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Written by Sindhu Yogish | January 31, 2024

MNT Tech Insights (part 3): Fun with RF Scanners

Continuing our blog series “MNT Tech Insights” we are back with a new article. As the name suggests I had a fun talk with our R&D director at Rohde & Schwarz, Corbett Rowell to have an overview of the applications of the RF scanners in the mobile network testing ecosystem.

Interview based on MNT Forum Sessions


To my understanding, R&S scanners are a state-of-the-art multi technology hardware used for optimization, troubleshooting and mobile network coverage measurements to ensure the quality of the network. But once I started the conversation with Corbett, I became aware of lot more facts during the course and here is how it ran along. Let’s get started.

Sindhu Yogish: Would you say RF scanner is the center of the mobile network testing universe?

Corbett Rowell:

Naturally, as a Hardware engineer I would always like HW to be the center of the universe, but over the past few years I have learned it is the processing of the measurement data that is more important with the advanced signal processing algorithms. One example is the Automatic Channel Detection (ACD) where the software creates a visualization of all signals in the configured frequency bands and technologies received by the scanner - and all this in a few seconds. With a traditional spectrum analyzer, you need a few hours to get this overview about cellular signals.

Since several aspects are involved in network testing and directional signal transmission and reception is essential can you tell us about one of the signal processing techniques, in particular about beamforming and

Sindhu Yogish: Why is verification of beamforming important in 5G (6G in the future) network?

Corbett Rowell:

Until 5G, base stations spread out electromagnetic energy through an entire sector, making it easy to measure the network performance with a RF scanner. 5G and future 6G networks use beamforming—this means that unless the RF scanner is at the right place at the right time, it is difficult to measure (but not impossible). At R&S we use a Qualipoc phone or ran an IoT device to trigger the connection to the base-station so that we can control when and where the 5G (and future 6G) base-station starts beamforming.

Sounds fun! Using a smartphone to control the beamforming of a 5G or 6G. As you mentioned, measuring network performance in future networks will be reliable on the efficiency of the scanners to measure accurately so

Sindhu Yogish: Can you tell us something about your new measurement antenna innovation?

Corbett Rowell:

What is fascinating to me is how we can use multiple antennas and scanners to achieve something close to the Holy Grail of RF—phase coherency. Phase coherency brings many benefits such as faster and more accurate position estimations…so stay tuned.

Measurement antenna innovations

Well, we will definitely stay tuned to learn about future developments and before we sign off, here is my last question to you:

Sindhu Yogish: In your opinion, what is the coolest feature of R&S scanner until now?

Corbett Rowell:

As mentioned before in Question 1, what fascinates me the most is the quality of the signal processing algorithms used for a large variety of tasks all aimed at making our R&S scanner the best in a technical sense: control of the individual parts of the RF scanner, manipulation of FFT algorithms, clock synchronization, de-modulation, etc.

Thank you, Corbett, it was really interesting to learn about the R&S scanners from the expert.

To all our readers, watch this space for interesting discussions coming your way. Stay tuned!

Read more about "5G mobile network testing using a passive scanner" part 1 - 4:

5G mobile network testing using a passive scanner (part 1)
5G mobile network testing using a passive scanner (part 2)
5G mobile network testing using a passive scanner (part 3)
5G mobile network testing using a passive scanner (part 4)

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