CommScope's latest wireless network tool solves for active PIM testing over CPRI

A single technician can connect directly to the baseband unit at the bottom of a tower with CommScope's Optical PIM Tester.

CommScope's latest wireless network tool solves for active PIM testing over CPRI
CommScope's latest wireless network tool solves for active PIM testing over CPRI

At the Mobile World Congress 2015 (March 2-5) in Barcelona, CommScope (NASDAQ: COMM) unveiled its Optical PIM Tester, which the company says will change the way operators test for a costly source of interference in advanced wireless networks, i.e. passive intermodulation (PIM), by turning what has typically been a reactionary procedure into a proactive process. A revolutionary test methodology is introduced with the affordable, portable tester, contends the company. For the first time, a single technician can now connect directly to the baseband unit at the bottom of the tower and perform a “truly active” PIM test over the Common Public Radio Interface (CPRI).

“As PIM requirements become more stringent as demanded by LTE networks, it gets harder to determine if there is a PIM problem needing remediation,” said Morgan Kurk, senior vice president, Wireless, CommScope. “The Optical PIM Tester utilizes an interface that is not susceptible to creating PIM and thus prevents testing from becoming part of the problem. Its simplicity enables PIM testing to become part of standard network acceptance and preventative maintenance processes.”

Additionally, the company notes that the Optical PIM Tester can easily be included within every technician’s arsenal thanks to its compact size and ease of use. It provides a convenient, user-friendly interface that is accessible from a smartphone, tablet or notebook computer. Entire technical crews including tower climbers no longer need to be sent out to a site to test for PIM by disconnecting coaxial cable from antennas, potentially introducing new PIM in the test process.

PIM is interference resulting from the mixing of two or more frequencies in a passive circuit, notes CommScope. If the interference coincides with a network’s transmit frequencies, it can cripple network performance and throughput. PIM can occur from a loose or poorly made cabling connection, an incorrectly torqued connector or a poorly manufactured or installed antenna, filter, or remote radio head --and can degrade the network dramatically. For example, just a one decibel drop in uplink sensitivity due to PIM can reduce wireless coverage in an LTE network by 11 percent, claims the company.

Part of CommScope's Andrew Solutions portfolio, the Optical PIM Tester is a battery powered, ruggedized, portable unit that connects between the baseband unit and remote radio units using fiber optic cables. The Optical PIM Tester enables a single technician to test for PIM in a fraction of the time required with legacy PIM testers, adds the company. When a smartphone, tablet or a notebook computer connects to the Optical PIM Tester over Wi-Fi, a user-friendly interface appears for executing the test process. The system is highly automated, requiring no specialized knowledge of PIM.

A summary of the Optical PIM Tester's key features, according to CommScope, is as follows:

-- Active PIM testing over CPRI by injecting signals into the downlink and looking for PIM products in the uplink, making it easier to identify.
-- Support for all frequency bands in one unit, eliminating the need for multiple PIM units.
-- Simultaneous access to multiple sectors and frequency bands, saving on testing time.
-- PIM testing at ground level, increasing safety and massively reducing costs and time.
-- A user-friendly interface that is accessible from a smartphone, tablet or notebook computer.

“The intense scrutiny of PIM is not going away, and we envision a resource like our Optical PIM Tester will become a fundamental part of every operator’s effort to minimize PIM,” concludes CommScope's Kurk. “CommScope is helping operators manage PIM before it degrades their networks.”

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