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White PaperRF & Microwave Electronics

Receiver Testing - Why Test Signal Quality Matters


A key test of any receiver is the ability to detect small signals in the presence of much larger ones. An underperforming receiver is likely to create problems such as dropped calls in a smartphone or the inability to detect slow-moving objects in an automobile radar system. Better performance means higher quality of service in wireless communications, faster data rates in wireless networking, better detection in a radar system, and so on.

RF and microwave signal generators are a primary tool for testing receiver systems and subsystems. It is important that your test setup introduces minimal phase noise and spurs so that the receiver can be properly evaluated (e.g., measure the receiver not the signal generator). Many signal generators on the market, at first glance, appear to offer phase noise performance that seems good enough to evaluate most receivers.

Unfortunately, many do not look beyond the specified phase noise. Test setups often have loss or attenuation as the test signal moves from the signal generator to the receiver-under-test. As applications increase in frequency, this loss may increase. It is important to have a signal generator with high output power to overcome this loss, but what impact does that have on your receiver testing? Are you able to account for the spurious signals coming from the signal generator and not your receiver?

This whitepaper provides additional specifications to consider when evaluating signal generators for receiver testing. This will ensure that the signal generator provides a level of performance that has minimal effect on your receiver measurements.

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