Networked spectrum analyzer delivers in real time

-December 14, 2016

ThinkRF, a company based in Ottawa, has released the R5500 real-time spectrum analyzer. This "faceless" instrument operates over Ethernet and is designed primarily for spectrum monitoring.

Three models are available, with bandwidths of 9 kHz to 8 GHz, 18 GHz, and 27 GHz. The R5500 has real-time capture bandwidths of 0.1 MHz, 10 MHz, 40 MHz and 100 MHz where the unit digitizes the signal bandwidths for analysis. The 100 MHz real-time capture bandwidth is enough for the 80 MHz channel bandwidth of LTE-A and 802.11ac. Because the R5500 is both a receiver and digitizer, you can use it down-convert a 160 MHz channel bandwidth for digitizing with another instrument or to get I and Q signals. Currently, the R5500 can digitize and provide real-time capture up to 100 MHz channels.

The R5500 connects to a remote computer over Ethernet, be it directly, over a LAN, or over the internet. It has a web server for basic setup, but ThinkRF also provides S240 software, which lets you control the instrument and view spectral plots. The software also provides spectrogram, persistence, and time-domain signal analysis. ThinkRF president Tim Hember explained to me in a phone call that potential customers can download the software and the company will let them connect to R5500 units at the ThinkRF office where you can try the hardware and software.

ThinkRF also provides programming support for Matlab, LabVIEW, Python, C/C++, SCPI commands, and it supports VITA-49 Radio Transport Protocol. You can then use these programming languages to store and analyze data as needed, in real time or offline.

The R5500 hardware digitizes at speeds of 125 Msamples/s with 14-bit resolution or 300 ksamples/s with 24-bit resolution. FFT ranges from 128 to 524,288 bins in powers of two. It can stream data to a host computer at 360 Mbits/s.

In addition to a single 50-O SMA RF input, the R5500 has 10-MHz input and output connectors for reference signals as well as I and Q outputs from demodulated signals. A 25-pin D-sub connector provides general-purpose I/O such as trigger inputs and alarm/control outputs. You can use the GPIO connector and 10-MHz sync signals to synchronize multiple R5500 units for applications that need additional channels. There's also a mini-USB connector that provides console control of the unit.

Prices start at $5700. ThinkRF, R5500 product page.

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