The Radio Frequency Network Channel Emulation Simulation Tool (RFnest™) tests wireless communication networks realistically and reliably in a laboratory environment.

Capturing the behavior of a wireless network is a complex problem that involves an understanding of the performance of protocols at different layers, as well as the behavior of the physical hardware. Furthermore, field testing is not easily scalable, controllable, or repeatable. As a result, it is very difficult to evaluate new protocols or solutions for wireless networks.

RFnest™ is a network channel emulator that allows a full mesh of wireless nodes to experience realistic channels effects. Radios and systems tested via RFnest™ experience an RF environmental identical to a field test. RFnest™ is the only channel emulator that supports integration of real radio nodes and virtual (simulated) radio/network nodes where the simulated and the real nodes communicate seamlessly.

Using network emulation technology, real and simulated radios exchange information and experience realistic signal interference as if they are a part of the same network of wireless nodes in a fielded environment.

The family of RFnest™ products is designed to address the specific needs of each customer. This family includes the RFnest™ Analog and the RFnest™ Digital series, both powered by RFview™ software. The RFnest™ Analog series is an affordable network channel emulation tool with the capability to emulate full mesh frequencies with flat fading channels. The RFnest™ Digital series offers an advanced solution for emulation of frequency selective channels in a highly dynamic environment. The RFnest™ Digital series is a modular and extendable solution that allows the user to optimize testing from a handful of Single Input Single Outpout (SISO) to myriad Multi Input Multi Output (MIMO) nodes in a full mesh setting.

RFnest™ has a modular design with three main capabilities:

Emulation hardware with RF front ends that allows real radio nodes to send their RF signals over an emulated channel without any modification to the radios.

Modeling of time-varying channel impulse responses within the emulation hardware, with channel properties based on mobility models receiving input from an interactive Graphical User Interface (GUI).

Integration with network emulators and monitoring functionality that allows the user to configure, manage, and monitor real and virtual network nodes within the scenario.

Benefits

RFnest™ features a modular and scalable design with unique capabilities for Test and Evaluation (T&E) of RF systems and network solutions in a laboratory environment. RFnest™ is:

Cost-Effective
RFnest™ replaces repeated field testing, allowing the developer to use captured field data and scenarios to evaluate the actual functional and performance characteristics of the radios, protocols, and network.
Repeatable
Unlike field testing, RFnest™ allows the user to input and test the exact same scenario over and over again, enabling effective comparisons between radios, protocols, and test configurations.
Realistic
RFnest™ allows real radios to send and receive their RF signals over an emulated channel without any modifications. The RFnest™ system operates at high fidelity assuring that you can trust the test results.

RFnest™ provides a repeatable and controllable RF environment for a network of wireless nodes in a laboratory setting. It supports the test and evaluation of RF devices in a multipath fading environment with attenuation, Doppler delay, interference, directional antenna support, and other realistic channel effects. RFnest™ enables a myriad of functions for analyses including the following:

Network Mesh Support
RFnest™ provides a mesh of channels for a network of radios with each channel independently controlled.
Performance Analysis
RFnest™ is a dynamic, wireless network test environment that allows the user to test, record, and analyze network performance.
Scalable to 96 Nodes
RFnest™ supports more radios than any other channel emulator available, accommodating up to 96 radios simultaneously.
Virtual Node Support
In order to emulate large networks, RFnest™  integrates virtual nodes with real radio nodes seamlessly in an emulation environment.
A Broad Frequency Range
RFnest™ natively supports radio frequencies from 0 Hz to 6 GHz. Special converters are available to support even higher frequencies.
Integrated Software
RFnest™, complemented by RFview™, allows users to easily configure, analyze, and test radios and RF networks. 

RFnest™ can help product development and evaluation

Mobile ad hoc Networks

MANET is a self-configuring infrastructureless network of mobile devices connected by wireless communication links. Devices within the network are free to move and therefore change links to other devices frequently. RFnest provides a realistic test environment to assess MANET connectivity and quality of service.

Tactical Data Links

Military communications rely on Tactical Data Links (TDL) with standards such as Link-16. Military aircraft, ships, and ground forces exchange a wide range of data with secure and jam-resistant connectivity over long distances. RFnest™ provides an emulation environment to analyze tactical networks.

Satellite Communications

Satellites are in motion relative to the ground, therefore path loss, delay, and other phenomena affect communication performance. RFnest™ emulates long delays and Doppler shift behaviors typically experienced in ground-to-satellite communications.

Software

RFview™ software is a complete tool set with an interactive user interface that supports the following capabilities:

  • Allows integrated control and monitoring of all levels of network performance.

  • Interfaces with third-party network emulation software including EMANE* and CORE.**

  • Controls interactions between virtual and real nodes. Interacts with RFnest™ hardware to set parameters such as channel impulse response and frequency band.

  • Receives recorded RF signals, and replays arbitrary or recorded RF signals.

  • Interfaces with third party channel modeling tools for specific channels of interest.

  • Records scenarios, performance, and observed RF data for replay and post-test analysis.

The RFnest™ test procedure can be summarized in the following steps:

Step 1: The RFview™ tool supports the creation of dynamic multipath scenarios with real and virtual radios. An API allows the user to import specific channel modeling tools or recorded field test data.

Step 2: Define the test setup and connect radios. The editor tool can be used to configure up to 96 nodes. Channel characteristics and other features can then be set independently for each channel.

Step 3: Run the model in RFnest™. RFnest™ provides accurate, repeatable results that can be recorded, replayed, and evaluated to quantify system performance.

RFnest™ supports integration of radio nodes and simulated radio/network nodes with the simulated and real nodes communicating seamlessly.

Research and Development

RFnest is an essential tool for the development of new wireless network technologies that are at the test and evaluation phase. RFnest provides a realistic propagation environment without the need for a lengthy frequency allocation process. RFnest is the ideal tool for the testing of emerging technologies such as cognitive/software-defined radios which are otherwise difficult to test due to regulatory issues. Network Design and Realistic Evaluation Protocols can be tested on real devices with real software and radios. Environmental effects (including antenna directionality) experienced by transmitted RF signals are emulated, allowing high fidelity T&E in a lab environment, thus reducing development cost and time.

Wireless Network Design

RFnest™ is a tool designed to simplify wireless network testing. RFnest™ provides a repeatable and controllable environment where up to 96 radio nodes (with arbitrary mobility) are connected. To measure the performance of a network design, radios are connected to RFnest™. Channel models are configured according to the desired environment. The mobility of nodes are set up using the GUI. The scenario and performance are recorded by the RFnest™ software. Network designers can use this tool to determine the required numbers and locations of access points based on the number of nodes and the throughput goals.

Airborne Networks

RFnest™ facilitates the test and validation of mobile airborne networks that are traditionally difficult to model and very costly to develop. RFnest™ supports the creation of environments containing the complex RF interactions present in the airborne environment for assessment before actual flight testing is conducted. Test scenarios can be recorded, reproduced for debugging, and rendered in advance of flight tests in a realistic network environment. The RFview data display and visualization tools provide the user with a reliable and repeatable assessment of the communications protocols and network performance.