The need for Tower Mounted Amplifiers

João Moreira Rebelo and Nuno Borges Carvalho and Instituto de Telecomunicações, Universidade de Aveiro, Portugal

Network planning in GSM systems is moving towards re-engineering, that means the actual problems, in developed countries, are due to overloaded networks and hot-spots. The reduction of costs in the implementation of this type of solutions is a must that should be considered before any attempt to its implementation is decided. This is one of the reasons why Tower Mounted Amplifiers, TMA, are proliferating in nowadays wireless systems. They are used in both GSM and UMTS to provide a balanced system design, allowing mobile operators to place an equal amount of receiving and transmitting sites [1]. TMAs also enable base stations to receive mobile signals more clearly in a wider coverage area than they could otherwise achieve [2]. This will allow mobile network operators to achieve the greatest possible coverage allowing less base stations and therefore limiting costs. Although TMAs emerge as an all benefit solution we must take into account the presence of interferences. We will focus specifically on the impact of nonlinear distortion in TMAs in the overall performance of GSM systems. The goal of any radio engineer when deciding to use a TMA is due to its improvement in the overall sensitivity of the system. Sensitivity gives us an indication on the robustness of a receiver in capturing a weak signal affecting directly the range of the system, and also on how immune to noise it will be. In fact if we look at expression (1), the sensitivity can be understandable as the minimum input power needed in order to get a suitable Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR) at the output of our receiver. That is the reason why sensitivity is based on the receiver noise figure, the minimum required signal-to-noise ratio for detection, and the thermal noise of the system [3], expression (1).

S i ,min = NF + n0 + SNR (dBm)
• • Si,min – sensitivity NF – noise figure of the receiver


. in expression (1) the temperature is imposed by the habitat where the TMA will be installed. n0=KTB. the higher the gain the higher the desensitization of the next blocks. and in a certain sense gives an idea of the SNR degradation when the signal traverses the receiver. .Gi −1 (3) A closer look at expression (3) allows us to gather some important information. B is the GSM bandwidth.. where K – Boltzman constant. K is a constant. TMA Sensitivity Figure 1. another important conclusion is on the gain of the first components. to 1. NF is called Noise Figure. + G1 G1G2 G1G2 .• • SNR – required output signal to noise ratio (usually related to the acceptable bit n0 – thermal noise power of the receiver. the only free parameter is NF.. One possible mathematical definition is expressed in equation (2). 200 KHz. 1 Remember that NF is always positive and higher. For instance the noise figure of the first block will impose the minimum noise figure of the system1. and SNR is imposed by the modulation technique. or equal. Since.. by definition. error rate) T – temperature and B – Bandwidth of the system. NF = SNRi SNRo (2) In a cascade of noisy blocks the overall equivalent NF is given by expression (3). presents a basic receiving implementation that will be used to see those different impacts of each sub-system. NFT = NF1 + NFi − 1 NF2 − 1 NF3 − 1 + + .

The TMA sub-system is placed near the antenna and in a certain way is similar to the well known LNB that was used for several years in the television satellite receivers. and in order to achieve that manufacturers provided TMAs. .Figure 1 – Basic Receiver NFT = Lcable (r ) + Linband (r ) − 1 NFLNA − 1 NFmixer − 1 + + Lcable (r ) Lcable (r ) Linband (r ) Lcable (r ) Linband (r )G LNA (4) As can be seen in (4). A schematic TMA system is presented on figure 2. Therefore. thus it is the major limiting factor to receiver’s sensitivity. the idea is to desensitize the cable noise figure. cable losses are the dominant factor in the system’s noise figure. the main difference is that now no translation of frequency is needed.

NF is calculated to be 7 dB ( F = 10 = 5 ).9 8 (5) From equation (1) we can calculate our new sensitivity: S i = 3 − 121 + 9 = −109dBm .Figure 2 – TMA Schematics To evaluate the impact of introducing a TMA let us make some simple calculations. and considering a cable of 3dB losses. Consider now that we add a typical TMA with NF = 1.min = -105 dBm SNR = 9 dB (typical value)  7     10  Using equation (1). applying equation (3) we will have: FT = 1. For GSM case we typically have: • • • n0 = -121 dBm Si. we will have: FT = 2 + 5 −1 = 10 ⇒ NFT = 10dB 0.7 dB and G = 12 dB. If the system was designed in order to have a 7dB of Noise Figure. then a cable will degrade severely the overall system.5 + 2 −1 5 −1 + = 2 ⇒ NFT = 3dB 15.5 (4) And so the sensitivity will be: S=-102dBm.

it can change to a very bad design decision if the presence of interferences [3] is not accounted for.This new sensitivity value allows a better reception of the signal. The Nonlinear distortion problem in TMA based sub-systems . In our case we will look to the specific case of the nonlinear distortion generated at the TMA itself. considering an emitter with 30dBm of transmitted power.9 km MS Figure 3 – TMA benefits The main conclusion here is that just by adding a TMA we improved our coverage by 63 %. which can be translated into the maximum coverage area. Despite TMA benefits are important. BTS 5. Using the Friis equation and the Hata-Okumura propagation model [4] we reach the following maximum distances for an urban environment.6 km MS TMA BTS 8. in terms of sensitivity improvement.

since we do not know the power of that interferer. the third order IMD. it will generate some form of distortion [6] that is mainly due to the finite amount of energy that can be used from the power supply. or usually called desensitization. so only two types of output spectral components will be studied. we introduce at the input of this device a two-tone signal x(t ) = A1 cos(ω1t + φ1 ) + A2 cos(ω 2 t + φ 2 ) we will have at the output various different spectral components. If we make the same approach as used before when the sensitivity of a TMA was studied. (6) Despite the nonlinearity generates spectral components all over the band. . Nevertheless if we refer now to a high power interferer. and the co-channel distortion. In order to better understand the nonlinear mechanism lets approximate our amplifier with a low degree polynomial such as [5]: y[x(t )] = a1 x(t ) + a2 x(t ) + a3 x(t ) 2 3 (5) When. then the scenario changes. and in a two tone excitation will appear at 2ω1-ω2 and 2ω2-ω1.Since a TMA is an active device. The IMD distortion is the one responsible for the well known spectral regrowth effect. since we are only dealing with small signal excursion input signals. for instance. then no problem will appear. in our study the most important ones are those who fall inside our bandwidth. That is the reason why in some way any amplifier will always saturate for a certain amount of input power.

since two different carriers will generate other two that can fall exactly over our signal. In the second case.Figure 4 –Intermodulation Distortion and Spectral Regrowth Since in GSM there are several operators. . there can be several emitting and receiving channels. since an interferer can be so strong that our signal will be destroyed [6]. the result is even more disastrous. and for each operator. it is quite obvious that this kind of distortion could have some impact in the performance of our system. due to capacity problems.

and considering that the isolation between the Tx and Rx is high in the duplexer to prevent that the Tx signal passes throw the Rx filter and cause any nonlinear distortion. .Desensitization In both cases. called jamming. in fact in the World War II. because otherwise using some form of power control we could minimize the interference. where the TMA internal configuration was presented. we will study the impact in our system when it receives two different Rx signals. but mainly we will consider it from a different operator. TMA performance degradation Recalling again figure 2. This interference can be from the same. a desired signal and an interference signal. or another. this was one of the electronic war technologies. if the interferer signal is strong enough it will degrade our signal so drastically that it can be blocked. operator.Figure 5 .

for the worst case. one should expect an intermodulation power that degrades our system in a neighbour channel.Mobile A GSM Desired Signal Mobile B GSM Interference Signal TMA Figure 6 – TMA Receiving Two GSM Signals The first study that will be made is to calculate the values of out-of-band power needed to degrade the useful signal. This means that if a signal at the input of the TMA reaches this value. . the third order IMD value will be: 3 3 2 3 ANL = a3 A1 A2 = a3 A2 (figure 7) at 2ω1-ω2 and 2ω2-ω1 (co-channel interference) [6]. we have at the amplifier’s output a minimum interferer signal power of: PINT = G + S i − SNR where PINT is the interferer power. (7) Considering the case a of two channel interference. therefore. of equal amplitude. We will use the following typical TMA values: • • • n0 = -121 dBm SNR = 9 dB IP3 = 25 dBm (typical value of a TMA amplifier) The system is only useful when the nonlinear distortion generated by the interference is 9dB below the sensitivity or higher. considering that a 9dB SNR as to be achieved. 8 8 Solving this two equations we reach a value of PINT=P2=-29 dBm.

Figure 7 – Intermodulation Power If the desensitization is calculated then it causes and amplitude interference of ANL = 3 2 a3 A1 A2 at ω1 [6]. Figure 8 – Desensitization Power . 4 Considering the minimum power that can be allowed by the distortion nonlinearity at ω1 (P1=-105-9=-114 dBm) the interference power needed in order to generate this distortion is PINT=P2=6 dBm.

. for only one operator2.The case before considered that the TMA had a full uplink bandwidth. Therefore. A real signal would be better modulated by a multi-tone signal or real signal [6]. Also we must not forget that these calculations were made assuming a two tone input. to evaluate the real impact of TMA nonlinear distortion a computer simulation was performed using a system simulator [7]. Let us consider two different operators at frequencies 897.4 MHz (operator 1) and 900 MHz (operator 2). with a typical out-of-band attenuation of 80 dB. this interferer powers increases to the value of 51 dBm (126 W) for intermodulation and 86 dBm (398 KW) for desensitization. If we now have access to a subbanded TMA. Figure 9 – Simulation Schematics 2 In this case a filter should be provided. the maximum output power of a Mobile Station. that means it receives and amplifies all the GSM operators. Nevertheless and although these values seem quite high we must not forget that we might have Bit-Error-Rate (BER) degradation for lower interferer powers than sensitivity. And of course in this case it is unreal to consider any interference for these sources. in order to attenuate the near operators. The output power of the desired signal (operator 1) is fixed at –105 dBm while the Output power of the interference signal (operator2) will be raised from -105 dBm to 30 dBm.

In these situations we should opt for subbanded TMAs which allow us to attenuate the interferer power and so the impact of nonlinear distortions. “Tower Mounted Amplifier Systems”.2 % to guarantee receiver quality [8]. Application Note [3] MAXIM. “Improving Receiver Sensitivity with External LNA”. 2002. Concluding. Since in the GSM case we typically allow a maximum BER of 0.10 0 10 -1 BER 10 -2 10 -3 10 -4 -15 -10 -5 0 5 10 15 Interference Signal Power (dBm) 20 25 30 Figure 10 – BER Curve for Desensitization We can see that the curve will quickly tend to 100 % BER. 2003. References [1] Ira Wiesenfeld. in the presence of strong interferer signals it can be easily blocked. we find that the maximum interferer power allowed would be approximately -14 dBm at the input of our TMA This kind of powers can easily be found in urban environment were we have a high density of BTS and so of TMAs is available. “Testing tower top amplifiers”. [2] LGP Telecom. though TMA boosts our system performance. Mobile Radio Technology. . mainly in hot-spot situations as commercial malls or garages. December 27. May 1. APP 1836.

New Jersey. “Intermodulation Distortion in Microwave and Wireless Circuits”. pp. “Intermodulation Interference in the GSM/UMTS Bands”. [6] José Carlos Pedro and Nuno Borges de Carvalho. August 2003. Madureira.0 (2001-04). Figueira da Foz. “Wireless Communications: Principles and Practice”. Agilent Technologies [8] ETSI TS 100 910 v8. “Digital Cellular Telecommunications System (Phase 2+). Rappaport. ETSI . 2002. B. 396-399.[4] Theodore S. 1996 [5] N. Artech House Publishers: Norwood. Radio Transmission and Reception”. Carvalho and R. April 2001. [7] Advanced Design System. C. III Conferência de Telecomunicações. Prentice Hall.9.