Network testing is a constant for technicians, service providers, installers and engineers in the communications and telecommunications industry. As we adapt to a 5G world, testing with specialized equipment to install, deploy, certify and troubleshoot communications systems continues to be key to maintaining informational infrastructures, giving companies a financial and technological edge over competitors and helping them to fulfill industry standards CISPR, EN and IEC.
Network tests fall into three basic categories: data network, cellular network and radio network tests. Data network testing focuses on tower and facility wired connections, verifying how well data is transferred by fiber, copper and twisted pair cables. To ensure there is no interference affecting Wi-Fi or cellular coverage, cellular network testing is conducted, measuring signal strength between facilities and antenna. Radio network testing gauges the strength of radio signals and identifies interference from anomalous RF emissions.
Data Network Testing
Data network testing, also known as wireline communications testing, measures the efficacy of fiber, copper and twisted pair wired connections. During cable installation, certification, verification and troubleshooting, cables need to be checked for faults and connectivity to avoid costly, inconvenient outages. When hiring a technician to test your cables, or when testing cables yourself, the following test equipment will serve as essential communications diagnostics tools.
LAN Cable Certifiers
LAN cable certifiers test local area networks (LAN) composed of fiber, copper, and twisted pair cables for strength and connectivity and to identify and troubleshoot issues. Cable certifiers continue to be the most essential tools in network testing; cable certification is a manufacturer’s final step in granting warranties for new cabling installation, and is considered “future-proof” as new technologies in the field are designed specifically to meet certification standards.
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Watch the following video for an overview of the industry leader in LAN cable certification, the Fluke Networks DSX-5000 CableAnalyzer:
Fusion splicers accomplish the seamless installation of fiber optic infrastructure, splicing two fiber cables together to form a functional joint cable. The display on a fiber splicing machine allows engineers to inspect fiber cables and choose ideal splicing points by identifying points along the fiber in which no flaws affect the connection. Fused fibers will be able to carry optical light signals with the least amount of loss possible.
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An OTDR (optical time domain reflectometer) measures the integrity of fiber optic cables, pinpointing faults or breaks. Technicians or installers will take an initial picture, or trace, of a cable’s interior by sending high-powered laser pulses down the cable. The light which reflects back, known as backscatter, will be measured. In the future, a new trace will be compared to the initial trace, allowing the operator to certify the performance of new fiber optic links and verify splice loss.
See the complete list of data network categories and equipment.
Cellular Network Testing
Cellular network test instruments monitor the development, maintenance and performance of the RF components that send information between cell towers and wireless devices. Smartphones, Wi-Fi signal quality and video data transfers all depend on cellular testing equipment to diagnose connection strength and identify faults. The following devices are focused on antenna testing applications like monitoring antenna for high levels of RF or conducting alignment tests.
Cable & Antenna Analyzers
A cable and antenna analyzer is a handheld tool that tests the VSWR, return loss and distance-to fault of a cable and antenna systems. Known colloquially as “sweepers,” these instruments conduct field verification and fault location, identifying system anomalies before they transform into time-consuming system failures. Wireless providers, the military and the aerospace and public safety industries all rely on cable and antenna analyzers.
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PIM Testing Equipment
PIM analyzers locate the source of passive intermodulation signals (PIM), which may interfere with RF signals produced by cell towers. PIM stems from unintentional contact between two metal surfaces as they channel a current. This contact generates a multitude of interfering signals. PIM analyzers conduct distance-to-PIM tests, accurately reporting the distance and magnitude of all PIM sources.
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Antenna Alignment Tools
Cell tower carriers like AT&T, Verizon and Sprint optimize the microwave link reliability of their towers with antenna alignment tools. Assuring the RF integrity of antenna is crucial to the level of cellular performance these providers promise to customers, and renting antenna alignment tools is an essential step in that process.
See the complete list of cellular network categories and equipment.
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Radio Network Testing
To analyze radio signals, radio network test equipment is utilized, gathering information on whether a signal is produced in the right bandwidth and assessing parameters like the single sideband (SSB) phase noise, modulation and demodulation and harmonics of the connection. Most radio network testing instruments feature some sort of spectrum analysis via which the bandwidth of the signal is tested.
Signal analyzers harness a more sophisticated method of spectrum analysis. With a signal analyzer, a technician or engineer is equipped to complete digital demodulation analysis and record noise figure and phase noise measurements, as well as channel power measurements and adjacent channel power (ACP) measurements.
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A lock-in amplifier recovers a signal overcome by an intense noise environment, providing a higher resolution version by several orders of magnitude. Amplifying an otherwise clean signal or even measuring noise itself are alternative applications for lock-in amplifiers. Lock-in amplifiers are also used as network analyzers, spectrum analyzers, phase detectors and precision AC voltage and AC phase meters.
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Technicians rely on wireless testers to analyze wireless networks, troubleshooting for speed and bandwidth. Quick, simple and accurate signal isolation allows technicians to rectify connection issues quickly with wireless testers.
See the complete list of radio network categories and equipment.
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The following are leading manufacturers in the communications test equipment industry. See all the top brands ATEC has in inventory from these manufacturers.