3 Spectrum Analysis Options for Designers Upgrading Their Test Setup

October 29, 2022 by Aaron Carman

Whether you’re a wireless wizard or an RF rookie, these interesting spectrum analyzers may pack the punch you need to design and test efficiently.

With the push toward higher frequencies with Wi-Fi 6/6E, 5G, 6G, and radar-based imaging for autonomous vehicles, spectrum analyzers are an integral component of the engineer’s test bench. The ability to visualize the RF spectrum is no longer an extravagance but a necessity amongst electrical engineers hoping to integrate wireless communications and sensors into their systems. 

Designers are not alone in seeing the demand for high-powered test equipment. Product releases in the past couple months showcase the need for quality spectrum analyzers at every level of development. In this article, we will be taking a closer look at three new spectrum analyzers offered by Rohde & Schwarz, Anritsu, and Oscium.


Rohde & Schwarz Offers D-band Frontend Extensions for 5G and Beyond

The first spotlights in this spectrum analyzer roundup are the FE170ST and FE170SR D-band frontend extensions from Rohde & Schwarz.


FE170ST with R&S SMW200A

The R&S FE170ST with R&S SMW200A signal generator (left) and R&S FE170RT with R&S FSW spectrum analyzer (right) offer a frequency extension to 170 GHz. Image used courtesy of Rohde & Schwarz


These new products from R&S, while not standalone spectrum analyzers, do represent an upgrade to R&S's existing product line. The FE170 family integrates with the existing SMW200A and FSW test instruments using only a three-connector solution (IF, Reference, and LAN) and can rapidly upgrade existing instruments to reach up to 170 GHz. All these features are included in a 152 mm x 190 mm x 50 mm package, making the FE170 family a useful solution when bench space is in short supply. 

Controlling the D-band frontend extensions is made trivial thanks to the LAN connection, which allows for full control from the front panel of the parent instrument. The FE170 family is an excellent candidate for beyond 5G development, as well as future automotive radar applications where frequencies typically exceed 70 GHz. The FE170 family was showcased at European Microwave Week, Sept. 27–29, 2022.


Anritsu Puts Ultra-wide Spectrum Analysis in a Single Instrument

Up next, the Anritsu MS4640B VectorStar VNA boasts impressive bandwidth in a single package. This instrument is not a true spectrum analyzer but is actually a vector network analyzer (VNA) with built-in spectrum analysis capabilities, making it an excellent candidate for an all-in-one RF test instrument for newer labs or environments looking to consolidate multiple instruments into a single package.


Anritsu VectorStar VNA

The Anritsu VectorStar VNA pictured with 3739C Broadband Test Set and mmWave modules. Image used courtesy of Anritsu


In a standalone configuration, the MS4640B operates from 70 kHz to 70 GHz but can be combined with Anritsu’s Broadband Test Set to reach a frequency of 220 GHz. Compatible mmWave modules allow the VectorStar VNA family to measure up to 1.1 THz if a designer wants higher frequency operation. The MS4640B is an excellent solution for amplifier and mixer testing because each port can be changed from a VNA port to a spectrum analyzer port without changing the test setup.

Moreover, for on-wafer applications, the VectorStar VNA family can easily interface with direct-connected wafer probes, eliminating the need to mount devices and removing a potential source of error in measurement. The MS4640B is best suited for those needing a wide measurement range in their spectrum analyzer combined with the versatility of a VNA.


Oscium Unveils Pocket-sized Spectrum Analyzer for Wi-Fi Development

The final instrument highlighted in this article is the WiPry Clarity from Oscium. Most RF test equipment is at an ultra-premium price point, which can deter designers from quality test equipment. The WiPry Clarity breaks this trend by offering a low-cost spectrum analyzer for Wi-Fi developers looking to get a jump-start on Wi-Fi 6/6E while supporting the legacy 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands.


WiPry Clarity

The WiPry Clarity shown includes a tri-band antenna and no host device connected. Image used courtesy of Oscium


Compared to the other entries in this list, the WiPry Clarity is extremely low cost at only $1,000, making it a strong contender for designers who do not need the bells and whistles that come with typical benchtop spectrum analyzers. Setup for the WiPry Clarity is notably simple with a single-page quickstart guide, and the included software allows designers to begin visualizing the Wi-Fi spectrum immediately after setup.

The hardware for the Clarity allows for an overall frequency span from 2.2 GHz–7.25 GHz and a frequency resolution of 25 kHz. The WiPry software, however, only supports the three Wi-Fi bands, and its resolution degrades at higher frequencies. Software partners have already begun working with Clarity on custom solutions, so the full potential of the device may be unlocked at some point in the future. If low cost is a priority in one's search for a Wi-Fi spectrum analyzer, the WiPry Clarity is worth consideration.


The Possibilities of New RF Test Equipment

It is certainly true that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for spectrum analyzers. While researchers may find that an extremely precise and capable analyzer is the only way to complete their project, designers working with low-frequency systems may find that less is more—freeing up bench space for other tools. Regardless of the application, it is clear that exciting developments are being made in the RF test equipment world, all of which bring us closer to compact, efficient, and powerful instruments for the next generation of wireless connectivity.