SM Technologies RF Design Skills

                 Many engineers find themselves working in RF and Wireless for the first time. The core design skills that you need to master are covered in the subjects listed below, with several program options to cover the depth of knowledge you wish to attain.

Gain the knowledge of key analytical tools for high frequency design, such as S-parameters and the Smith Chart. Learn the design considerations for components are used in RF & wireless systems (LNA’s, PA’s, mixers, etc.) as well as their performance parameters and limitations.

RF Design: Core Concepts – Web Classroom

Course 19


This course is the first in a series for RF Design engineers and other professionals in that field. It presents core concepts essential in understanding RF technology and presents circuit-level designers with the foundation needed to work effectively with high frequency electronics. Participants gain analytical, graphical ( Smith Chart ), and computer-aided techniques to analyze and optimize RF circuits in practical situations. This course reviews traditional circuit definitions based on voltages and current and transitions to power-flow concepts and scattering parameters (S-parameters) used in the wireless domain.

The material covered forms the foundation for follow-on courses dealing with specific RF and Microwave circuit and component design.

Students will receive a signed Certificate of Completion on request.

Learning objectives

Upon completing the course you will be able to:

  • Describe RF circuit parameters and terminology
  • Work comfortably with dB notation
  • Understand Modern EDA/CAD Techniques
  • Work with transmission lines
  • Use graphical design techniques and the Smith Chart

Target Audience

The course is designed for professionals working in the RF domain for the first time as well as seasoned veterans requiring a good review of the core concepts. An electrical engineering background (or equivalent practical experience) is recommended, as well as a familiarity with complex numbers. This program prepares students to take the follow-on RF Design: Applied Techniques course.



Introduction to RF Circuits

 • Linear circuit analysis in RF systems • Frequency range of coverage: 100-3000 MHz • Log conversion, dB and dBm scales • Complex numbers in rectangular and polar form • Component Qs • Importance of Impedance Matching • Normalization • RF component related issues

RF/MW Fundamentals

 • Complex impedance and admittance systems • Resonance effects • One-port impedance and admittance • Series and parallel circuit conversions • Lumped vs. distributed element representation • Signal transmission/reflection and directional couplers • Key parameters : Gamma, mismatch loss, return loss, SWR • Impedance transformation and matching • Illustrative exercise

Transmission Lines

 • Transmission line types: coaxial, microstrip, stripline, waveguide • Characteristic impedance and electrical length • Input impedance of loaded transmission line

The Smith Chart and Its Applications

 • Polar Gamma vs. Rectangular Z plots • Impedance and Admittance Smith Charts • Normalized Smith Charts • Lumped series/parallel element manipulations • Constant Q circles • Expanded and compressed Smith Charts • Impedance and admittance transformations • Transmission line manipulations • Illustrative examples

Scattering Parameters

 • Review of one-port parameters • Two-port Z-, Y-, and T-parameters • Cascade connections and de-embedding • S-parameters of commonly used two-ports • Generalized S-parameters • Mixed-mode S-parameters • Illustrative examples

This topic explains essential RF measurements that must be made on modern wireless communications equipment. The newest models of the necessary RF test equipment are explained and demonstrated, including vector network analyzers, spectrum analyzers, digitally modulated signal generators and vector signal analyzers.

RF Measurements:Principles & Demonstration

Course 20


This course explains essential RF measurements that must be made on modern wireless communications equipment – mobile/smart phones, wireless LANs, GPS navigation systems, and others. Current models of the essential test instruments will be explained and demonstrated, including vector network analyzers, power meters, spectrum analyzers, digitally modulated signal generators and vector signal analyzers.

All of the measurements will be demonstrated on actual RF wireless components including power amps, LNAs, mixers, upconverters, and filters. These measurements will include traditional tests of power, gain, group delay, S parameters, AM to PM, intermodulation products, harmonics and noise figure. The unique measurements of wireless communications will then be made with PSK and FSK digitally modulated signals including spectral regrowth, constellation diagram distortion, error vector magnitude (EVM), and bit error rate.

Learning objectives

Upon completing the course you will be able to:

  • describe the RF measurements that must be made on modern wireless communication equipment.
  • take proper care of RF cables and connectors in the lab
  • explain why the various measurements must be made.
  • operate the RF test equipment that is used to make these measurements
  • setup and calibrate a Vector Network Analyzer measurement
  • make measurements on power amps, LNA’s, mixers, upconverters and filters
  • make traditional tests of power, gain, group delay, S parameters, AM to PM, intermodulation products, harmonics, and noise figure with CW signals.
  • ensure that distortion products from the instrumentation are not corrupting the measurement results
  • make measurements with PSK and FSK digitally modulated signals of spectral regrowth, constellation diagram distortion and ISI, error vector magnitude, and bit error rate.
  • develop reasonable expectations for measurement uncertainties.

Target Audience

Design and production engineers and technicians interested in improving measurement skills through a practical approach will benefit from this course. The lecture includes a review of wireless communication systems, RF components and the tests that must be made, making this an ideal course for professionals wishing to have a thorough grounding in the knowledge of how wireless systems operate.



Day One

Course Objectives and Course Outline

 • Review of RF principles • Wave parameters – frequency, amplitude, phase • basics of propagation • dB and dBm • Mismatches • Conversion between mismatch expressions – Reflection coefficient, return loss, mismatch loss, SWR • The Smith Chart – an overview • S-parameters

RF Test Equipment – Principles of Operation

 • Cable and connector types/proper care • Signal generators • Power meters and power sensors • Frequency counter • Vector network analyzer • Demonstration: how to setup and calibrate a basic VNA measurement • Vector network analyzer measurements on non-packaged devices

Day Two

 • Spectrum analyzer • Demonstration: how to operate a spectrum analyzer – Resolution Bandwidth, Video Bandwidth, Attenuation, Scaling • Noise figure meter • Vector signal analyzer

Measurement Uncertainties

 • Mismatch uncertainty • VNA – motivation for measurement calibration

RF Communication system block diagram

 • Specifications of components to be tested

Transmitter components
Phase locked oscillator

 • principles of operation • measurement of phase noise – log/video vs. rms averaging on Spectrum Analyzer – Marker noise function


 • Modulation basics • principles of operation • demonstration: measurement of conversion gain using a spectrum analyzer – output spectrum of upconverter

Day Three

Power Amplifier

 • principles of operation • demonstration measurement – swept gain – power sweep/1 dB compression point – AM to PM distortion – phase on the Vector Network Analyzer • Harmonic power using Spectrum Analyzer • checking for distortion products in the test equipment

Receiver Components
Noise and Noise Figure

 • Noise figure measurement • demonstration measurement using Y-factor technique


 • Principles of operation • Demonstration measurement – passband – inband loss – match – group delay on the Vector Network Analyzer

Day Four

Low Noise Amplifiers

 • principles of operation • Noise figure • intermodulation products • demonstration measurement – gain/1dB compression point – output power – phase using power sweep on Vector Network Analyzer • demonstration measurement – S-parameters vs. frequency on the Vector Network Analyzer


 • principles of operation – conversion gain – output power

Intermodulation Products

 • description of intermodulation products • Demonstration: IP3/TOI using a spectrum analyzer • definition of IP2

Overall Receiver Performance

 • Typical overall receiver performance • Calculating system performance

Day Five

Multiple Access Techniques


Performance of RF components with digital signals

 • Block diagram • Digital modulation fundamentals • demonstration measurement – Adjacent Channel Power (ACP) performance vs. power amplifier nonlinearity with different modulation techniques • zero span function on Spectrum Analyzer

Vector Signal Analyzer Modulation Quality Measurements

 • Principles of operation • EVM/Distortion of digital signal due to power amplifier nonlinearity • EVM/Distortion of digital signal due to IF filter group delay • EVM/Distortion due to LO phase noise with mixer • Troubleshooting digital modulation with a Vector Signal Analyzer

Description of Bit Error Rate (BER)

 • RF Communication System Operation

System design involves knowing how the specifications of individual components adds up to deliver the desired performance (i.e. range and battery life) of your end product. A knowledge of signal formats and methods for encoding information onto RF waveforms is also essential.

Radio Systems: RF Transceiver Design from Antenna to Bits and Back

Course 21


Over the past two decades, there has been a significant increase in the complexity of RF technology to meet the growing demand for fixed and mobile communication systems. Moving forward, we expect this trend to continue with emerging cellular and wireless standards employing complex modulation schemes and occupying higher bandwidth while emphasizing stringent spectrum efficiency requirements. These advances call for employing sophisticated design principles at both the circuit and system levels and hence the need for a comprehensive understanding of the radio modem.

This course is intended for design, application and test engineers as well as technicians interested in learning about the system aspect of the radio design space covering the entire signal chain from antenna to bits and back. The aim is to apply intuitive system design methods to dissect the radio modem at RF, analog and digital domains with emphasis on: a) physical understanding of the interaction between components and different radio architectures and b) quantitative performance evaluation using simple hand calculations and simulation. Throughout the course, students will be exposed not only to theoretical analysis but also to concrete examples of radio architectures from existing commercial systems (LTE, WCDMA, GSM, WLAN, Bluetooth, etc.). Emerging technologies of interest to the wireless industry such LTE and 5G will also be elucidated in the context of their impact on radio design. Towards the end of this course, students will perform various exercises using a commercial system design tool to analyze transmitter and receiver end-to-end system metrics such as bit error rate (BER), error vector magnitude (EVM), phase noise, spectrum emission, etc.

Learning objectives

Upon completing the course you will be able to:

  • Gain in-depth understanding of the different block-level specifications and impairments (e.g. noise, P1dB, IIP3, IIP2, gain, bandwidth, phase noise and spurs) and how to relate them to system level performance metrics (e.g. BER, EVM, modulation type, blocker performance, sensitivity and selectivity)
  • Traverse between block level specifications and overall system performance and backwards
  • Analyze and abstract (at block level) the most critical blocks in today’s RF modem (e.g. low noise amplifier, mixer, voltage-controlled oscillator, power amplifier and analog and digital baseband circuits such A/Ds, D/As and filters).
  • Evaluate the impact of different impairments in radio front-ends on performance, including interference, different noise sources, circuit nonlinearity and phase noise.
  • Understand the trade-offs between block-level performance, choice of radio architecture and overall system performance (e.g. power, area and cost) in relation to a given communication standard
  • Learn the major aspects of the digital signal processing chain at both the modulation and demodulation ends
  • Use simple back-of-the-envelope calculations and understanding of path loss and fading to predict RF system’s performance in terms of link budget and link margin.
  • Evaluate thru simulation (at block level) various modem design aspects involving RF, analog and digital impairments.
  • Traverse across legacy wireless standards (e.g. BT, WiFi, GSM,..) and emerging LTE, 5G, MIMO standards and tie back to the impact on radio hardware.
  • Tie between system level performance parameters and test equipment specifications
  • >More…

Target Audience

RF and baseband IC engineers, system architects, test engineers, product engineers and technicians. Technical managers who would like to get exposure to RF system technology



Day One

RF Basics

 • dB units (dB, dBm, dBW, dBV, dBHz, dBK and dBc) • voltage and power gain • transmission line properties (RL and VSWR) • S-parameters • Matching and power transfer • amplifiers and attenuators • cascaded gain

Radio Propagation

 • free space line of sight (LOS) propagation • atmospheric losses • NLOS propagation • multipath and fading • delay spread vs. Doppler spread • path loss calculation


 • antenna types • circuit model • antenna parameters – impedance, efficiency, bandwidth, pattern, beam-width, directivity and gain

Day Two


 • noise sources • noise in passive networks • noise representation in time and frequency domains • noise figure • cascaded noise figure analysis • sensitivity • link budget • combining noise sources • spectrum analyzer • attenuator NF


 • harmonic generation vs. intermodulation • 2nd order distortion – single tone and two tone analyses and filtering • 3rd order distortion – single tone and two tone analyses and filtering • gain compression • receiver desensitization and blocking • calculations – P1dB – IM2 – IM3 – IP3 – Cascaded IIP3 – spurious free dynamic range (SFDR)

Day Three


 • selectivity vs. sensitivity • mixer types • block vs. channelized conversion • the image problem


 • complex vs. real signals • properties of complex signals • frequency • phase and time representation of complex signals • noise types • frequency and time domain representation of AWGN

Day Four


 • channel parameters and capacity limits • constellation diagrams • IQ and polar representation • quadrature modulation • analog modulation types – AM, FM and PM • digital modulation schemes – ASK, OOK,BPSK, QPSK, QAM, BFSK • noise performance • spectrum limitation • digital pulse shaping • ISI • spectrum efficiency • raised and root-raised cosine filtering • Gaussian filter • digital modulation – step-by-step – ADC and DAC limitations

Aerial Access

 • multiple access vs. duplexing • time and frequency duplexing • multiple access techniques – FDMA, TDMA, CDMA • Multi carrier modulation • OFDM • mulit-carrier • carrier aggregation • MIMO systems types • emerging LTE and 5G standards

Day Five

Phase Noise

 • phase noise vs. jitter • phase noise definition • PSD of voltage and phase signals • phase noise measurement techniques • RMS phase error and EVM • Impact of RMS phase error on BER • Impact of far-out phase noise on receivers and transmitters

Transceiver Architectures

 • Heterodyne receiver • image reject filter, image reject receiver, image rejection ratio • Homodyne receiver • quadrature mixing and DC offset • transmitter architectures • transmitter performance parameters (spectrum mask, ACI, EVM)

Transceivers Case Studies

 • cellular radio evolution and frequency bands • transmit and receive impairment case studies

The contents shown are subject to change.