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Sunday, 19 June 2016

The traveller's guide to spectrum analysis

Here I am in Birmingham (UK) for a business trip and of course I brought the essential "traveller's radio spectrum analysis kit" with me:


  1. My new SMA Spectrum Analyzer 138MHz-4.4GHz
  2. A DVB-T/T2 USB receiver (PCTV nanoStick DVB-T2 292e)
  3. A DVB-T receiver with the RTL2832U/FC0012 chip and tuner, compatible with SDR#
  4. Two small antennas


The result:

With the SMA Spectrum Analyzer and my self written software I can take a quick glance at the interesting frequencies. Immediatly I can see where the DVB-T transponders are and find the best position for the antenna (horizontally, using the metallic lamp foot).


This is the BBC running:

Next a quick scan at radio frequencies, using SDR#:


Conclusion:

It is amazing how much monitoring power you can carry on your trips by just bringing with you two miniature DVB-T/T2 USB receivers and the small spectrum analyzer.
Global cost: under 100 Euro (not considering the laptop, of course).

10 years ago you would have to be a govermental lab to have this kind of resources to overview the radio frequency spectrum.

PS: You may ask yourself why I brought two DVB-T receivers...
The answer is very simple: because the one with the RTL2832U chipset uses the Zadig driver for SDR#, it cannot be used for DVB-T reception anymore, unless you change the driver. This is a pain to do and requires reboot of the operating system. 
It is much easier to just use a second DVB-T USB receiver that uses a different chipset! This way you can use one for radio scanning/spectrum analysis, while the other is used for DVB-T. The PCTV nanoStick DVB-T2 is very nice, because it supports both DVB-T and DVB-T2.
By the way: some cities in Germany have started DVB-T2 transmissions using HEVC/h.265. You will need a HEVC CODEC to decode these transmissions. Some will be PayTV. Hopefully I will be able to test it on my return flight via Frankfurt, but then again, I doubt that DVB-T2 can be received so far off the city centre.

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