NI looks at Moore’s law and instantaneous bandwidth

Feb. 16, 2015

Ever widening instantaneous bandwidth is a key trend for RF signal-generator and signal-analyzer technology, according to National Instruments. In a section titled “From 1G to 5G” in NI’s Automated Test Outlook 2015, the company notes that RF instrument vendors have moved beyond characteristics such as frequency range, noise floor, and linearity. They have extended instantaneous bandwidth from the 30 kHz on one-way AMPS communication in the 1G era to accommodate the 100-MHz and 160-MHz requirements of LTE and 802.11ac. Ten years from now, the section’s writers report, “…a signal analyzer with no less than 2 GHz of bandwidth will be considered entry-level.”

The authors attribute such performance to advances in Moore’s law as it applies to data converters. In 1975, they report, a 12-bit ADC with a 2-μs settling time could support a sampling rate of approximately 500 kS/s. Today’s 12-bit ADCs achieve 2 GS/s. Such capability will not just drive telecom standards like 5G. Coupled with digital signal processing technologies, data converter advances will drive radar design and development as well.

They quote David Robertson, a vice president at Analog Devices, as saying, “We can see 12-bit ADCs pushing to 10 GS/s over the next two to three years, and 14-bit ADCs pushing to 2.5 GS/s in that same timeframe. Fourteen to 16 bits at 10 GS/s is certainly on the horizon, though we will need to realize some technical breakthroughs to see these converters come to fruition.”

The section authors conclude by writing, “Now that we’re in the middle of a bandwidth revolution, we need to consider how wider bandwidth is going to empower the test techniques of tomorrow.”

For a preview of how that might play out, see “Test to play key role in 5G rollout.”

NI bases the findings in its Automated Test Outlook on internal research (the company invests 16% of its annual revenues on R&D), on strategic relationships with its suppliers, and on input from test engineering advisory councils. I’ll be looking at other topics in the 2015 edition in future posts. The company has also recently released its NI Trend Watch 2015, which I will be looking at as well.

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