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Beamwidth is a representation of the angular range of an antenna's transmitted or received signal.

The theoretical beamwidth depends on the geometry of the antenna and the frequency of the signal. Actual beamwidth can be calculated from measurements of the peak power and the angles, to the points where the signal power is half its peak value. These are known as the 3 dB points. The received voltage level drops to a value of half the square root of two (.707) or 3 deciBels below the peak.

1. finding a Theoretical Value


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Calculate the wavelength of your signal. Wavelength is c divided by f. The constant c is the speed of light (300 million meters/second), and f is your signal frequency in Hertz. If the antenna is used for a range of frequencies, the beamwidth will vary. If so, separate calculations will be needed for different frequencies. Determine the diameter of the antenna (D) in meters. This information should be provided by the manufacturer. Calculate the half power beamwidth as k times the wavelength divided by D. k is a constant that is a function of the antenna design. If you do not know the precise value for your antenna, you can use the typical value for a parabolic reflector antenna, which is 70 degrees. EXAMPLE: A 3 GHz signal has a wavelength of 3 x 10E8 m/s divided by 3 x 10E9 Hertz or 0.1 meter. If the antenna diameter is 10 meters, the beamwidth at that frequency is 70 degrees times 0.1 meter divided by 10 meters, or 0.7 degree.

Use the antenna gain. An alternative method of calculating the beamwidth involves the antenna gain (G), if it is documented by the manufacturer or you have previously measured it. Convert the power gain from logarithmic to linear units by dividing by 10 and exponentiating the result to a base of 10. Calculate the beamwidth in degrees by dividing 27,000 by the linear gain. EXAMPLE: A gain of 40 dB is equivalent to 10 to the power of (40 dB/10, which is 4) = 10,000. The beamwidth would be 27,000/10,000 = 2.7 degrees. Gain is also dependent on the operating frequency, so this beamwidth calculation will only be valid at the frequency corresponding to the gain value.

2. Measuring the Actual Value


Connect a power meter to the antenna feed. The specific method of connection will depend on the design of the antenna and the power meter being used.

Use the signal source and its feed horn to apply a transmitted signal to the antenna at the operating frequency. Refer to the operating instructions for the signal source you use.

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Measure the power while varying the pointing angle of the antenna. Refer to the operating manual for the power meter you are using. Find the point where the power is the greatest and record the power reading and the antenna position. Vary the antenna position in each direction to find the two points where the power is one half the peak value. Record each angular offset. Calculate the half power beamwidth by subtracting one angle from the other. EXAMPLE: If the peak measured power is -30 dBm, vary the pointing angle one direction until the power reads -33 dBm (half the peak power). Then vary the angle of the other direction until the same reading is obtained on the opposite side of the peak. If the two angular offsets are +2.5 degrees and -2.2 degrees, the beamwidth is 2.5 - (-2.2) or 4.7 degrees.