Creating a wireless test platform for industrial and academic research

It’s fascinating to look back at past generations of tech products. My friend R.J. has an early-’70s World-Traveler four-band radio—AM, FM, marine, shortwave—that belonged to his late grandfather. Whenever R.J. visited his grandparents, the radio was his late-night companion, always tuned to KISW, “Seattle’s Best Rock.” A label on the front of the 10x7x3-inch case proclaims its electronic excellence: 15 TRANSISTORS.

Today, there are millions of transistors inside our pocket-sized smartphones. Their complement of radios covers Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, and multiple cellular standards. World travelers can connect, communicate, and rock out—anytime and anywhere.

As designers cram ever-more technology into wireless devices, testing becomes ever-more challenging. Success depends on the ability to test theory, algorithms, and more, against increasingly complex real-world conditions.

Meeting that need was the goal for a team at IRCICA, which is the French acronym for the Research Institute for Software and Hardware Components for Information and Advanced Communication. IRCICA works in partnership with two other entities in France: the University of Lille and the Institute of Electronics, Microelectronics and Nanotechnology (IEMN).

Collectively, they have created a multi-function test bench called the Telecom Platform. It provides a flexible hardware and software environment for real-time testing of prototype telecom systems. This helps ensure system interoperability after deployment within today’s heterogeneous wireless networks.

Rédha Kassi manages the Telecom Platform, assisted by a small team of engineers and technicians. They offer R&D expertise to external laboratories and commercial companies in support of complex experimental designs. Capabilities include design and characterization of analog or digital communication systems.

A key part of the platform is the “open RF test bench.” Its flexible architecture uses FPGA cards and Keysight instruments to emulate the entire RF communication process. The central element is the Keysight PXB baseband generator and channel emulator. A Keysight PSG vector signal generator can be added to provide modulation capabilities, and a PXA signal analyzer can be added when demodulation and analysis are required.  An oscilloscope or a logic analyzer can be included as a debugging tool.

These valuable test assets are fostering collaboration between industry and academia, benefitting both. Manufacturers gain access to cost-effective testing of new designs, reducing time-to-market for new products. Researchers and students can test and evaluate new theories and techniques. The ultimate result will be new telecom technologies that turn today’s devices into quaint reminders of an earlier time.

*Keysight Technologies Inc. was formerly the Agilent Technologies electronic measurement business.

Sponsored Recommendations


To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Electronic Design, create an account today!