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RF Receiver Sensitivity measurements

This page covers RF receiver sensitivity measurement basics. It mentions test setup used for RF receiver sensitivity measurement.

This test will verify ability of the RF receiver to function at minimum power level in addition to meeting the BER(or PER) and other performance requirements as desired.
Refer Receiver sensitivity basics➤.

Test setup for receiver sensitivity measurement

minimum receiver sensitivity test

The figure-1 depicts test setup used for RF Receiver sensitivity measurement. Following equipments or tools are used for the measurement:
• RF Signal generator or Sweep Oscillator
• Directional Coupler
• VSA(Vector Signal Analyzer) or RF Power Meter
• Variable Attenuator

Sensitivity for Single Carrier receiver case can be mentioned as follows:
-120dBm at BER of 10-6. This is usually specified for example in VSAT RF Transceiver or other RF devices.

Following test procedure is followed for receiver sensitivity measurement:
➨Do the test setup as shown in the figure.
➨Set the desired signal frequency and power in the signal generator.
➨Measure the BER in the VSA or use BER setup for the same if feature is not available in VSA.
➨Reduce the power level in the signal generator or increase the attenuation level in variable RF attenuator as shown and go down till the sensitivity level has been reached (say -120 dBm) .
➨Now check the performance of the DUT or note down the BER measurement at this point. BER of desired value(Say 10-6) should be achieved in order to conclude that DUT has passed the receiver sensitivity test.

Sensitivity for OFDM receiver case is specified as follows:

Sensitivity level = -102+SNR+10*log(Fs*Nused/Nfft *Nsubchannels/16)

(for No sub-channelization used, Nsubchannels=16.)
Following table mentions different receiver sensitivity values for different modulation types and corresponding SNR values. This is for fixed wimax specification as specified in IEEE 802.16-2004 OFDM Physical layer.


Burst type
(modulation, code rate)
SNR Receiver sensitivity
BPSK 1/2 6.4 -83.04 dBm
QPSK 1/2 9.4 -80.04 dBm
QPSK 3/4 11.2 -78.24 dBm
16QAM 1/2 16.4 -73.04 dBm
16QAM 3/4 18.2 -71.24
64 QAM 2/3 22.7 -66.74
64 QAM 3/4 24.4 -65.04 dBm

According to the table for different modulation types different limit for sensitivity is specified and the same has to be verified to determine pass/fail criteria in OFDM receiver testing.

RF Wireless Test and Measurement Solutions

Test and Measurement Equipments
BER Testing equipments
Agilent T & M Solutions
Anritsu T & M Solutions
Rohde & Schwarz T & M solutions
wireless channel emulator
Vector signal generator
Vector signal analyzer
Power Analyzer Equipments
Protocol Analyzer

RF and Wireless Terminologies


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