Network Engineering

Automated RF Impairment Detection

Automated Impairment Detection (Suckout) Chart

Suckout…the word just sounds bad, and indeed it is. But we’ve all been there. Suckout is an RF impairment, often spanning multiple channels, that looks like a notch in the spectrum.

Suckouts are one example of linear impairments that can be more complex to identify and fix because these notches can happen anywhere in the RF spectrum throughout the distribution. So what do operators do? They search for ways to reduce expenses and improve their customers’ quality of experience. The question that we must ask ourselves is, How can we make the tech’s time the most productive as possible while maximizing the experience customers have? If we were able to automate how we identify impairments like suckouts, standing waves, tilt, adjacency, roll-off, and many others, then we could use software-based algorithms and correlation techniques to integrate the information from the identified issues into workforce management systems. Not only would the techs be directed to the highest-priority issues, but the right techs in the right locations would work these issues.

How can this automation take place? That’s the focus of some of the brightest minds in the industry among operators, vendors, CableLabs®, and SCTE. By coming up with an industry standard way of defining what impairments are, we can then leverage software to continually search the network and identify issues that could be customer impacting. For example, some of the parameters that you would need to define for suckouts would be: depth, width, frequencies (start, center, and end), and channel type, just to name a few. But, it doesn’t stop there; you must also consider where the location is in the plant, how many samples have been collected with the identified issue, and the corresponding node and CMTS.

In SCTE’s Network Operations Subcommittee, with the contributions of our SCTE Standards Program members, we plan to develop such standards; we will then build correlating operational practices that operators can use to integrate into their systems. These efforts will vastly improve customer service, and the rest will be history!

Play a part in improving customer service by plugging in to the ANSI-accredited SCTE Standards Program. Contact me for guidance on getting involved.


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