As demand for new usage models with dense cellular deployments for outdoor and public access increase, extensive effort and work are in progress in IEEE on emerging standards and 5G is a key focus area.
Telecom engineers have noticed the evolution of cellular & WLAN technologies and challenges encountered in test and measurement by these new technologies with regard to design, characterization, validation & mass manufacturing.
Girish Baliga, marketing manager — Wireless, Digital & Aerospace Defense test at Keysight Technologies, is presenting some solutions to address these challenges through this article.
From speed of innovation to the cost of test and manufacturing, time-to-market pressures have never been greater. That’s why today it becomes all the more important to overcome barriers to success across the spectrum of communication electronics: from chipsets, to devices, base stations, network infrastructure, cloud computing, and more.
The wireless industry has seen tremendous growth in the last ten years with strong growth still to come. Here are the trends that are pushing that growth forward. Growth is slowing in the high-end smartphone markets in developed countries but the growth for lower cost smartphones is expected to grow at greater than 20 percent. 68 percent of total mobile data traffic will be powered by high-speed 4G by 2019.
The demand for data is still growing and the network operators know that they will not be able to keep up with the demand. The handsets are increasing their processing power which pulls for more data out of the network. More interaction with the network is required for cloud computing, where all the data is stored outside the devices. There are more and more applications that people want to use their devices for.
Telecom industry needs more spectrums, more bandwidth or more reuse of spectrum to increase capacity. There is more densification of the cells in the network with a move to smaller cells where the spectrum can be re-used. Finally, there is more development of new markets with the Internet of Things (IoT). Because of the processing power of the new lower cost chipsets, connecting devices to the network become possible. We will see many more applications / devices being invented for us to make our lives easier.
What is the industry doing to meet the demand for this growth in mobile data capacity?
There can be some other ways to improve wireless data communications including purchasing more frequency spectrum which is not available in most of real world, so we will focus on three major methods.
Networking engineers at telecom operators will make more attempts to enhance existing networks. The 3GPP standards groups continue to focus on enhancing the efficiency of LTE and LTE-Advanced technologies. Enhancing MIMO technology, better interference coordination, multi-point transmission and relays are all examples.
Investment into 5G innovation is growing because the wireless industry in the longer term will not be able to meet the demands in the future.
There are a host of test challenges to working on enhancing LTE and LTE-A technologies. Designers of base stations and devices must stay current with the standards and assure that their devices will work within the networks. Their generated signals for designing must meet the latest standards along with the analysis software. They need to verify how much data is being processed through their devices. They need to work at wider bandwidths and be able to generate and look at multi-carriers.
As LTE-A moves to higher order MIMO. Advanced TD-LTE developers are working with 8-channel beam forming to increase data rates, quality of wireless service and spectrum efficiency. As there is more focus on lowering the cost of smart phones for the emerging markets, there is critical focus on lowering manufacturing test times and costs.
Battery drain continues to be a problem for wireless devices with phones not lasting the day. There are new technologies to help but developers must design it into the devices and then deploy them into manufacturing. Newer testing methodologies should encompass ultimate scalability and port density with broadest multi-format coverage with highest throughput and yield.
Developers of devices are using Envelope Tracking to lower the drain on the battery. What is envelope tracking? In current or past devices, the battery outputs a dc level voltage to run the PA. This is independent of the RF level. Energy is wasted and create heat. So the concept of Envelop tracking is to have the power supply level change as you change the RF power level.
The race is on to demonstrate successful implementations of 5G. Use of reference solutions that combine off-the-shelf hardware with application specific software that encapsulates measurement expertise is the need of the hour for next generation to be first to market.
Business decision makers need to achieve gains in efficiency and profitability through new process innovations. Process technologies like test automation platforms (TAP) play a big role in achieving this objective.