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RADIO FREQUENCY FILTERS: Filtering the compromise

RF filters can solve interference in deployments of coexisting

GSM 900 MHz and CDMA 850 MHz

In the quest to utilise existing infrastructure while deploying new cellular networks, Indian operators are
choosing to co-locate base stations and their associated antennas. This is driven primarily by the need to keep
capital expenditure down, apart from the need to complete network rollouts quickly. The decision is also
impacted by the scarcity of premium base station locations and the growing demand for minimal environmental
impact solutions.
In its most fundamental form, co-location involves the sharing of site space and structures for the location of
base station active equipment and the RF distribution system. In the early days of digital cellular, the most
common combinations of services were global system for mobile communications (GSM) 900 MHz and 1800 MHz,
or code division multiple access (CDMA) 800 MHz and 1900 MHz (often known as personal communications
service, PCS).
More recently, the 'cross pollination' of GSM into the Americas and CDMA into Asia and Eastern Europe has led to
a more challenging scenario. As GSM and CDMA services operating in neighbouring frequency bands are colocated, significant-and initially unforeseen-interference issues arise. Many GSM 900 MHz operators have found
their hitherto premium service suddenly and dramatically degraded in quality by the introduction of a co-located
CDMA 800 MHz system. Similarly, new GSM 900 MHz services overlaid at a CDMA 800 MHz base station site can
suffer serious quality problems.

Transmit, receive The close proximity of the CDMA downlink and GSM uplink frequency bands (see Figure 1)
leads to interference in the GSM receiver, thereby decreasing its sensitivity and resulting in dropped calls. Two
basic sources of CDMA-generated interference exist: CDMA spurious emissions and high-power interfering CDMA

Spurious emissions are caused by unwanted transmitter effects; CDMA transmitters can generate both discrete
(harmonics, intermodulation products) and wideband signals that fall outside the transmit band. If these fall
within the GSM receive band, they manifest as wideband noise and raise the noise floor of the receiver.
Considering a 30- to 40-dB isolation between the antenna systems, a worst case scenario would yield a noise
signal of around -50 dBm. The impact of this would be a dramatic and unacceptable degradation of the
sensitivity of the GSM receiver. The situation is rarely this severe, but increases of 50 dB in the noise floor can be
The other main source of interference is the CDMA transmitted signal itself. If the strength of the signal into the
GSM receiver is higher than a certain level (known as the 'blocking' level), it generates intermodulation products
that can lead to interference, again degrading receiver sensitivity.

Filtering out interference Clearly, this significant degradation of GSM services when co-located with CDMA
services is unacceptable for operators and consumers alike. A practical solution lies in the judicious application of
specially designed filters-in both the CDMA downlink and GSM uplink-to minimise the unwanted CDMA signals
being received by the GSM base station.
Practically, the top end of the CDMA 800 MHz transmit band is 894 MHz; the GSM 900 MHz receive band starts
as low as 890 MHz (or even 880 MHz in enhanced GSM (E-GSM)), although the exact spectrum used varies from
country to country. Similarly, the exact scenario for a particular co-located site will depend on the channels
allocated to each base station.
The installation of a bandpass filter in the CDMA downlink to filter out-of-band spurious emissions-particularly
those that fall within the GSM receive bands-reduces by up to 75 dB the magnitude of CDMA wideband noise
received by the co-located base station. A filter in this location is critical in many applications.
Perhaps even more critical is the installation of a bandpass filter in the GSM uplink. This filter mitigates the real
power of the CDMA interferer falling just outside the GSM receive band. Depending on the transmitting power of
the CDMA base station, these uplink filters need to achieve a minimum selectivity of up to 50 dB.

Tight tolerances The bandpass filters used for co-location applications generally need to exhibit sharp
attenuation of out-of-band frequencies, owing to the tight tolerances between frequency bandwidths. It follows
that the complexity of the filter (measured by the number of poles and cross-couplings) increases as the
guardband decreases.

Figure 2 shows the filter characteristic of a premium performance bandpass filter, which has a passband of 898.5
to 960 MHz and provides 50-dB attenuation at frequencies less than 894 MHz. The three cross-couplings within
this 9-pole filter generate the sharp notch below 894 MHz, which corresponds to the 4.5-MHz guardband
currently available in Brazil for co-locating CDMA 800 MHz with GSM 900 MHz. The scenario in India promises to
be even more challenging, with guardbands of just 1 MHz available at some locations.
In cases where the guardband is wider, the roll-off can be less severe and the filter consequently less complex
(smaller number of poles). Selectivity of more than 50 dB would be difficult to achieve for the narrow 4.5-MHz
guardband; but where the guardband is greater than 10 MHz, greater rejection of CDMA frequencies can be