Over the past decade there has been a dramatic increase in the population of wireless transmitters found in the world, with the inevitable result being a dramatic increase in radiofrequency noise pollution. Every significant electronic device leaks radiation at some level and the number of cellular phones in circulation now outnumbers people. The growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) is only going to make things worse. Much worse in fact as billions of wireless-enabled devices populate everything from shop floors to living rooms.
At the same time, wireless technology has become critical to our daily lives. Drive down any residential neighborhood or business center with even a basic RF sniffer and you’ll see Wi-Fi transmitters in literally every location, all powered up and enabling a steady flow of vital communications. Smartphones – often with Bluetooth radios in action – keep the wheels of commerce turning and keep us connected to family and friends. Maintaining these wireless links in the face of abundant potential for interference is important work.
In today’s crowded spectrum, just about every frequency is being shared by some other device. Even if you might think you don’t have interference, chances are it’s because you haven’t bothered to look. Hunting down sources of interference can be extremely challenging and nearly impossible in some cases – for instance short duration intermodulation products – without the right tools and knowledge about such factors as antenna types and signal characteristics.
In this application note, we’ll provide an overview of interference finding techniques and offer examples to help your next interference hunting efforts to be more successful. We’ll also look at why real-time spectrum analyzers (RTSAs) have emerged as the go-to tool for tracking down elusive signals in a crowded spectrum. Once expensive and desk-bound, a new class of affordable, battery-powered, USB-based RTSAs such as the Tektronix RSA500 make an RTSA a powerful tool for interference-hunting applications.