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Snow crunches underfoot as John Davidson goes to work in the cold north of Regina, Saskatchewan.

While restoring his vintage muscle car is a personal hobby, today’s adventure involves hunting in the Canadian province.

For a phone.

Davidson, a seasoned technical assistant for the region’s leading telecommunications provider, SaskTel, has been charged with tracking down an elusive, non-native species of technology, the European-spec DECT phone.

This Digital Enhanced Cordless Technology (DECT) became a standard for cordless home telephones used globally. But a slight variance in frequency range for European-spec DECT phones makes them a menace to Canada’s domestic cellular spectrum.

John Davidson, Signal Hunter, tracking down DECT phones

While the phones work fine, users aren’t aware the 10 MHz of the unlicensed spectrum used by their wireless handsets overlaps with SaskTel’s licensed spectrum.

“Interference shrinks the footprint of a cell site,” says Davidson. “It degrades data speed, and when it shrinks the footprint of the site the phones have to transmit with more power to get back to the site, and that in turn affects more and more phones in the area. It’s a snowball effect on customers.”

The implications are serious, including potentially disrupted access to emergency 911.

And, with more than 614,000 cell service customers to satisfy, and thousands of Europeans moving to the region, often bringing a European-spec DECT phone, SaskTel must sustain the hunt.


For years SaskTel used vehicles equipped with traditional swept tune spectrum analyzers, along with directional antennas.

But DECT phones like to hide. If the phone isn’t transmitting at the time your spectrum analyzer sweeps across that frequency, you wouldn’t know it’s there. And DECT phones change frequencies. “You could zoom in on what you thought was interfering frequency and it could change frequencies.”

The process was time-consuming and complex.

In one event SaskTel was only able to identify an apartment building near a hospital, but not able to pinpoint the exact location of the DECT phones. “So I ended up getting into the apartment building and knocked on every single door,” Davidson recalls.

"Now our field teams can tell by the graphs on the real-time spectrum analyzer that there is DECT interference, get in the truck and basically drive right up to it."

But today, with the Tektronix RSA306B USB-based real-time spectrum analyzer, mobilized with a laptop or tablet and fueled by our SignalVu-PC software, the hunt has become far easier, eliminating delay and frustration. Unlike a traditional swept-tuned spectrum analyzer, an RTSA can see the entire spectrum instantaneously and never misses a signal, even an out-of-spec DECT phone.

Gone too are the days of knocking on apartment doors. “Now our field teams can tell by the graphs on the real-time spectrum analyzer that there is DECT interference, get in the truck and basically drive right up to it.”

Just one more way Tek makes test and measurement, simple.