How to Test an RSL Microwave Antenna

Updated February 21, 2017

Every microwave radio system receives a signal from a distant source. The receive signal level (RSL) depends on several factors, including the distance and power of the transmitter, the size of the transmitter and receiver antennas, the length of the transmission lines to the antennas and whether the antennas are properly aligned. A low RSL indicates a problem in any one of these areas. When aligning a microwave antenna, always look for the strongest RSL. Test the RSL at the input to the receiver to include the losses in all the components in the system.

Disconnect the cable from the antenna to the receiver.

Connect the antenna cable to the power meter. Read the RSL on the power meter.

Compare the RSL to the data on the microwave path calculation sheet. The reading should be within the tolerances specified on the data sheet.


A satellite dish is a type of microwave antenna. For a satellite TV system, hook the dish up to your TV and look for the RSL indicator in the set-up instructions for your system. If the RSL is low, move the antenna left, right, up, down and in a circular motion while monitoring the RSL. Tighten the antenna in place when you find the maximum RSL. A low RSL could also mean low transmit power at the distant end, a misaligned transmit antenna, defective or corroded connections on either antenna cable or an improperly calculated data sheet.

Things You'll Need

  • Power meter
  • Test cords and adaptors suitable for the system
  • Path data sheet for the system
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About the Author

Richard Asmus was a writer and producer of television commercials in Phoenix, Arizona, and now is retired in Peru. After founding a small telecommunications engineering corporation and visiting 37 countries, Asmus studied broadcasting at Arizona State University and earned his Master of Fine Arts at Brooklyn College in New York.