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White Paper – RF Power Measurement

...and the Implementation in DEV Products

Introduction

The power level of a system or a signal chain is one of the main indicators to guarantee a reliably signal integrity with a sufficient signal-to noise-ratio. In a signal chain each device is dependent that the previous one delivers the proper signal level. If the level is too high nonlinear performance will occur or in the worst case equipment will be damaged. Is the level to low, the carrier signal can be lost in the noise.

In DC applications or even at low frequencies voltage and current measurements are performed to calculate the power. Because of effects like a standing wave, were the voltage and current varies along a cable, this kind of measurements are not suitable to get reliable results. Despite these effects the power stays always constant and is therefore a much useful quantity for judging high frequencies transmission lines.

Units

To deal with very big and very small power levels at the same time a logarithmic scale is used. A dB is the logarithm of a ratio of two power levels, so it describes the relative power to compare two levels. To get an absolute value a reference of 1 mW is assigned. The result is the dBm, or dB relative to 1 mW.

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How to Measure

Because in modern applications signals are not only modulated in their frequency but also in there amplitude and other specifics (even pulsed signals are widespread) a momentary measurement of power is difficult and often not a useful information. Therefore most of the time a signal’s average power is measured.

The power level of a signal can be measured by a variety of different instruments. Both a Spectrum Analyzer and a Network Analyzer can be used to perform a power measurement. It is necessary to keep in mind, that these devices work frequency selective. For example, the Spectrum Analyzer can only perform a power measurement in the configured resolution bandwidth. A HF Power Meter measures the power of the full frequency range of the sensor including all the carrier waves, all the harmonics and intermodulation products.

To perform these measurements over a wide band specific sensors are used. The most common type today is the diode detector. The detector basically consists of a line termination with the corresponding impedance to the system. A diode is used to rectify the signal and a bypass capacitor is used to remove any HF signal getting through the diode. The rectified signal can now be picked up by an Analog to Digital converter.

Implementation

Most of DEV’s products have a build in RF-sensing functionality. This feature is realized by coupling out the signal from the main transmission path and feeding it to a built-in RF power detector IC. This chip is based on the same principle as the diode detector. The coupler and sensor are tuned for the respective frequency band to guarantee a measurement over the whole spectrum in use.

Because power measurement in optical transmission lines is even more challenging, it is always realized on the electrical side of the Optribution products. For example, on a generic optical transmission card the incoming signal is sensed and on reception cards the out bounding ones are detected. Of course a small IC cannot replace dedicated instruments. So the measured values have to be seen as an indication for the state of the transmission line and not as an exact measurement.

Important to remember

  • The power in RF application is usually measured directly and over a certain amount of time
  • dBm uses a logarithmic scale and is relative to 1 mW
  • A Spectrum Analyzers and a Network Analyzers measure the power on a narrow band. Power meters and DEV products measure a broad band. Depending on the bandwidth these devices use, each of them can give different results for the same signal
  • In the Optribution product line the electrical power is measured not the optical

About DEV Systemtechnik: DEV Systemtechnik develops and manufactures a complete range of products and systems for the optical and electrical transmission of Radio Frequency (RF) signals via coaxial cable or fiber. For over 20 years DEV has designed, engineered, and manufactured RF transmission equipment for satellite, broadcast, and cable applications. All products are built to meet the highest standards of system availability, reliability and manageability.

More Information? Please contact:

DEV Systemtechnik GmbH
Email: info(at)dev-systemtechnik.com
Phone: +49 (0) 6031/ 6975-100
Fax: +49 (0) 6031/ 6975-114
www.dev-systemtechnik.com

 

To download the white paper as PDF file, click here.