Tips to Troubleshoot and Optimize Large RF Networks: Part 3

by Nathanael Wright | Updated: 01/02/2024 | Comments: 0



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base to data logger router to leaf

Here is our final blog article in our three-part series on troubleshooting your radio frequency (RF) networks. In this article, I’ll share with you four more tips (11 through 14). If you missed parts 1 and 2 or want to review them again, here are the links:

Tip #11 - Reduce retries (RF407-series and RF401/A only).

In large networks where interference or packet loss is high, keep the default Retry Level set to Low within the Device Configuration Utility. That reduces retries on the network from interfering with other device communications attempts.

Retry Level Retry Count
None 0
Low 2
Medium 4
High 6

Retry Level

Tip #12 - Avoid interference from other radios.

If your radios regularly disconnect from one another and connectivity seems unstable, other spread-spectrum radio interference may be present. Reducing the Frequency Range that your radios communicate over may help.

Reduce the frequency range of RF407-series radios.

On the RF407, the frequency is reduced in the Device Configuration Utility > Settings Editor > Advanced > Radio Channel Mask.

All devices in the RF407-series radio network must use an identical set of active channels. The 16-digit Hex Radio Channel Mask correlates to the 64 segments of the radio frequency band. Each of the 16 hex values represents four binary values. The lowest frequencies in the band begin on the left, and the highest are on the right. Turn off the groups of four by setting the F to 0. Simply setting the 0 back to an F turns the group back on. See the following table for more granular frequency toggling.

Hex Value Effect Hex Value Effect
0 Turns all four channels off A Turns on channels 2 and 4
1 Turns on channel 1 B Turns on channels 1, 2, and 4
2 Turns on channel 2 C Turns on channels 3 and 4
3 Turns on channels 1 and 2 D Turns on channels 1, 3, and 4
4 Turns on channel 3 E Turns on channels 2, 3, and 4
5 Turns on channels 1 and 3 F Turns on all four channels
6 Turns on channels 2 and 3
7 Turns on channels 1, 2, and 3
8 Turns on channel 4
9 Turns on channels 1 and 4

The following table shows the bit-by-bit frequency breakdown. The first four bits correlate to the first hexadecimal value. The second four bits correlate to the second hexadecimal value, and so on.

Freq (MHz) Freq (MHz) Freq (MHz) Freq (MHz)
Bit 0 902.4 Bit 16 908.8 Bit 32 915.2 Bit 48 921.6
Bit 1 902.8 Bit 17 909.2 Bit 33 915.6 Bit 49 922
Bit 2 903.2 Bit 18 909.6 Bit 34 916 Bit 50 922.4
Bit 3 903.6 Bit 19 910 Bit 35 916.4 Bit 51 922.8
Bit 4 904 Bit 20 910.4 Bit 36 916.8 Bit 52 923.2
Bit 5 904.4 Bit 21 910.8 Bit 37 917.2 Bit 53 923.6
Bit 6 904.8 Bit 22 911.2 Bit 38 917.6 Bit 54 924
Bit 7 905.2 Bit 23 911.6 Bit 39 918 Bit 55 924.4
Bit 8 905.6 Bit 24 912 Bit 40 918.4 Bit 56 924.8
Bit 9 906 Bit 25 912.4 Bit 41 918.8 Bit 57 925.2
Bit 10 906.4 Bit 26 912.8 Bit 42 919.2 Bit 58 925.6
Bit 11 906.8 Bit 27 913.2 Bit 43 919.6 Bit 59 926
Bit 12 907.2 Bit 28 913.6 Bit 44 920 Bit 60 926.4
Bit 13 907.6 Bit 29 914 Bit 45 920.4 Bit 61 926.8
Bit 14 908 Bit 30 914.4 Bit 46 920.8 Bit 62 927.2
Bit 15 908.4 Bit 31 914.8 Bit 47 921.2 Bit 63 927.6

Radio Channel Mask

Reduce the frequency range of RF450, RF451, and RF452 radios.

On the RF450/451/452, the radio frequency range is reduced in the Device Configuration Utility from the Settings Editor tab. Scroll down to the Frequency Zones. Zones can be toggled off by setting the value for the zone to 0. Changing the value back to 1 re-enables the zone. Clicking in the zone field displays the relevant frequency in the information section at the bottom of your Device Configuration Utility window.

Settings Editor

Tip #13 - Consider the base antenna siting.

If you experience frequent disconnects, it may be useful to check the location and position of the base station antenna. It could be problematic if it is mounted to a tower where it is close to other antennas. If possible, look for another antenna mounting location.

The 21107 Radio Test Kit from Campbell Scientific allows you to set up a temporary base station on a tripod and a remote radio station and then move them to find the most suitable location for a tower or station. Verifying that the radio equipment being deployed is a good fit for the location is especially useful during the early phase of a project.

Tip #14 - Use a cavity band-pass filter.

Use a cavity band-pass filter on your base station radio if the signal consistently goes out during certain times of the day. Install a signal filter to the connection going from the antenna into the data logger. Ensure that the filter is in the range of the radio, generally 902 to 928 MHz.

A final word

I hope you found the 14 tips shared in this three-part series helpful. While this concludes our series, you can review all the steps by reading our Troubleshooting tips: Large radio networks white paper. If you have any questions or comments, please post them below.

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About the Author

nathanael wright Nathanael Wright is a Technical Support Engineer at Campbell Scientific, Inc. He provides technical support for data loggers, instruments, and communications equipment. Nathanael has a bachelor's degrees in Computer Information Science and Business Administration, and an MBA. In addition, Nathanael has more than 15 years of experience working in IP communications. Away from work, he enjoys breakdancing, hiking, writing, publishing books, and fiddling with computer equipment.

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