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I've had a request from another department involved in telecommunications to revamp elevation data into GTOPO30, DTED or SRTM formats as input into a program called Radio Mobile. They are working on adding infill sites to low signal areas. Radio Mobile looks to be a program with history and a quick peruse of the message archives and tutorial sites shows there is active user community.

The reliance on somewhat dated elevation formats, e.g. they don't seem to have heard of geotiff and do everything in geographic lat/long, got me wondering about the overlap between GIS and radio signal analysis. What communities and/or software systems are there out there approach Radio Propagation Modelling from a GIS point of view? What's your assessment of their GIS "savvyness"?

EDIT: This could also be phrased as, where does someone who knows a something about GIS but nothing about radio signal propagation go to learn more?

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Yes I'm quite aware that people over there looking here are likely to be much more concerned about our radio savvyness ;-) – matt wilkie Sep 8 '11 at 0:14
up vote 3 down vote accepted

I have encountered this while working on broadband communications and mobile telephony for the FCC (in the US). For an introduction to this viewpoint, see Wagen & Risk, Radiowave propagation, building databases, and GIS: anything in common? A radio engineer's viewpoint.

The stuff I have seen ranges from calculations that are so simple they're stupid (create buffers, or use viewshed calculations) to ones that model electromagnetic propagation through the atmosphere around a cluttered environment (hills, trees, buildings, etc.). The sophistication is there, but not all telcos have the knowledge, resources, or even the need to use it.

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Thanks! That's spot-on, "The goal of this paper was to introduce specialists in GIS and geographical databases to the problems of propagation prediction and radio-network planning for cellular radio communications" (Curious, Nitro pdf reader opens the document but only shows the figures, no text. Adobe ReaderX work fine.) – matt wilkie Sep 8 '11 at 21:22

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I think frequency and the condition of the ionosphere will be factors. Signals can bounce off the ionosphere, reducing the impact of terrain. Several years back I looked into interfacing VOACAP with GIS. I see now there is an online version. In higher latitudes, as I recall, the ionosphere is not very predictable.


Also, the Review of HF propagation analysis & prediction programs looks at 54 different application. Notice how each of them seems to have a global map associated with them. From a GIS point of view, if you are siting a HF transmitter, you'd like to know statistically how well you will be received by your target audience, which is how the Voice of America used VOACAP. All the source code I've seen is FORTRAN from the cold war era.

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GIS can be used to evaluate alternative transmitter sites This can be done by generating time of day maps (say, every hour) showing signal strength distribution for each proposed site. This video shows time of day maps. Combine the time of day maps to create a map showing number of hours of where your reception is sufficent for a site. Some areas may only be able to hear you 2 hours a day while other areas 6, and so on. You can then overlay that map with population to determine number of potential listener hours for a site.

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Also, I recently stumbled across SoftWright's Terrain Analysis Package. – Kirk Kuykendall Nov 30 '11 at 15:26

Maybe you want to the also "The Radio Planning Tool for GRASS GIS" - Raplat. Citation: "It is especially designed for radio coverage calculation of GSM/UMTS systems, but can be applied also to other wireless systems in the frequency range 400 MHz – 2.4 GHz (e.g. TETRA, WiFi). Its structure is modular and characterized by high level of flexibility and adaptability."


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could you provide some comment as to why the GRASS tool only works in the 400 MHz – 2.4 GHz range? What happens if it is used above that range? – Darren Cope May 31 '12 at 13:20
This is best asked to the authors of the Addon... – markusN Jun 1 '12 at 6:41

This answer is a little bit off-base but it might help someone.... I tried to tackle this problem a few weeks ago (trying to get cell coverage data), but the questions I kept asking is why?

I found a quicker solution by using the interactive maps that are already provided by cell providers.

Now, I know you want to plan, so you will need custom analysis, but the basemap will still be useful to plug into.

Interesting solution with radio mobile. Going to give it a go.

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+1 This is a creative contribution to the question. – whuber Nov 30 '11 at 16:03

I have been working on using RM to map out the current range of >30 towers in my work area (about 64,000km2) so that in a disaster inhabitants of remote properties can have a clear understanding of what communication pathways are available to them in areas which they can access at that time.

A major part of this process was converting the txt file created by the Cartesian Coordinate plot system of RM to a vector polygon shapefile and dealing with the large datasets (over 1 GB text files per tower and 30million lines) that were created. I am happy to share all the models and python scripts that we created for this, if any of you would like (simply email me a request).

I have attached a summary document of the process used and would really appreciate any feedback from the RM user group - I am a spatial and ecological scientist and so have had to rely heavily on advise from Ian D Brown (G3TVU) for the communication engineering aspects of the work.

Please see/edit/comment on


George Corea GIS Specialist Atherton, QLD, Australia

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Looks like an interesting project. You might get some more feedback if you posted the request for feedback as a standalone question. I'd post it in Geographic Information Systems Meta though as that style of Q doesn't really match the site's structure (though some thoughtful rearranging might alleviate that). The RM segment here is pretty lean too; I found the mailing list of the Radio Mobile group to be high signal to noise, it's probably worth sounding them or similar out. – matt wilkie Jun 11 '12 at 17:23
@mattwilkie -thanks for the input. The original post is on the RM forum in Yahoo. I just posted it here as it "fit" with the question being asked. – GeorgeC Jun 12 '12 at 22:50
oh, well that's great then :) thanks for taking the time to share your work. The project which spawned the question has moved on, but if it comes my way again, as many so-called one-offs do, I'll be taking a closer look at it again. – matt wilkie Jun 13 '12 at 6:06

We have built a simple easy to use RF propagation mapping site with easy web integration for end user sign up and pre-qualification. Roger Coudé has completely overhauled Radio Mobile for this site only with multi-threading in order to make it blazing fast on rendering coverage maps and link paths. It is basically Radio Mobile on steroids. We also have an android app for field techs with augmented realityEUS data displayed on our coverage map, APIs to push end user submissions from your website into your third party billing system or CRM. We have worldwide topo data and have added 22 languages to the site.

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Refrain from Self Promotion as per the guidelines for GIS SE – Mapperz May 12 at 2:51

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