The Radio Frequency Network channel Emulation Simulation Tool (RFnest™) tests wireless communication networks realistically and reliably in a laboratory environment.
Capturing the behavior of a wireless network is a complex problem that involves an understanding of the performance of protocols at different layers, as well as the behavior of the physical hardware. Furthermore, field testing is not easily scalable, controllable, or repeatable. As a result, it is very difficult to evaluate new protocols or solutions for wireless networks.
RFnest™ is a network channel emulator that allows a full mesh of wireless nodes to experience realistic channels effects. Radios and systems tested via RFnest™ experience an RF environmental identical to a field test. RFnest™ is the only channel emulator that supports integration of real radio nodes and virtual (simulated) radio/network nodes where the simulated and the real nodes communicate seamlessly.

Features at a Glance

RFnest™ is a Test and Evaluation (T&E) environment for mobile networks in a laboratory environment, enabling accelerated development, maturation, and fielding of new radios, protocols, and network solutions.

  • RFnest™ supports integration of virtual nodes (with real/emulated operating systems and protocols and software-modeled radios) with real RF devices, with correct wireless interactions, thus allowing for T&E of large scale networks.

  • Field-recorded channel properties can be used to replay a field test, enabling evaluation of new techniques (e.g., protocol improvements) or scenario variations (e.g., different adversarial RF behaviors) in a laboratory environment.

  • Radios with MIMO capabilities are supported by RFnest™ hardware and channel modeling tools.

  • RFnest™ is a modular design where 8-node network emulator modules can be used independently or expanded to build up to a 96-node emulator with full-mesh connectivity.

RFnest™ provides a repeatable and controllable RF environment for a network of wireless nodes in a laboratory setting. It supports the test and evaluation of RF devices in a multipath fading environment with attenuation, Doppler delay, interference, directional antenna support, and other realistic channel effects. RFnest™ is:

Cost-Effective - RFnest™ replaces repeated field testing, allowing the developer to use captured field data as well as scenarios to evaluate the actual functional and performance characteristics of the radios, protocols, and network solutions.

Repeatable - Unlike field testing, RFnest™ allows the user to input and test the exact same scenario over and over again, enabling effective comparisons between radios, protocols, and test configurations.

Realistic - RFnest™ allows real radios to send and receive their RF signals over an emulated channel without any modifications to the radio. The RFnest™ system operates at high fidelity assuring that you can trust the test results.

RFnest™ is the ideal tool for the evaluation and design of complex networks. RFnest’s RF front ends allow real radio nodes to seamlessly integrate with virtual network nodes, with channel properties based on mobility models receiving input from an interactive Graphical User Interface (GUI). RFnest™ can help product development and evaluations for the following scenarios:

Mobile ad hoc Networks (MANET)

MANET is a self-configuring infrastructureless network of mobile devices connected by wireless communication links. Devices within the network are free to move and therefore change links to other devices frequently. RFnest™ provides a realistic test environment to assess MANET connectivity and quality of service.

Tactical Data Links

Military communications rely on Tactical Data Links (TDL) with standards such as Link-16. Military aircraft, ships, and ground forces exchange a wide range of data with secure and jam-resistant connectivity over long distances. RFnest™ provides an emulation environment to analyze Tactical networks.

Satellite Communications

Satellites are in motion relative to the ground, therefore path loss, delay, and other phenomena affect communication performance. RFnest™ emulates long delays and Doppler shift behaviors typically experienced in ground-to-satellite communications.

RFnest™ is the only channel emulator that supports integration of real radio nodes and virtual (simulated) radio/network nodes with the simulated and the real nodes communicating seamlessly.

Research and Development

RFnest™ is an essential tool for the development of new wireless network technologies that are at the test and evaluation phase. RFnest™ provides a realistic propagation environment without the need for a lengthy frequency allocation process. RFnest™ is the ideal tool for the testing of emerging technologies such as cognitive/software-defined radios which are otherwise difficult to test due to regulatory issues. Network Design and Realistic Evaluation Protocols can be tested on real devices with real software and radios. Environmental effects (including antenna directionality) experienced by transmitted RF signals are emulated, allowing high fidelity T&E in a lab environment, thus reducing development cost and time.

Wireless Network Design

RFnest™ is a tool designed to simplify wireless network testing. RFnest™ provides a repeatable and controllable environment where up to 96 radio nodes (with arbitrary mobility) are connected. To measure the performance of a network design, radios are connected to RFnest.™ Channel models are configured according to the desired environment. The mobility of nodes are set up using the GUI. The scenario and performance are recorded by the RFnest™ software. Network designers can use this tool to determine the required numbers and locations of access points based on the number of nodes and the throughput goals.

Airborne Networks

RFnest™ facilitates the test and validation of mobile airborne networks that are traditionally difficult to model and very costly to develop. RFnest™ supports the creation of environments containing the complex RF interactions present in the airborne environment for assessment before actual flight testing is conducted. Test scenarios can be recorded, reproduced for debugging, and rendered in advance of flight tests in a realistic network environment. The RFview™ data display and visualization tools provide the user with a reliable and repeatable assessment of the communications protocols and network performance.

  RFnest Analog A208 RFnest Digital D500
RF inputs/outputs


Avail. configurations
8, 12, 24, 48, 96 nodes
Number of channels 28 28, 66, 276,552,1104
RF configurations SISO, SIMO, MISO,
Max nodes in a
full mesh topology
8 96
MIMO configurations 2x2, 4x2, 4x4
uni or bi-directional
2x2, 4x2, 4x4,
(8x2, 8x4, 8x8 upgradable)
Frequency band 0 - 1 GHz, 1.2-1.9 GHz, 1.8-2.8 GHz,
2.7 - 3 GHz, 3.4 - 4 GHz,
3.4 - 4 GHz
20 MHz to 3 GHz
3 GHz to 6 GHz
Maximum bandwidth Any 250 MHz (each 12x12 mesh)
25 MHz (each 24x24 mesh)
Calibrated Dynamic range for 2.4 GHz Greater than 30 dB
(1 dB resolution)
60 dB
(0.5 dB resolution)
Input power < 10 dBm -40 dBm to -20 dBm
RF output level Typically -30 dB to -67 dB for 0 dBm input signal -20 dBm to -130 dBm
RF output accuracy 2 dB 2 dB
Maximum multipath taps per channel N/A Up to 20
Maximum propagation delay N/A Up to 2s
Doppler shift (for each path) None 200 KHz
Internal interference generators None Customizable via provided API's
Physical dimensions Height: 3.5”
Width: 16.63“
Depth: 8.0”
6U (up to 20 nodes)
16U (24 to 48 nodes)
31U (96 nodes)
Standards-Based Models - LTE, WiMAX, UMTS,
Fading profiles: Frequency selective - Rayleigh, Rician, pure Doppler, Frequency shift, phase shift, log-normal  
Fading profiles: Frequency flat fading - Rayleigh,
Rician, log-normal
Custom multipath profiles  
Virtual node support
Live RF interference
Digitally injected interference  
Integration with EMANE and CORE
Scripted node movement
Scenario record and playback
Built-in signal validation and FFT display  
Integrated logging of scenario and performance
Integrated display of network scenario,
performance graphs, link status/quality,
and routing behaviors
Display and analysis of Tx/Rx state of all nodes over time at usec-level granularity for Link/PHY layer debugging  
Display/dump of sampled signals  
Tunable frequency band  
Support for internal clock  

*Specifications subject to change without notice.

RFview™ software is a complete tool set with an interactive user interface that supports the following capabilities:

  • Allows integrated control and monitoring of all levels of network performance.
  • Interfaces with third-party network emulation software including EMANE* and CORE.**
  • Controls interactions between virtual and real nodes. Interacts with RFnest™ hardware to set parameters such as channel impulse response and frequency band.
  • Receives recorded RF signals, and replays arbitrary or recorded RF signals.
  • Interfaces with third party channel modeling tools for specific channels of interest.
  • Records scenarios, performance, and observed RF data for replay and post-test analysis.

A user-friendly Graphical User Interface (GUI) in RFview™ is used to set up test scenarios of interest. The process can be summarized in the following steps:

Step 1: The RFview™ tool supports the creation of dynamic multipath scenarios with real and virtual radios. An API allows the user to import specific channel modeling tools or recorded field test data.
Step 2: Define the test setup and connect radios. The editor tool can be used to configure up to 96 nodes. Channel characteristics and other features can then be set independently for each channel.
Step 3: Run the model in RFnest.™ RFnest™ provides accurate, repeatable results that can be recorded, replayed, and evaluated to quantify system performance.

*Extendable Mobile Ad-hoc Network Emulator (EMANE) **The Common Open Research Emulator (CORE)

RFnest Overview

Creating a Scenario

Importing a Scenario

Exporting a Scenario

Running a Scenario

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“RFnest™ is a key technology that provides high fidelity emulation capabilities supporting our efforts to bridge the theory-practice gap in wireless networks. Enabled with repeatable, controllable, and scalable experimentation functionalities, RFnest™ is ideally suited for a range of applications, including theory validation, fast algorithm design, system implementation and testing with real wireless radios.”

Dr. Mung Chiang, Arthur LeGrand Doty Professor of Electrical Engineering, Princeton University

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