Understanding Range for RF Devices

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1 Understanding Range for RF Devices October 2012 White Paper Understanding how environmental factors can affect range is one of the key aspects to deploying a radio frequency (RF) solution. This paper will provide a high-level overview of the factors that can affect RF range, including hardware selection, environmental factors, frequency ranges, and proper implementation. Americas : Option 3 Europe : Hong Kong : x026

2 CONTENTS... 2 Link Budget and Path Loss... 2 RF Range as a Function of Frequency... 4 Antenna and Cable Selection... 4 Antenna Height... 6 Conclusion... 6 Copyright 2012 Laird Technologies. All Rights Reserved. 1

3 UNDERSTANDING RANGE FOR RF DEVICES Understanding how environmental factors can affect range is one of the key aspects to deploying a radio frequency (RF) solution. Whether you are looking to connect across 10 meters in a crowded hall or 10 kilometers outdoors, the environment plays a significant role in the maximum range that can be achieved. This white paper explains how range numbers are calculated and discusses the factors that limit range. Link Budget and Path Loss For simplicity, RF characteristics are often measured in decibel-milliwatt, or dbm. A decibel is a logarithmic unit which is a ratio of the power of the system to some reference. A decibel value of 0 is equivalent to a ratio of 1. For every increase of 10 db, the actual power increases by a factor of 10. Decibel-milliwatt is the output power in decibels referenced to one milliwatt (mw). Since dbm is based on a logarithmic scale, it is an absolute power measurement. For every increase of 3 dbm there is roughly twice the output power, and every increase of 10 dbm represents a tenfold increase in power. 10 dbm (10 mw) is 10 times more powerful than 0 dbm (1 mw) and 20 dbm (100 mw) is 10 times more powerful than 10 dbm. The power conversion between mw and dbm are given by the following formulas: P (dbm) = 10 log 10 ( P (mw) ) and P (mw) = 10 (P (dbm) / 10) Table 1: mw to dbm Conversion (approximate) ( Power (mw) Power (dbm) 0+ mw - dbm 0.01 mw dbm 0.1 mw dbm 1 mw 0.0 dbm 2 mw 3.0 dbm 3 mw 4.8 dbm 4 mw 6.0 dbm 5 mw 7.0 dbm 6 mw 7.8 dbm 7 mw 8.5 dbm 8 mw 9.0 dbm 9 mw 9.5 dbm 10 mw 10.0 dbm 100 mw 20.0 dbm 1 W (1000 mw) 30.0 dbm 10 W 40.0 dbm 10 MW (10000 KW) dbm Copyright 2012 Laird Technologies. All Rights Reserved. 2

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