Explain free space propagation model.
1 Answer

There are two basic ways of transmitting an electro-magnetic (EM) signal, through a guided medium or through an unguided medium. Guided mediums such as coaxial cables and fiber optic cables, are far less hostile toward the information carrying EM signal than the wireless or the unguided medium. It presents challenges and conditions which are unique for this kind of transmissions. A signal, as it travels through the wireless channel, undergoes many kinds of propagation effects such as reflection, diffraction and scattering, due to the presence of buildings, mountains and other such obstructions. Reflection occurs when the EM waves impinge on objects which are much greater than the wavelength of the traveling wave. Diffraction is a phenomena occurring when the wave interacts with a surface having sharp irregularities. Scattering occurs when the medium through the wave is traveling contains objects which are much smaller than the wavelength of the EM wave. These varied phenomena’s lead to large scale and small scale propagation losses. Due to the inherent randomness associated with such channels they are best described with the help of statistical models. Models which predict the mean signal strength for arbitrary transmitter receiver distances are termed as large scale propagation models. These are termed so because they predict the average signal strength for large Tx-Rx separations, typically for hundreds of kilometers.

Free space propagation model, showing the near and far fields

Although EM signals when traveling through wireless channels experience fading effects due to various effects, but in some cases the transmission is with a direct line of sight such as in satellite communication. Free space model predicts that the received power decays as negative square root of the distance. Free space equation is given by:

$P_{r}=\dfrac{P_{t}G_{t}G_{r}\lambda^2}{(4\pi)^2 d^2}$


Pt is the transmitted power,

Pr is the received power,

Gt is the transmitterantenna gain,

Gr is the receiver antenna gain,

D is the Tx-Rx separation and

L is the system loss factor depended upon line attenuation, filters losses and antenna losses and not related to propagation. The gain of the antenna is related to the effective aperture of the antenna which in turn is dependent upon the physical size of theantenna as given below:


The path loss, representing the attenuation suffered by the signal as it travels through the wireless channel is given by the difference of the transmitted and received power in dB and is expressed as:


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