What is broadband network noise and why is it difficult to find?
Setting up an HFC broadband network requires much forethought and planning to ensure that it works optimally. There are many different issues that can affect an HFC network’s performance, related to capacity planning, physical layouts, and network components, not to mention proper process-control of maintenance and connections. Of the various issues that could affect a network, one of the most prevalent and challenging to manage is broadband network noise. Network noise can monopolize your technician’s time, preventing them from doing more “important” tasks like network hardening and PNM work.
What Is Broadband Network Noise
In layman terms, broadband network noise refers to unwanted signals that impair or hinder the normal traffic of desired data signals within a broadband network. Network noise interferes with the normal traffic that is being sent in what is supposed to be a closed RF network. Network noise is a major cause of impaired network performance; as such, it is important for it to be quickly recognized and resolved. Noise can take the form of Common Path Distortion (CPD), Ingress, Impulse Noise and more. These noise sources can come from the main trunk line, customer homes, and everything in-between. Noise entering the “closed system” interferes with signal and thus data transfer rates.
Causes of Broadband Network Noise
Broadband network noises are challenging to resolve because they have several varied causes which take a lot of time as well as effort to ascertain. The causes of network noise can be broadly categorized into external and internal causes. External causes are factors or circumstances outside the broadband network that can cause network noise. In contrast, internal causes of network noise are as a result of issues inherent within the broadband network, or by improper connections or maintenance.
1) External Causes
- Electromagnetic interference – Close proximity of the cabling in a broadband network to other electrical equipment such as power lines, generators, or motors can disrupt network signals.
- Radiofrequency interference – Unshielded or poorly shielded copper wire or cable can pick up radio waves and convert them into electrical signals, thereby generating noise within a broadband network.
- Cross talk – This is when nearby cables or conductors trigger signals in wires within a broadband network.
- Environmental – Physical vibrations, as well as severe snow and rain, can cause broadband network noise, as can temperature changes. All can effect equipment in the plant if the equipment is even slightly damaged.
2) Internal Causes
- Improper grounding – If wires are not properly grounded, grounding loops can occur which generate additional unwanted signals within a network.
- Inadequate shielding – Network components that are not properly shielded due to poor design, installation or damage, have an increased propensity of picking up extra signals from external sources.
- Poor wiring techniques – Poor network wiring practices, such as using unshielded wiring or improper equipment usage can result in additional electrical noise.
- Poor network design/layout – Faulty connections, loose connections, or bad network circuitry can cause additional noise within a broadband network.
Effects Of Network Noise
Generally speaking, if network noise is not recognized and rectified in a timely manner, it can result in a degradation of overall network performance in the following ways:
- Signal loss – Network noise can weaken the strength of signals within a broadband network. The more noise within a network, the greater the signals are affected. This can result in complete device failures, as not enough signal is passed to the end-user device for it to come or remain online.
- Reduced data transfer rate – Signal interference as a result of network noise can reduce the speeds at which data is transmitted within the network.
- Loss of data packets – Network noise can cause data packets to be lost on the way to its destination. When this occurs, some or all the information does not get transmitted to the recipient.
Management Of Broadband Network Noise
Traditionally, the initial step in dealing with noise within a broadband network is to detect that it exists. This is not terribly difficult, with many tools and indicators available that show noise is present. When it comes to pinpointing the noise, it is historically a time-intensive affair, due to the number of factors that make it nearly impossible to localize. The affected area of the network should be thoroughly examined at various test points, area by area, to find the unwanted noise. Of course, sometimes there are multiple noise sources coming from different areas in the network, from customer devices to broken network components to external noise sources. The external environment should be examined as a cause of intermittent noise issues, as environmental extremes can make noise appear, and then disappear when the environment is more moderate. Even following the standard process, noise can be very elusive.
At Promptlink Communications, we know how detrimental noise can be to a broadband network and to your business. For this reason, we have developed our proprietary Network NoiseHawk solution designed to localize the source of the network noise. Our patent-pending software solution, easily accessible on a mobile or any access device, collects data from multiple sources which it then uses to accurately pinpoint the source of the network noise. Noise can usually be located within 1-2 areas, instead of the usual 6+ stops required today. For more information about our NoiseHawk solution, contact us.