagawa, 243-0016 Japan
Phone: +81-46-296-1221
Fax: +81-46-296-1238
• Korea
Anritsu Corporation, Ltd.
• France
Anritsu S.A.
• P.R. China (Shanghai)
Anritsu (China) Co., Ltd.
• Singapore
Anritsu Pte. Ltd.
60 Alexandra Terrace, #02-08, The Comtech (Lobby A)
Singapore 118502
Phone: +65-6282-2400
Fax: +65-6282-2533
502, 5FL H-Square N B/D, 681
Sampyeong-dong, Bundang-gu, Seongnam-si,
Gyeonggi-do, 463-400 Korea
Phone: +82-31-696-7750
Fax: +82-31-696-7751
• Australia
Anritsu Pty. Ltd.
Unit 21/270 Ferntree Gully Road, Notting Hill,
Victoria 3168, Australia
Phone: +61-3-9558-8177
Fax: +61-3-9558-8255
• Taiwan
Anritsu Company Inc.
7F, No. 316, Sec. 1, NeiHu Rd., Taipei 114, Taiwan
Phone: +886-2-8751-1816
Fax: +886-2-8751-1817
Please Contact:
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