Detecting and locating pulsed interference sources in real time

mobile base stations

Interference to mobile networks can result in dropped calls, impaired voice quality and reduced data speeds. As well as being disruptive to mobile users, repeated incidents can lead to financial losses for mobile operators as they lose reputation and customers. There can even be a risk to lives if interference to mobile services prevents emergency calls from being placed. Mobile network operators need to be able to resolve interference cases as quickly as possible, either independently or with the assistance of national spectrum regulators.

Detecting and locating interference sources that transmit continuously is usually relatively painless. However, it can be harder to resolve when the transmission is pulsed and sporadic (e.g., radar signals). By the time interference is identified, the signal is often long gone.

Regulators and network operators need a radio monitoring system capable of automatically identifying interference as it occurs (i.e., before reports of dropped calls come in). This system needs to use receivers with a high POI (Probability of Intercept) to ensure operators can detect and locate even short-burst signals such as radar pulses.

See more, in more detail, from farther away

TDOA is extremely effective for geolocating pulsed signals such as radar. It is an inexpensive solution to deploy, with just three RFeye Nodes able to provide continuous 24/7 monitoring of the spectrum over a wide area. For short-duration signals such as this, the benefits of our receiver design are particularly significant. Sweep speeds approaching 400 GHz/s and instantaneous bandwidth of up to 100 MHz maximize the probability of intercept, while exceptional sensitivity allows detection of signals far away from the receiver network. Excellent geolocation accuracy can be obtained even far outside of the area bounded by the receivers, making the system ideal for scenarios where interference sources may lie outside a country’s borders.

Since the system monitors 24/7 and autonomously, it also makes it much easier to detect and locate sporadic signals that may be transmitted less than once a day. Masks can be setup on frequencies of interest, allowing signals to be automatically located and recorded as they occur. In other words, an operator doesn’t need to sit and watch a screen continuously and then race to set up a geolocation task before the signal disappears.

Nodes are redeployable and easy to set up. This means that if it is not feasible to have countrywide permanent monitoring deployed, a national regulator can deploy Nodes on a temporary basis in response to specific incidents of interference at particular base stations.

If  you struggle with hard-to-detect, transient interference sources, you may also be interested in our RFeye Recorder systems. These enable high-fidelity, long-duration recording of signals that are particularly hard to detect. Find out more here.

Additional benefits of the solution

A nationwide monitoring solution is particularly useful for interference incidents where the signal is likely to have disappeared by the time investigators arrive, but it can also be used more generally to avoid unnecessary callouts when the interference source can be identified remotely.

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