# Indoor Path Loss. Contents. Application Note. XST-AN005a-Indoor June Link Margin...2. Indoor Communications...4. Situational Analysis...

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1 Indoor Path Loss Contents Link Margin...2 Indoor Communications...4 Situational Analysis...5 Conclusion...6 Application Note XST-AN005a-Indoor June 2012 Website:

3 through obstacles. If the speaking is loud enough that the attenuation to the sound that occurs still allows the listener to hear and understand it, the communication is successful. The transmit power on the Digi XStream 900 MHz 9600 baud radios is 100mW (20 dbm). The receive sensitivity on the same unit is -110 dbm. If you were to use these radios in a system with unity gain antennas, there could be 130 db of signal attenuation between the transmitter and receiver and still have communication occur. 20 dbm (-110 dbm) = 130 db A radio having greater transmit power of 500mW (27 dbm) and a receiver sensitivity of 93 dbm (average for industry) will have a lesser link margin of 120 db. 27 dbm (-93 dbm) = 120 db An XStream radio draws less current yet achieves greater range than radios combining 500mW transmit power with -93 dbm receive sensitivity. In line-of-site conditions, every 6dB of link margin will double the transmission range. Since the radio with a link margin of 120 db has 10 db less link margin than the XStream radio, it can only achieve a quarter of the range. In line-of-site conditions the path loss can be determined by using a mathematical formula (Friis transmission equation).the path loss for 900 MHz and 2.4 GHz in free space is given for several distances in the table below. Distance 900 MHz free-space loss 2.4 GHz free-space loss 10 meters 72.5 db 81 db 100 meters 92.5 db 101 db 1000 meters db 121 db Table 1 Figuring out the range for non line-of-site and indoor communication systems is a lot more difficult and can involve a lot of obstructions and variables. The different obstacles and materials that are found in typical indoor environments make it difficult to determine the actual path loss in a given situation. In order to know how systems will perform in a given indoor environment, on sight testing must be performed. If there are known obstructions of a particular material then estimation of signal losses through the obstruction may aid in determining link margin and antenna placement. XST-AN005a-Indoor 2012 Digi Page 3 of 6

4 Indoor Communications For indoor communication, the construction materials that make up the obstructions are the largest attenuators. The following is a list of common construction materials and their approximate attenuation at 900 MHz (Thicknesses of materials are given in parenthesis). Material Glass 0.25 (6mm) Glass 0.5 (13mm) Lumber 3 (76mm) Brick 3.5 (89mm) Brick 7 (178mm) Brick 10.5 (267mm) Concrete 4 (102mm) Masonry Block 8 (203mm) Brick faced concrete 7.5 (192mm) Masonry Block 16 (406mm) Concrete 8 (203mm) Reinforced Concrete 3.5 (203mm) Masonry Block 24 (610mm) Concrete 12 (305mm) 900 MHz 0.8 db 2 db 2.8 db 3.5 db 5 db 7 db 12 db 12 db 14dB 17dB 23dB 27dB 28dB 35dB Table 2 Attenuation Measures XST-AN005a-Indoor 2012 Digi Page 4 of 6

5 Solid metal structures are not listed in the tables and graphs above because radio waves do not propagate through metal. In practice, metallic masses such as towers, panels, fences or vehicles that are present in the vicinity of radio transmitting equipment and the radio receiver act as reflectors and scatterers of electro magnetic radiation. The interference of the direct wave and the reflected waves can produce local maxima (constructive interference) or local minima (destructive interference) at the radio receiver. Example: Suppose there exists a situation where it is desired to communicate 100 meters through 4 standard sheetrock walls and one concrete wall. Table 1 indicates that the free-space loss for 100 meters at 900 MHz is approximately 93 db. In this particular indoor situation, it is necessary to also take into account the effect the walls will have on communication. The office walls consist of two pieces of drywall (-0.8 db each) and lumber (-2.8 db) for a total attenuation of about 4.4dB per wall. The concrete wall is 102mm thick and attenuates the signal by 12dB. Using the equation: Power (TX) - Sensitivity (RX) >= Signal Attenuation 130 db >= 93 db + (4 walls * 4.4 db) + (12 db) 130 db >= db The link margin of 130 db is greater than the path loss of db, allowing communication to occur. It should be kept in mind that this is only a theoretical estimation. An on sight test should be performed in order to verify conditions and assumptions. Situational Analysis Because indoor environments vary and reflections and multi-path can make it difficult to predict the actual path of the RF signal, Digi has performed a number of different tests in real-world indoor environments. Among others, Digi has performed tests (or has applications running) in a four-story university building, an industrial facility and a hotel. All the situations are using the 900 MHz 9600 baud XStream radios (Part number: X09-009). University Building A University wanted to communicate to a weather station that was mounted on the roof of the building. The computer that was to collect the data was located in the basement at the opposite corner of the four-story building. The transmitting radio was placed on the roof with the weather station. Without retries and acknowledgements enabled, over 90% of the packets were successfully received. The radios were more than 600 apart. Industrial Facility A company had expanded to a warehouse across the street from their primary facility. A time clock system was used to keep track of the employees work hours. All time clocks needed to be linked back to a central hub. Rather than try to run cables across the street, a time clock attached inside to a masonry block wall was outfitted with a Digi radio. The signal was beamed through the masonry wall,.15 miles away to a computer located in the center of a separate concrete building. The signal XST-AN005a-Indoor 2012 Digi Page 5 of 6

6 went through four drywall walls and one concrete wall. The installation has been operational for over a year and a half. Hotel A hotel had an application that involved keeping track of the temperature and location of their refrigerated food delivery carts. During initial testing, it was found that radio signals were received with 92% of packets getting through with the radios more than four stories and 200 apart. Conclusion When trying to determine just how far any particular radio will transmit indoors, the main difficulty lies in figuring out just what path the radio signal will take and how many walls and obstacles the signal must transmit through. While taking into account the different building materials and their thicknesses can be helpful for estimation purposes, testing in the actual environment is the only sure way to determine whether or not communication will be successful. The radio transmit power, receive sensitivity and frequency need to be considered in any wireless communication systems. Antenna or radio placement can help in avoiding some obstacles, but in most situations the system designer does not have control over what building materials must be transmitted through. That leaves transmit power, receive sensitivity and antenna gain as the only parameters that are left to the designer s choosing. If communication in a particular environment is not robust, choosing a radio set with better link margin can help improve data reliability. The expectation should be that some data will be lost. Protocols can be developed that allow for graceful recovery from data corruption and reliable delivery of the information. Whatever the conditions, estimating materials and doing site testing in the actual environments can aid in setting performance expectations during the design phase of the system. XST-AN005a-Indoor 2012 Digi Page 6 of 6

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