Electronic Design

Instrument Advances Help Communications Design

One company's horde of signal sources, enhanced analyzers, power meters, and connectivity test sets splashes down in IMS.

Last month's International Microwave Symposium (IMS), sponsored annually by the Microwave Theory and Techniques Society (MTT-S), unveiled some of the latest and greatest in microwave and radio-frequency (RF) circuit design. MTT-S promotes the advancement of microwave theory and its applications, usually at frequencies from 200 MHz to 1 THz and beyond.

The conference brought out most major players in the field, and of course a parade of products was on display. Agilent Technologies contributed heavily to that parade. Its $3.5 billion R&D investment over the last three years bore fruit at the show with a number of new high-performance test and measurement products. "Our aim is to help customers bring out their products to the market more quickly," says John Stratton, marketing manager for Agilent's wireless system products. "We've tried to add as many leading-edge functions within one instrument, making for easier, faster, and lower-cost measurements."

A standout in this spate of introductions is a new class of instrument that can evaluate the critical performance characteristics of nearly all types of RF and microwave signal sources. The E5052A signal source analyzer replaces a large rack of test equipment, plus it speeds measurement times by a factor of 10. Using an innovative cross-correlation technique, it performs phase-noise measurements from 1 Hz to 40 MHz. Over the span of 1.6 to 26.5 MHz, it takes transient measurements with a frequency resolution of 5 Hz to 7 kHz and a time resolution of 10 ns to 160 ms. Priced at $75,000, it's available now.

Another breakthrough introduction is a one-box test set that measures both wireless local-area network (WLAN) 802.11a/b/g and Bluetooth modules from a single platform. The N4010A wireless connectivity test set supports all chip sets on the market. Priced at $12,000, it can be purchased immediately. With option 102 ($10,000) and option 103 ($13,000), it can verify chip sets that operate in 2.4- and 5-GHz bands, respectively: They will become available next month. Option 101 ($4500, available now) allows for transmitter and receiver measurements as defined in the Bluetooth RF specifications.

Not to be outshone is a vector network analyzer that combines both speed and accuracy for measuring multiport, balanced components such as filters, duplexers, and RF modules. The N5230A PNA-L four-port, 20-GHz network analyzer features low trace noise of 0.005 dB rms at 100-kHz bandwidth and a high dynamic range (up to 120 dB at 2 GHz). With an optional ECal module, it performs full two-, three-, and four-port calibration 10 times faster than mechanical calibration allows. Pricing for the N5230A (with options 240/245) begins at $70,000, and it's currently available.

Another highlight is an RF network analyzer that can measure both vector and scalar mixers. With its frequency-offset mode (FOM) option, the E5070B/71B-008 can calibrate both types of mixers without an external PC for highly accurate measurements. Besides improved accuracy and simplicity, it features high-speed harmonic measurement capabilities. Cost is $5000.

Two more groundbreaking instruments are the P series 8489 N191X power meter and the N192X power sensors, which enable up to 40-GHz, continuous-sampling (100 Msample/s and 30-MHz video bandwidth), backward-compatible and calibration-free measurements. The calibration-free feature is possible thanks to a dc reference source and switching circuits being integrated into the power sensors. The sensors cover the band of 9 kHz to 110 GHz. The N1911A single-channel power meter is priced at $7075, while the N1912A dual-channel unit goes for $9975. The N1921A 18-GHz power sensor costs $3675, and the N1922A 40-GHz power sensor costs $4300. All will be available in September.

In addition, two optional enhancements broaden the bandwidth and analysis capabilities of the E4440A PSA series 10-MHz spectrum analyzer, which is aimed at designers of WLAN, satellite communications, radar systems, and 3G wireless systems. One option (which includes a bandwidth digitizer and built-in software for $29,000) extends bandwidth to 80 MHz. The other option (a digital modulation analysis measurement personality for $8500) combines spectral and digital modulation analysis up to 50 GHz in a single box and provides a simple user interface. Both options are available now.

Finally, performance for the PSG E8257D signal generators now extends to 50 and 67 GHz for analog models, with 12-dBm output power. The vector models feature 32- and 44-GHz ranges, and they can directly modulate I/Q signals with bandwidths from 1 to 44 GHz. A new configuration structure for both generators allows users to specify their requirements, lowering costs. Pricing begins at $52,800 for the E8257 50-GHz analog unit and $120,000 for the E8267D32 vector model. Both are slated for release next month.

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