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RF Propagation Modeling using RadioMobile
 

Daniel Adi Nugroho dot Net

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RF Propagation Modeling using RadioMobile

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Last week I searched Google for RF propagation modeling software to support my then-upcoming presentation to a prospective client. My intention was to compare the modeling result derived from SRTM DEM and the one derived from IFSAR DEM. I knew for sure that IFSAR will yield superior detail due to its denser posting space, however, I wanted to prove it by seeing the actual modeling result.

I tried several software, ranging from the very popular ones such as Global Mapper, ArcGIS with Spatial Analyst, to obscure ones such as Radio Mobile, Terrain Analysis Package (TAP) version 6, and online prediction tool such as CRC-COVWEB site.

Global Mapper and ArcGIS Spatial Analyst does not serve the purpose, they are providing only viewshed analysis, but not RF propagation analysis. Radio waves can be slightly bent by the terrain, therefore simple viewshed analysis will yield inaccurate result, because it will only considering visibility through line-of-sight.

The Terrain Analysis Package did not appeal too much, due to its rigid restriction. Without registration, TAP won't be able to process any analysis/modeling outside of its demo area in a specific bounding box coordinates. From the screenshots in TAP's website, it appears that TAP is a fully-fledged RF modeling software. My next option fell to CRC-COVWEB, the CRC stands for "Communication Research Center" of the Government of Canada, while the COVWEB, perhaps COVerage WEBservice... Below is the predicted coverage of my 10 watt VHF transmitter, derived using COVWEB.

COVWEB Prediction

Don't be fooled because of the simplicity of this webservice. The CRC-COVWEB provides a versatile interface to roughly predict RF propagation, based on Longley-Rice propagation model and an unknown DEM source. I believe the DEM data must be SRTM. The user interface is easy to use and the time required to produce propagation plots is minimal. There are 2 drawbacks:

  • it lacks of capability to save its propagation plots to a geocoded image
  • the plot size is quite small, just a couple hundred pixels, which eventually limit the resolution of the plot when working on a large area

Then I turned to Radio Mobile, which have been installed at least two weeks before, but never actually used due to the complexity of its user interface. I decided to give it a try, and one hour later I finally come up with a RF propagation plot of my VHF transmitter at home.

Radio Mobile for Windows

Finally, I was able to compare the RF propagation plots based on SRTM and IFSAR, and used the images to be included in my presentation. The following images are two screen captures which shows the difference between RF propagation prediction using SRTM data and IFSAR data. The propagation model used was Longley-Rice, which simulates the propagation of my VHF transmitter at 144.39 MHz (reserved for APRS), using 10 watts of power, and the height above average terrain is 6 meters.

 

RF Propagation using SRTM

 

RF Propagation using IFSAR

 

So, regarding the free (non-commercial) software to be used in RF propagation prediction, here's the conclusion:

  • if quick estimation of RF propagation area is needed, CRC-COVWEB can be used easily,
  • and if a more detailed result which can be analyzed further is needed, then the choice goes to Radio Mobile.

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Last Updated on Friday, 16 April 2010 13:47
 

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