Testing Smart Grids for Smart Cities

by Madhukar Tripathi | Anritsu India Pvt Ltd

Testing Smart Grids for Smart Cities

Smart grid technologies include the deployment of new measurement and communications equipment to enable real-time monitoring and deployment of energy throughout the grid. An important innovation with smart grid technology is the development of two-way communications between the consumer and utility company. Users are able to monitor not only their energy usage, but also the price of that energy based on time of day and overall system demand. For the first time, consumers are active participants in the energy distribution process. For the utility company, costly outages can be averted during peak demand by reducing supply for select customers with pre-arranged agreements that trade participation with favorable pricing discounts.

Basic Networks

  • Home area network (HAN) – which covers the communications between a building’s interior and a smart meter.
  • Field area network (FAN) – covers communication between the user’s smart meter and a concentrator (or aggregator).
  • Wide area network (WAN) – a high bandwidth backhaul communication link between the concentrator and the utility.

Although there is no standard set on the types of wireless technologies used in each coverage area, a typical setup might include the use of WiFi or Zigbee for the HAN, WiMax for the Field Area Network and Cellular, Satellite or WiMax for the backhaul. For each of these wireless segments, it is important to insure robust signal coverage as well as to avoid potential sources of interference.

Wireless Network Connectivity

Specific goals of the Smart Grid

  • Allowing consumers to actively participate in optimizing operation of the system
  • Reduce the environmental impact of the electric supply system
  • Add robustness to the network by introducing new self-healing technologies
  • Integrate ‘smart’ appliances and consumer devices as part of the system
  • Dynamic optimization of grid resources
  • Development of standards for communication and interoperability of equipment connected to the grid

Test Needs

The ability to analyze signal integrity in a wireless environment has long been realized by cellular carriers, satellite companies and other network providers as a crucial element in deploying and maintaining a secure system. As utilities deploy the Smart Grid with various wireless technologies, the need to access signal coverage and sources of interference will grow exponentially. Additionally, cable and antenna analyzers are needed to install, provision, maintain and troubleshoot wireless base station cable and antenna systems.

Utilities need to be able to analyze communication problems quickly and insure that their wireless network continues to run under a variety of conditions.

Cable and Antenna Analysis

The cable and antenna system plays an important role in the overall performance of the cell site. Small changes in the antenna system can affect the signal, coverage area and eventually cause dropped calls. Using portable cable & antenna analyzers to characterize communication systems can simplify maintenance and overall performance significantly. The return loss/VSWR measurements are used to characterize the system. If the match is outside the system specification, the DTF measurement can be used to troubleshoot problems, locate faults, and monitor changes over time.

Interference Analysis

Wireless communications systems must coexist in extremely complicated signal environments. This is particularly true at ISM frequencies, such as the popular 2.4GHz band used by technologies such as WLAN, Zigbee, and Bluetooth, which must all compete for limited frequency resources. Household items such as microwave ovens are also potential sources of interference. Additionally, interference can be generated by various cellphone frequencies, WiMax and other technologies. These environments are comprised of multiple wireless networks ranging from mobile communication services to specialized mobile radio and paging/broadcast systems.

Indoor Coverage Mapping

To plan and optimize wireless networks, utilities must identify the coverage their transmissions provide in a given geographical area. For indoor signal analysis in areas such as airports, train stations or office environments, coverage mapping allows the technician to easily identify coverage quality throughout any given facility. As the user walks through the coverage area, taking signal strength measurements is as simple as walking through the facility with the analyzer. Measurements of signal quality are automatically acquired, stored and made available for later post-processing, visualization and analysis. The technician can also receive real-time updates of signal quality by viewing the analyzer screen at any time during the process. In this way, network planners can identify areas were additional transmitters or repeaters may be needed to insure good signal quality. Handleld Spectrum Analyzers are important tools used in Indoor coverage.

MA8100A TRX NEON Signal Mapper

The NEON Tracking Unit supports collection and processing of sensor data that delivers 3D location information.

The NEON Signal Mapper Application provides an intuitive Android user interface enabling lightly trained users to map signal and sensor information within buildings; users can initialize their location, start/stop mapping and upload/ download mapping data to/from the cloud.

The NEON Command Software enables creation and visualization of 3D building maps and provides centralized access to the NEON Cloud Service to access stored maps and measurement data. With the addition of the MA8100A TRX NEON Signal Mapper, Anritsu now offers a powerful and unique 3D in-building signal mapping tool for our handheld spectrum analyzer instruments. The MA8100A allows users to collect accurate, actionable data in every part of a building easily and efficiently. Areas like stairwells and elevators, traditionally difficult to address with 2D manual mapping solutions, are now conquered with ease. The MA8100A also provides end users with centralized access to all of the location information that has been logged via the included Cloud Service. Users can easily access previously saved building maps and measurement results anywhere with internet access.

Anritsu MA8100A In-Building Coverage Mapping with TRX NEON Signal Mapper. An Android phone or tablet is required to run the signal mapper software (Android device and PC must be purchased separately).

Outdoor Coverage Mapping

Outdoor coverage mapping enables the utility provider to optimize the network by identifying signal coverage in an outdoor environment. Assisted with GPS, areas of relative signal strength can be automatically measured and precisely correlated with location. The analyzer can be set up to take automated measurements either as a function of distance or time. For distance, the technician can simply turn the instrument on, set the distance intervals where measurements are to be taken, and drive within the coverage area. The GPS receiver automatically determines the distance moved, triggering new measurements. Data can be displayed later in a variety of formats, including third-party vendors such as GoogleEarth.

 Spectrum analyzers provide accurate RF power measurements over a wide frequency range. With an antenna attached, RF power measurement becomes Received Signal Strength (RSSI). RSSI measurements can be combined with on-screen map displays to become a very versatile solution for mapping the coverage of RF transmitters.

Anritsu handheld analyzers with spectrum analysis capability can include Option 431, Coverage Mapping. This option supports the needs for both indoor and GPS coverage mapping. In this application note, you will learn how to fully operate the instrument in accordance to the coverage mapping with GPS process. This type of mapping requires Option 31, GPS (with the exception of the BTS Master, where it is standard), and an external GPS antenna. The GPS receiver will automatically pinpoint your location relative to the map.


A large portion of the intelligence being incorporated into the Smart Grid is wireless, i.e. radios, sensors, concentrators and backhaul located through the grid. A big challenge for utilities is the development of two-way communication systems that can support a large range of applications and requirements. Anritsu is contributing to this effort with test and measurement instruments that make it easier and faster to enable Smart Grid communications.

Most wireless communications systems are designed to provide coverage over a predetermined area and not interfere with distant systems using the same frequencies. Coverage estimation software must make assumptions about loss due to terrain, buildings and other factors. If the assumptions are not accurate, the actual coverage of a system will differ from the design. Mapping the coverage with a precision receiver provides the ultimate proof and can help separate interference issues from signal strength problems. The Anritsu E-Series Spectrum Master, Cell Master, LMR Master, and Site Master models are powerful battery operated instruments that can support a wide range of signal types. With the addition of Option 431, and the power of GPS (Option 31), Coverage Mapping users can easily make signal strength measurements and create detailed maps and reports of system coverage


Madhukar Tripathi
Anritsu India Pvt Ltd | Ground Floor, Office No 19, Logix Infotech Park, D-5 , Sect 59, NOIDA 201301 (UP)
Phone 91 120 4211330-32