by Rick Nelson
The test applications special report in our November print edition covers recent PXI and bench-top vector network and signal analyzer introductions from Copper Mountain Technologies, LitePoint, Keysight Technologies, National Instruments, and Rohde & Schwarz. Since that article went to press, companies and organizations have been active on a variety of fronts in the RF, microwave, and wireless test area as they introduce new products, contend with regulatory issues, present applications, and chart the course toward 5G.
- Read our special report “PXI competes with boxes at 26.5 GHz.”
Keysight has recently introduced a slew of new products and enhancements for RF/microwave test, including a new signal analyzer as well as a signal generator. And the company made news on the business front by announcing that its separation from Agilent Technologies has been completed. The newly independent company began “regular-way” trading on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) Nov. 3 under the ticker symbol KEYS, with Keysight president and CEO Ron Nersesian ringing the bell to open trading (Figure 1).
Courtesy of Keysight Technologies
- For more, see “Keysight begins trading as independent company.”
Other companies recently making RF/microwave news include Anritsu, Bird Technologies, Cambridge Instruments, Peregrine Semiconductor, Rohde & Schwarz, and Telet, with the last announcing an application for tracking koala bears. And in related news, the University of Oxford is assisting in the construction of the world’s largest radio telescope while Nano-Bio Manufacturing Consortium members are exploiting wireless communications technology to monitor human performance and health. The FCC is charting a path to 5G while contending with regulatory issues, sometimes getting pushback from companies like General Motors, which is aggressively pursuing connected-vehicle technology.
Much of the recent RF/microwave activity is spurred on by telecom operators’ increased adoption of wireless technology for mission-critical applications, according to Frost & Sullivan. This adoption has revved up the global market for dynamic electronic general-purpose test equipment, the firm said. The company’s new research covers time-domain as well as RF/microwave test equipment, but the company noted that the link between cloud networks and devices (mobile phones, tablets, and notebooks) results in more complex devices under test, intensifying the need for RF test equipment.
- For more, see “Wireless technologies stoke RF test equipment demand.”
In product news, Cambridge Instruments, a division of MagiQ Technologies, introduced its QuantumWave 4000 series of PXIe-based RF and microwave sources that provide high-quality CW signals at frequencies up to 12 GHz (Figure 2). The sources offer low size, weight, and power. Delivering high spectral purity with low levels of harmonics and spurious signals in a compact, single-slot 3U PXIe module, the QuantumWave 4000 Series is suited for general-purpose local oscillator (LO), CW, and gigahertz clock applications where low cost, high performance, and small footprint are important, such as in communications, digital, and radar designs.
Courtesy of Cambridge Instruments
- For more, see “Cambridge Instruments offers 12-GHz microwave sources.”
Bird Technologies introduced the Model 7022 Statistical RF power sensor, a thruline RF power-measurement device that provides the statistical analysis capability required to accurately characterize the RF power characteristics of any digitally modulated signal employed in wireless communications systems. The nonperiodic time-domain characteristics of digitally modulated signals make it impossible to accurately characterize them using conventional RF power measurement techniques. Benchtop instruments with statistical measurement capability have been available for some time, but the Bird Model 7022 incorporates them in a thruline USB-connected power sensor suitable for use in any environment from periodic field measurements to installation in base stations.
- For more, see “Bird statistical RF power sensor handles all digital waveforms.”
Keysight Technologies has introduced several RF/microwave test products recently, including the Keysight EEsof EDA 5G Baseband Exploration Library. Providing ready-to-use reference signal-processing intellectual property for 5G technology research, this library increases the productivity for system architects and baseband physical-layer designers.
- For more, see “Keysight introduces 5G Baseband Exploration Library.”
Keysight also has announced the market’s first TRX module with four full-duplex RFIO ports and other firmware enhancements for the E6640A EXM wireless test set. The TRX module allows manufacturers to test up to four connected devices with identical RFIO performance and therefore achieve maximum production throughput.
- For more, see “Keysight offers TRX module and EXM wireless test-set enhancements.”
In addition, the company has announced the U2040 X-Series wide dynamic range power sensors, consisting of four USB models for wireless and radar applications and a dedicated LAN model for satellite testing.
- For more, see “Keysight introduces USB and LAN power sensors.”
Keysight also has introduced a new signal analyzer and signal generator, including what the company calls the new flagship of its X-Series: the N9040B UXA signal analyzer. The UXA delivers 510-MHz analysis and real-time bandwidths and a large display and touch-driven interface to provide wider, deeper views of elusive wideband signals—known or unknown.
- For more, see “Keysight introduces UXA signal analyzer.”
As for signal generators, the company announced the N5193A UXG agile signal generator, an off-the-shelf instrument that enables highly realistic and scalable threat simulations for aerospace/defense applications. The UXG also is a dependable slide-in replacement for the legacy fast-switching LOs often used in large, dedicated simulation systems.
- For more, see “Agile signal generator supports multi-emitter simulations.”
Anritsu has introduced the MW82119B PIM Master, which combines a 40-W, battery-operated PIM analyzer with a 2-MHz to 3-GHz cable and antenna analyzer, eliminating the need to carry multiple instruments to measure the RF performance of a cell site. The MW82119B provides tower and maintenance contractors, network installers, and wireless service providers with a handheld field passive intermodulation (PIM) analyzer with line sweep capability so they can fully certify cell site cable and antenna systems.
- For more, see “Anritsu introduces PIM, line-sweep field analyzer.”
Peregrine Semiconductor expanded its line of RF devices that can serve in test and other applications. The company announced the expansion of its integrated product portfolio from DC to X-band frequencies. The company introduced two new integrated products—a true DC switch and an X-band core chip. Built on Peregrine’s UltraCMOS technology, both products integrate RF, digital, and analog components onto a single chip.
- For more, see “Peregrine Semiconductor goes from DC to X-band.”
In search of 5G
Several initiatives with respect to 5G have been announced over the past month. Keysight announced sponsorship of the B4G MIMO Lab, part of National Taiwan University’s High-Speed Radio Frequency and mmWave Center. Keysight also announced that it has joined the B4G/5G Technology Forum. The lab is one of the projects at the center aiming to develop key components used in Beyond 4G and 5G mobile communication systems.
- For more, see “Keysight supports B4G/5G at National Taiwan University.”
And at the 5G Global Summit, held Oct. 20-21 in Busan, South Korea, Rohde & Schwarz presented a compact test setup for generating and analyzing signals up to 67 GHz. The test setup consists of the R&S SMW200A high-end vector signal generator, a harmonic mixer from subsidiary Radiometer Physics GmbH, and the R&S FSW67 high-end signal and spectrum analyzer. This test setup enables users to evaluate potential new physical air interface technologies for future 5G networks, helping to drive the development of components, antennas, and chipsets for future base stations and wireless devices.
- For more, see “Rohde & Schwarz presents mm-wave 5G test setup.”
The FCC has been contending with 5G issues as well. The organization has issued a Notice of Inquiry regarding the use of spectrum above 24 GHz for 5G mobile broadband communications. According to chairman Tom Wheeler, “This Notice of Inquiry we adopt today explores the possibility of facilitating the use of a huge amount of spectrum that could be used strategically to help meet the growing demand for wireless broadband.” Wheeler acknowledged that it’s long been assumed that technical limitations would preclude the use of such high frequencies for mobile applications, but he added that the suitability of 3 GHz and even 2 GHz as an upper limit had once been debated.
- For more, see “FCC looks beyond 24 GHz for 5G.”
Wheeler also is looking to facilitate the deployment of Distributed Antenna System (DAS) networks and other small-cell systems. He has circulated a draft set of proposals that would simplify the process for small deployments that don’t trigger concerns about environmental protection or historic preservation. His proposals would apply to components that are a fraction of the size of traditional macrocells and could be deployed on utility poles, buildings, or other existing structures.
- For more, see “FCC chairman seeks to speed DAS deployment, looks toward 5G.”
General Motors has expressed some concern about FCC actions. The company has written to the FCC about open Internet rules, specifically that the commission may eliminate distinctions between mobile and fixed broadband Internet access. Mobile broadband network operators will continue to need the regulatory flexibility to support new and emerging services, wrote Henry M. Lightsey III, executive director, Global Connected Consumer, GM. “The connectivity that we are incorporating into our vehicles is a prime example.”
- For more, see “General Motors is skeptical about the open Internet.”
Meanwhile, GM chief executive Mary Barra has taken to the Washington Post op ed page to promote connected-vehicle technology. She writes, “The United States could be on the cusp of a great leap forward in automotive safety. All that’s required is for the auto industry to rally behind the scientists and engineers who have spent the past decade developing a wireless technology called V2X”—including vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure.
- For more, see “GM exec promotes connected vehicles.”
In other RF/microwave news, the University of Oxford, a member of the Low Frequency Aperture Array Consortium, working together with the Square Kilometre Array organization to build the world’s largest radio telescope, has signed the second phase of a study contract with RFEL. This new contract focuses on the design of an FPGA-based signal processing architecture for beam-forming functions in the antenna processing hardware.
- For more, see “University of Oxford signs radio astronomy project contract.”
Telit Wireless Solutions, a provider of machine-to-machine (M2M) modules and services, has released details of an innovative tracking solution for koalas. LX Design House, an Australian IoT and M2M contract electronics design consultancy, has been working with a local conservation program to develop “the ultimate Koala tracking collar” using Telit technology. Koalas are difficult to spot in the wild, where they perch high up in gum trees, their speckled fur camouflaged against the branches.
- For more, see “Telit helps conservationists track koalas.”
At the Nano-Bio Manufacturing Consortium (NBMC) October workshop at Northeastern University, Erik S. Handy of SI2 Technologies said his company, founded is 2003, conducts R&D for RF applications such as antennas that involve size and cost constraints. And Jeffrey Morse of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, described work with GE Global Research and the University of Cincinnati on low-cost noninvasive wearable sensors for monitoring cognition and stress biomarkers in sweat. Sensors that could optimize such applications include a multivariable resonance RF sensor developed by GE and an electrochemical impedance spectroscopy (EIS) sensor developed at the University of Cincinnati.
- For more, see “Sweat the details? Nano-bio consortium gets the details from sweat.”
In related business news, Rohde & Schwarz announced that the volume of incoming orders stabilized at approximately EUR 1.8 billion over the past fiscal year (July 2013 to June 2014). The net revenue of EUR 1.75 billion was on target. At the end of the fiscal year, the company had some 9,800 employees, as compared with 9,300 a year earlier. The business of Rohde & Schwarz is based on four pillars: test and measurement, broadcasting, secure communications, and radiomonitoring and radiolocation.
- For more, see “Rohde & Schwarz stable amid restrained economic conditions.”
Samsung is struggling in the mobile space as it faces competition from Chinese makers of low-cost cellphones and—at the high end—from Apple. The recent release of the iPhone 6 Plus removes Samsung’s uniqueness as a provider of large-screen smartphones. The company is bracing for cost cuts and a potential management shakeup, according to the Wall Street Journal. The company said its third-quarter profit would probably fall as much as 62% from a year earlier.
- For more, see “Samsung faces stiff competition in mobile market.”
And finally, flight attendants want your portable devices put away during takeoff and landing. The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA is claiming that the FAA violated federal regulations when it moved last year to permit use of the devices throughout a flight. An attorney representing the flight attendants said that as a result of the new policy, many fliers have stopped listening to emergency instructions, and that a tablet once became a projectile during turbulence.
- For more, see “Flight attendants want devices stowed during takeoff and landing.” [http://old.evaluationengineering.com/blogs/flight-attendants-want-devices-stowed-during-takeoff-and-landing.php]