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Upstream RF Troubleshooting

2003, Cisco Systems, Inc. All rights reserved.

Upstream RF Troubleshooting
Ron Hranac Technical Leader

Upstream RF Troubleshooting

2003, Cisco Systems, Inc. All rights reserved.

CMTS Configuration

Check this firstincorrect cable modem termination system (CMTS) configuration is a common problem!

Upstream RF Troubleshooting

2003, Cisco Systems, Inc. All rights reserved.

Upstream Challenges
Most cable systems use a sub-split band plan
50-860 MHz downstream, 5-42 MHz upstream

Problems with sub-split in two-way networks:


Upstream noise funneling Prevalence of manmade noise in upstream frequency spectrum Lack of upstream reference signals Difficult to locate problems
Upstream RF Troubleshooting
2003, Cisco Systems, Inc. All rights reserved.

Check the Upstream at the CMTS

Connect a spectrum analyzer to the upstream test points

Upstream RF Troubleshooting

2003, Cisco Systems, Inc. All rights reserved.

Upstream Integrity
Verify that the upstream digitally modulated carrier amplitude at the input to the CMTS upstream port is within spec
A typical value is 0 dBmV, but this may vary depending on the CMTS manufacturers specs and CMTS configuration

Check the upstream carrier-to-noise, carrier-to-ingress, and carrier-tointerference ratios


DOCSIS assumes a minimum of 25 dB for all three parameters
Upstream RF Troubleshooting
2003, Cisco Systems, Inc. All rights reserved.

Digitally Modulated Carrier Amplitude


The zero-span method is Because of the bursty the easiest way to obtain nature of upstream an accurate amplitude digitally modulated measurement carriers, its difficult to measure average power level

Upstream RF Troubleshooting

2003, Cisco Systems, Inc. All rights reserved.

Upstream Spectrum

Does the upstream look like this?

or like this?

Upstream RF Troubleshooting

2003, Cisco Systems, Inc. All rights reserved.

Check the Upstream at the CMTS

Specialty test equipment may be used to evaluate upstream constellations


Upstream RF Troubleshooting

2003, Cisco Systems, Inc. All rights reserved.

Upstream Constellations
Ideal QPSK and 16-QAM constellations

Graphics courtesy of Filtronic Sigtek, Inc.


Upstream RF Troubleshooting
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Upstream Constellations
Poor carrier-to-noise ratio

Graphics courtesy of Filtronic Sigtek, Inc.


Upstream RF Troubleshooting
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Upstream Constellations
CW carrier interference

Graphics courtesy of Filtronic Sigtek, Inc.


Upstream RF Troubleshooting
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Upstream RF Impairments
Stationary Impairments

Thermal noise Intermodulation distortion Frequency response Transit delay Group delay

Upstream RF Troubleshooting

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Upstream RF Impairments
Transient Impairments

RF ingress Impulse noise Signal clipping

Upstream RF Troubleshooting

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Upstream RF Impairments
Multiplicative Impairments

Transient hum modulation Intermittent connections

Upstream RF Troubleshooting

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Thermal Noise
Characteristic of all active components:
Optoelectronics Upstream amplifiers In-home devices

Improper network alignment or defective equipment can cause high levels of thermal noiseas can improper upstream combiningwhich will degrade carrier-tonoise ratio
Upstream RF Troubleshooting
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Thermal Noise

Good carrier-to-noise ratio (~50 dB)

Poor carrier-to-noise ratio (~12 to 15 dB)

Upstream RF Troubleshooting

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Intermodulation Distortion

Second and third order distortions most prevalent Active devices Passive components: common path distortion, passive device intermodulation

Upstream RF Troubleshooting

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Intermodulation Distortion
An example of common path distortion
Note large 2nd order beats spaced every 6 MHz, and smaller 3rd order beats +/-1.25 MHz from 2nd order beats 2nd order beats

3rd order beats


Upstream RF Troubleshooting
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Frequency Response
Amplifier alignment
Input and output levels Proper pads and equalizers

Sweep versus multiple carriers Alignment-related problems


Frequency response problems can cause group delay errors Misalignment can cause increase in noise and distortions

Microreflections
Upstream RF Troubleshooting
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Frequency Response
Defective coaxial cable caused frequency response problem

Upstream RF Troubleshooting

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Microreflections
Microreflectionsalso called reflections or echoes are caused by impedance mismatches In the real world of cable networks, impedance can at best be considered nominal Impedance mismatches are everywhere: connectors, amplifiers inputs and outputs, passive device inputs and outputs, and even the cable itself Upstream cable attenuation is lower than downstream cable attenuation, so upstream microreflections tend to be worse Anywhere an impedance mismatch exists, some of the incident energy is reflected back toward the source
Upstream RF Troubleshooting
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Microreflections
The reflected and incident energy interact to produce standing waves, which manifest themselves as the standing wave amplitude ripple one sometimes sees in sweep receiver displays 16-QAM is affected by microreflections to a much greater degree than QPSK is Microreflections and group delay may be compensated for using adaptive equalization, a feature available in DOCSIS 1.1 and 2.0 cable modems
Adaptive equalization is not supported by most DOCSIS 1.0 modems
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Microreflections
Causes:
Damaged or missing end-of-line terminators Damaged or missing chassis terminators on directional coupler, splitter, or multiple-output amplifier unused ports Loose center conductor seizure screws Unused tap ports not terminatedthis is especially critical on low value taps Unused drop passive ports not terminated Use of so-called self-terminating taps at feeder ends-of-line
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Microreflections
Causes:
Kinked or damaged cable (includes cracked cable, which causes a reflection and ingress) Defective or damaged actives or passives (waterdamaged, water-filled, cold solder joint, corrosion, loose circuit board screws, etc.) Cable-ready TVs and VCRs connected directly to the drop (return loss on most cable-ready devices is poor) Some traps and filters have been found to have poor return loss in the upstream, especially those used for data-only service
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Microreflections
In this example, an approx. -23 dBc echo at ~720 ns causes visible amplitude ripple across the 5-40 MHz spectrum Group delay ripple also is present
Upstream RF Troubleshooting

Echo

Amplitude ripple

Group delay ripple

Courtesy of Holtzman, Inc.


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Microreflections
Heres another example: An approx. -33 dBc echo at just over 1 sec This echo meets the DOCSIS upstream -30 dBc at >1.0 sec parameter Here, too, the echo is sufficient to cause some amplitude and group delay ripple
Upstream RF Troubleshooting
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Transit Delay
Electromagnetic signals travel at the speed of light
In free space the speed of light is 299,792,458 meters/second In CATV coaxial cable, its about 87% of the free space value In optical fiber, its about 67% of the free space value RF and optical signals take a finite amount of time to travel through a CATV network
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Transit Delay (contd)


Signals traveling one waysay, from the subscriber to the headendthrough 1 km of coax and 18 km of fiber: about 95 microseconds (sec) transit delay The DOCSIS transit delay specification is <0.800 millisecond (msec) one way
Coax serving area

Headend

Fiber

Node

18 km
Upstream RF Troubleshooting
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1 km
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Group Delay
From the IEEE Standard Dictionary of Electrical and Electronics Terms:
Group delay is the derivative of radian phase with respect to radian frequency. It is equal to the phase delay for an ideal non-dispersive delay device, but may differ greatly in actual devices where there is a ripple in the phase versus frequency characteristic.

Upstream RF Troubleshooting

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Group Delay (contd)


Group delay is defined in units of time, typically nanoseconds (ns) In a system, network or component with no group delay, all frequencies are transmitted through the system, network or component with equal time delay. Frequency response problems in a CATV network will cause group delay problems.

Upstream RF Troubleshooting

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Group Delay (contd)

If a cable networks group delay exceeds a certain amount, data transmission and bit error rate may be affected. As long as group delay remains below a defined thresholdDOCSIS specifies 200 nanoseconds/MHz in the upstreamgroup delay-related BER shouldnt be a problem.

Upstream RF Troubleshooting

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Group Delay vs. MER


QPSK typically requires a minimum MER of 10~13 dB, depending on CMTS make/model 16-QAM typically requires a minimum MER of 17~20 dB, depending on CMTS make/model
Upstream RF Troubleshooting

DOCSIS 200 ns/MHZ

16-QAM

QPSK

Courtesy of Holtzman, Inc.


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Group Delay (contd)


Upstream group delay measurements require specialized equipment When obvious problems have been ruled out, check group delay
Upstream RF Troubleshooting
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Group Delay

Specialized test equipment can be used to characterize upstream inchannel performance In this example, inchannel group delay ripple is about 60 ns

Courtesy of Sunrise Telecom


Upstream RF Troubleshooting
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RF Ingress
Upstream spectrum is shared with over-the-air users
Short-wave broadcasts Citizens band (CB) radio Amateur (ham) radio Ship and aeronautical communications Government communications

RF signals can enter network through cable shielding defect


Upstream RF Troubleshooting

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Upstream Over-The-Air Spectrum, 5-30 MHz

Source: NTIA (http://www.ntia.doc.gov/osmhome/allochrt.pdf)


Upstream RF Troubleshooting
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RF Ingress
CB radio operator had installed his own cable outlets

Upstream RF Troubleshooting

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Impulse Noise
Most upstream data transmission errors caused by bursts of impulse noise Fast risetime, short duration (<100 microseconds) Most less than 10 microseconds duration Significant energy content over most of upstream spectrum Common sources: vehicle ignitions, neon signs, lightning, power line switching transients, electric motors, electronic switches, household appliances
Upstream RF Troubleshooting
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Impulse Noise Impulse noise from arc welder in machine shop

Upstream RF Troubleshooting

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Signal Clipping
RF ingress and impulse noise may cause signal clipping Excessive signals from in-home devices such as pay-per-view converters also may cause signal clipping Clipping (compression) occurs in upstream amplifiers and fiber optics equipment
Upstream lasers most susceptible
Upstream RF Troubleshooting
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Signal Clipping (contd)

Most energy that causes compression is in 5 MHz to 15 MHz range Signals at all other frequencies are affected by cross-compression
Cross-compression affects all upstream frequencies Can reduce data throughput

Upstream RF Troubleshooting

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Signal Clipping (contd)


Noise above ~40 MHz (~65 MHz in a Euro-DOCSIS network) is most likely caused by laser clipping

Upstream RF Troubleshooting

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Impulse Noise & Clipping: Packet Loss


Some QAM analyzers support upstream packet loss measurements

Graphics courtesy of Acterna, Sunrise Telecom and Trilithic


Upstream RF Troubleshooting
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Transient Hum Modulation

Ferrite components in network and drop passive devices


High current causes ferrite material to saturate

Switching power supply noise and harmonics

Upstream RF Troubleshooting

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Transient Hum Modulation


Hum modulation problem caused by defective connector on customers VCR

Upstream RF Troubleshooting

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Intermittent Connections
Self-induced
Network maintenance: changing pads & equalizers, amplifier modules

Craft-related
Loose or damaged connectors Poor quality installation

Upstream RF Troubleshooting

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Sweep Transmitter Operation


Many cable operators use broadband sweep equipment for network maintenance. Sweep transmitter interference to upstream digitally modulated carriers is a common problem. When it happens, degraded BER performance occurs. To avoid sweep interference problems, make sure the reverse sweep transmitter has appropriate guard bands programmed around each upstream digitally modulated carrier.
Upstream RF Troubleshooting
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Still Having Problems?

If everything appears to check out OK in the headend but cable modem operational problems still exist in the field, it may be a cable network problem This can be verified by connecting the CMTS to a six-foot plant

Upstream RF Troubleshooting

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Six-Foot Plant
CMTS

Upconverter
+25 to +35 dBmV I.F. input +55 to +58 dBmV RF output

Downstream

Diplex filter

Upstream RF Troubleshooting

Cable modems
2003, Cisco Systems, Inc. All rights reserved.

8-way splitter

Upstream

10 dB to 15 dB atten.

33 dB atten.

High Common

30 dB atten.

Low

10 dB atten.

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Still Having Problems?

If CMTS configuration is correct and headend problems have been ruled out, its time to move to the outside plant.

Upstream RF Troubleshooting

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Out in the Field

Use appropriate test equipment to characterize the return path between the subscriber premises and CMTS.

Upstream RF Troubleshooting

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Out in the Field

Verify that the amplitude of the upstream digitally modulated carrier at the cable modem output is in the +8 dBmV to +58 dBmV range for QPSK, and +8 dBmV to +55 dBmV for 16-QAM. Correct levels at the first upstream active?

Upstream RF Troubleshooting

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Out in the Field


Use the divide and conquer method to locate problems in the network

Headend

Fiber

Node

Upstream RF Troubleshooting

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A Few Potential Problems


Improper RF levels Poor carrier-to-junk ratio (the DOCSIS minimum spec is 25 dB for both QPSK and 16QAM, as well as for all of the new upstream modulation formats in DOCSIS 2.0) Headend upstream combining/splitting
Too many nodes or homes passed per CMTS upstream port

Upstream fiber links not correctly aligned Forward and reverse amplifiers not correctly aligned
Upstream RF Troubleshooting
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A Few Potential Problems

Ingress, impulse noise, spurious interference, distortions, laser clipping Loose or intermittent connections Hum modulation (the DOCSIS maximum spec is 7%, or 23 dBc) Microreflections (analogous to multipath or ghosting in analog TV pictures)

Upstream RF Troubleshooting

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DOCSIS 1.0 Assumed Upstream RF Channel Transmission Characteristics


Parameter
Frequency range Transit delay from the most distant CM to the nearest CM or CMTS Carrier-to-noise ratio Carrier-to-ingress power (the sum of discrete and broadband ingress signals) ratio Carrier-to-interference (the sum of noise, distortion, common-path distortion, and crossmodulation) ratio Carrier hum modulation Burst noise Amplitude ripple Group delay ripple Micro-reflections -- single echo

Value
5 to 42 MHz edge to edge <=0.800 msec (typically much less) Not less than 25 dB Not less than 25 dB (Note 2) Not less than 25 dB

Seasonal and diurnal signal level variation

Not greater than 23 dBc (7%) Not longer than 10 sec at a 1 kHz average rate for most cases (Notes 3, 4, and 5) 5-42 MHz: 0.5 dB/MHz 5-42 MHz: 200 ns/MHz -10 dBc@ <= 0.5 sec -20 dBc@ <= 1.0 sec -30 dBc@ > 1.0 sec Not greater than 8 dB min to max

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DOCSIS 1.0 Electrical Output From the Cable Modem


Parameter
Frequency Level range (one channel) Modulation type Symbol rate (nominal) Bandwidth Output impedance Output return loss Connector

Value
5 to 42 MHz edge to edge +8 to +55 dBmV (16QAM) +8 to +58 dBmV (QPSK) QPSK and 16QAM 160, 320, 640, 1,280 and 2,560 ksym/sec 200, 400, 800, 1,600 and 3,200 kHz 75 ohms >6 dB (5-42 MHz) F connector per [IPS-SP-406] (common with the input)

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DOCSIS 1.1 Assumed Upstream RF Channel Transmission Characteristics


Parameter Frequency range Transit delay from the most distant CM to the nearest CM or CMTS Carrier-to-interference plus ingress (the sum of noise, distortion, common-path distortion and cross- modulation and the sum of discrete and broadband ingress signals, impulse noise excluded) ratio Value 5 to 42 MHz edge to edge <=0.800 msec (typically much less) Not less than 25 dB

Carrier hum modulation Burst noise Amplitude ripple 5-42 MHz: Group delay ripple 5-42 MHz: Micro-reflections -- single echo

Not greater than 23 dBc (7%) Not longer than 10 sec at a 1 kHz average rate for most cases (Notes 3, 4, and 5) 0.5 dB/MHz 200 ns/MHz -10 dBc@ <= 0.5 sec -20 dBc@ <= 1.0 sec -30 dBc@ > 1.0 sec Not greater than 14 dB min to max

Seasonal and diurnal reverse gain (loss) variation

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DOCSIS 1.1 Electrical Output From the Cable Modem


Parameter
Frequency Level range (one channel) Modulation type Symbol rate (nominal) Bandwidth Output impedance Output return loss Connector

Value
5 to 42 MHz edge to edge +8 to +55 dBmV (16QAM) +8 to +58 dBmV (QPSK) QPSK and 16QAM 160, 320, 640, 1,280 qne 2,560 ksym/sec 200, 400, 800, 1,600 and 3,200 kHz 75 ohms >6 dB (5-42 MHz) F connector per [ISO-169-24] (common with the input)

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Useful ReferencesMagazine Articles


Hranac, R. 16-QAM Success Story. Communications Technology, September 2002
www.broadband-pbimedia.com/ct/archives/0902/0902_broadband.html

Hranac, R. More on 16-QAM. Communications Technology, January 2003


www.broadband-pbimedia.com/ct2/archives/0103/0103_broadband.html

Hranac, R. Mystified by Return Path Activation? Get Your Upstream Fiber Links Aligned. Communications Technology, March 2000
www.broadband-pbimedia.com/ct2/archives/0300/feature1.htm

Hranac R. Seek Balance in All Things: A Look at Unity Gain in the Upstream Coax Plant. Communications Technology, June 2000
www.broadband-pbimedia.com/ct2/archives/0600/0600fe8.htm
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Useful ReferencesMagazine Articles


Hranac, R. Hum Got You Down? Block Capacitors Fix Reverse Path Woes Communications Technology, May 1999
www.broadband-pbimedia.com/ct2/archives/0599/ct0599d.htm

Hranac, R., M. Millet. Upstream Power Measurements: Watts Up Doc? Communications Technology, December 2000
www.broadband-pbimedia.com/ct2/archives/1200/064_upstream.htm

Hranac, R. Two-Way Success Secrets Revealed Communications Technology, April 2001


www.broadband-pbimedia.com/ct2/archives/0401/034_broadband.htm

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Useful ReferencesMagazine Articles


Hranac, R. Understanding Reverse Path Problems, Part 1 Communications Technology, September 2000
www.broadband-pbimedia.com/ct2/archives/0900/0900col01.htm

Hranac, R. Understanding Reverse Path Problems, Part 2 Communications Technology, October 2000
www.broadband-pbimedia.com/ct2/archives/1000/032_broadband.htm

Hranac, R. Understanding Reverse Path Problems, Part 3 Communications Technology, November 2000
www.broadband-pbimedia.com/ct2/archives/1100/038_broadband.htm

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Useful ReferencesMagazine Articles


From back issues prior to January 1999 (not available in publishers on-line archives): Hranac, R. A Unique Approach to Reverse Path Testing Communications Technology, December 1997 Hranac, R. Impulse Noise in Two-Way Systems Communications Technology, July 1996 Hranac, R. Combating Impulse Noise With Common Mode Suppression Communications Technology, August 1996 Hranac, R. Passive Device Intermod Communications Technology, September 1998
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Useful ReferencesBooks

Farmer, J., D. Large, and W. Ciciora. Modern Cable Television Technology: Video, Voice and Data Communications. Morgan Kaufmann Publishers; 1998 Raskin, D. and D. Stoneback. Broadband Return Systems for Hybrid Fiber/Coax Cable TV systems. Prentice Hall; 1997 Thomas J.L. Cable Television Proof of Performance: A Practical Guide to Cable TV Compliance Measurements Using a Spectrum Analyzer. Prentice Hall; 1995.

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rhranacj@cisco.com

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