How can telecom companies cope with PIM?

PIM has been highlighted as a growing problem for cellular network providers and associated equipment suppliers. This type of interference can reduce receiver sensitivity and, in some cases, may even completely inhibit communication. Recognising and mitigating the PIM problem is thus essential for increasing system reliability and reducing operation costs. In this post, we attempt to review the sources and causes of PIM and the solutions proposed to detect and solve it.

Our colleague, Dmitriy Penkin (in the photo on the left), explains why awareness of this problem is essential. “PIM stands for Passive Intermodulation. It refers to the intermodulation products generated when two or more signals transit through a passive device with nonlinear properties. These nonlinearities typically arise from the interaction of mechanical components and can seriously impact overall system performance. Their examples include the junction of two different metals, loose cable connections, dirty connectors, underperforming duplexers, aged antennas and the like.”

And how can telecommunication companies prevent PIM from happening?
Dmitriy: “Base stations and mobile equipment OEMs must secure reliable communications. Accurate PIM measurements and related troubleshooting campaigns are only possible in an anechoic chamber that is properly designed and characterised by very low PIM levels, such as the chamber in the photo we built for a large telecom provider. At our Comtest R&D department, we apply extensive and expanding knowledge to equip our clients with a chamber solution designed as ‘PIM-free’: such a test chamber has an aluminium shielding enclosure since we aim to replace all ferromagnetic materials with non-magnetic alternatives. Think also of specific aluminium or plastic screws, wooden test benches, special rails and more. Last but not least, we continuously work on optimising microwave absorbing material to ensure minimal nonlinearities within the anechoic chamber.”

For more information on our test chamber solutions for PIM testing, please contact Marc Le Roy, Hanneke Mertens – van Veen or Uliana Trucchi.

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