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Industry News

2008 Mobile World Congress: Spelling Out the Future

April 16, 2008
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There may have been one less acronym this year as the 3GSM World Congress dropped its familiar 3GSM moniker to become the Mobile World Congress, but there was no lack of technical shorthand. The likes of LTE, WiMAX, MiMo, Dig-RF, HSPA+, etc., not to mention 3GPP and NMDG, jostled for attention at the Fira de Barcelona Conference and Exhibition Centre in February.

The change in title emphasises the fact that the Congress is the world's premier mobile event. This year it again attracted a record number of visitors, numbering more than 55,000 attendees (including all visitors, delegates, participants and staff). The three-day conference, which featured more than 230 chief executives and other high-level speakers from across the world, attracted more than 8,000 delegates.

BIG NAMES & KEY PLAYERS

The conference programme covered a broad range of topics from Long Term Evolution (LTE) to made-for-mobile short films to the environment. The diversity of speakers included Arun Sarin, CEO of Vodafone, actor and filmmaker Robert Redford, Wang Jianzhou, CEO of China Mobile, John Chambers, CEO of Cisco, Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, CEO of Nokia, Black-Eyed-Peas front man will.i.am and film actress and filmmaker Isabella Rossellini.

Because it encompasses the complete development chain of the mobile industry the Congress not only attracts the big personalities but also the key players in the marketplace and their customers. This year the four-day exhibition hosted 1,300 exhibitors across 1,500 stands with approximately 29,000 square metres of exhibition space and 30,000 square metres of hospitality space, illustrating the fact that people come to the show to network and do business.

INNNOVATION IS THE WORD

The eight exhibition halls were hubs of activity and where the acronyms old and new were used to full effect to demonstrate the latest developments in the mobile arena. As well as the buzz words, what were the innovations that caused a real buzz at the 2008 Mobile World Congress? Particularly active in the microwaves and RF arena were the test and measurement, semiconductor and chipset manufacturers.

WiMAX and LTE continue along their development cycles with the former aiming to capitalise on the head start it had while the latter is keeping up the momentum it has generated. There is a general reluctance for manufacturers and developers to openly back one standard over the other. It remains to be seen how long this situation will last but for this year at least the Congress saw key initiatives in both spheres. Read on for a selection of the major new product announcements from some of the leaders in our industry and apologies to those companies that have not been mentioned due to space constraints.

Whatever the technology, the early availability of measurement solutions is vital. Significantly then Agilent Technologies and Anite announced that they have entered into a strategic partnership to deliver industry-leading 3GPP LTE test solutions to wireless R&D engineers designing next-generation mobile communications products. Under the terms of this partnership, the two companies will provide a broad, comprehensive portfolio of solutions that address the entire UE lifecycle from early development through production test.

Keeping with the LTE theme, Agilent has extended its signalling analyzer real-time platform to include LTE and SAE technology. This platform expansion includes three introductions: the J7880A signalling analyzer software platform that enables passive probing and analysis of LTE network interfaces, the J6860A distributed performance manager, which offers a systemized approach in analyzing protocol problems over extended test periods, and the J6804A distributed network analyzer high density (DNA-HD) that provides a leading hardware capture-and-analysis engine with the highest testing performance and the industry’s lowest cost per port.

On the WiMAX front the company announced the addition of a powerful and easy-to-use WiMAX analysis software to its signalling analyzer platform. Using this software and platform, service providers and network equipment manufacturers will be able to accelerate the development and deployment of WiMAX networks. Additionally, the company’s J7910A signalling analyzer WiMAX solution offers a high-performance, client server, multi-user architecture and seamless drill down from statistics and call traces, to messages and decodes. This solution allows full and uniform testing of network and individual call performance across all key interfaces of a Mobile WiMAX network, including R1, R2, R3, R4, R5, R6 and R8 interfaces.

Staying with WiMAX, Anadigics expanded its WiMAX and WiBro (Korea) portfolio with the introduction of the AWM6422 RF power amplifier, which operates in the 2.3 to 2.4 GHz frequency band allocated for broadband mobile wireless services. It is a high performance device claimed to have exceptional linearity and efficiency at high levels of output power. The PA supports the IEEE 802.16e-2005 wireless standard as well as the IEEE 802.16d-2004 and the ETSI EN301-021 standards. Optimized for use in mobile devices, it requires a nominal +3.3 V supply, but also provides enhanced RF performance when used with supply voltages as high as +4.2 V.

In addition to using the company’s patented InGaP-Plus™ Technology, the AWM6422 features: greater than 30 dB of RF gain, low EVM contribution at high output power levels — 2.5 percent EVM at +22 dBm (+3.3 V supply), 4 percent EVM at +23.5 dBm (+3.3 V supply), 2.5 percent EVM at +23.5 dBm (+4.2 V supply) and 4 percent EVM at +25 dBm (+4.2 V supply), an integrated 25 dB attenuator, an integrated output power detector, 50 Ω matched RF Ports for reduced external component count and an RoHS compliant 4.5 mm by 4.5 mm by 1.4 mm surface mount package.

Also, manufacturers of WiMAX femtocell access point equipment can now leverage a reference design from Freescale Semiconductor and Sequans Communications that shrinks form factors, lowers costs and streamlines the development of high performance femtocell base station products. The joint solution is delivered on a 165 mm by 135 mm printed circuit board and enables rapid creation of WiMAX femtocell access point products capable of supporting more than 50 simultaneous users.

It exhibits high performance that results from the integration of Freescale's PowerQUICC& II Pro MPC8313E processor and Sequans' SQN2130 single-chip Mobile WiMAX 802.16e PHY + MAC ASIC, which includes the company's mature, field-tested S3MAX MAC software and delivers MIMO-A and MIMO-B functionality.

The MPC8313E integrates a combination of Gigabit Ethernet (GbE), USB2.0, high speed interconnect and advanced power management technologies to provide an ideal platform for WiMAX femtocell access points. The SQN2130 ASIC for mobile WiMAX base stations is Wave 2 and IEEE® 802.16e-2005 ready, delivering 2X2 MIMO and high throughput. It can support several thousand subscriber stations and its power consumption is below 1.5 W in MIMO mode.

Harris Stratex Networks provides complete network solutions designed for mobile and fixed wireless service providers and private networks. These include microwave radios for access and trunking applications, carrier-grade Ethernet transmission systems, network management software, and turnkey field services.

In Barcelona the company focused on its Eclipse™ Carrier Ethernet over Wireless™ transport that supports side-by-side native transport of both TDM and Carrier Ethernet over the same link. This capability is essential for operators seeking a smooth, cost-effective migration path for existing mobile networks to support next-generation packet-based broadband applications. The Eclipse platform’s Liquid Bandwidth capability allows available capacity to be allocated to either voice or data traffic, purely through software control.

Infineon Technologies showcased its vast portfolio of semiconductor solutions for the mobile market. The company also announced that another tier 1 handset company has selected the SMARTi™UE+, a single chip receive-diversity transceiver IC with a standard DigRF V3.09 interface, for their HSxPA/EDGE products.

The single chip RF significantly improves the signal quality from base station to handset, increasing the effective data throughput and reducing the required network resources. Compared to conventional products with a single receiver, Infineon’s dual receiver (Rx-diversity MIMO) solution compensates various degradation effects (e.g. fading, reflections) of a real network especially in higher HSxPA categories. Furthermore with its architecture, SMARTi UE+ enables phone manufacturers to reduce testing cycles in the production processes by more than a factor of 10.

Mitsubishi Electric Corporation showcased the MGFC47B3538B GaAs FET high-power amplifier for the 3.6 GHz range for WiMAX base stations. The device’s distortions are reduced by 8 dB compared to previous models, which represents a reduction of 83 percent to 1/6th of previously achieved values. Also, the power consumption has been reduced to a third in the 3.5 to 3.8 GHz range at an output power of 37 dB.

The company has achieved this performance by utilizing a newly-designed internally impedance-matched circuit and a FET chip optimized for the 3.6 GHz band operating with a quiescent drain current of just 1.5 A at a gate series resistance of 5 percent. With an error vector magnitude of 2 percent the MGFC47B3538B allows for a very high accuracy of the OFDM. While operating with a drain to source voltage of 12 V the device provides a saturated output power of 50 W and a linear gain of 10 dB.

NXP Semiconductors used the show’s platform to demonstrate the world’s first LTE/HSPA/UMTS/EDGE/GPRS/GSM multi-mode baseband platform that forms the basis of a next-generation Software Defined Radio (SDR) system solution. Powered by the company’s Embedded Vector Processor (EVP), a powerful new Digital Signal Processing core, the solution is capable of achieving data transfer rates of 150 Mbits downlink and 50 Mbits uplink and supports multi-mode capability to cope with evolving mobile standards.

Though the specifications for LTE are being finalized, NXP is able to implement preliminary specifications now and update the multi-mode baseband as the standard evolves. Critical to this approach is the implementation of the highly parallel EVP to provide the computational resources for demanding MIMO and OFDM modem functionality. This software programmable platform will enable OEMs to develop their next-generation products quickly with on-the-fly changes to the core behaviour of the modem during the critical ramp-up phase of the technology, enabling faster time to market and better performance.

RF Micro Devices announced POLARIS® 3 Silver, the newest edition to the POLARIS family of GSM/GPRS/EDGE Total Radio™ RF solutions. It features the company's patent pending MicroShield™ integrated RF shielding, which means that the POLARIS 3 Silver can deliver POLARIS 3 performance without sensitivity to board placement and at a significant reduction in both product volume and profile.

Assembled and tested at the company's recently expanded Beijing, China, facility this latest RF solution leverages RFMD's deep systems-level design expertise and large portfolio of enabling technologies. It features proven large signal polar modulation (LSPM) architecture and includes new, innovative technologies and proprietary circuit technologies that improve total radiated power (TRP) performance.

The significance of the MicroShield Integrated RF Shielding technology is that it can eliminate the need for bulky and costly external shields by integrating RF shielding directly into the RFIC or module. In doing so, it reduces the height and volume requirements for RF sections by up to 25 percent and 50 percent respectively, and provides customers with components that are insensitive to board placement. It also reduces the impact of EMI and RFI by minimizing exposure to external fields and preventing energy leakage into unwanted areas of the host device.

Rohde & Schwarz announced that when used as an LTE protocol tester, the R&S CMW500 covers every phase of UMTS LTE-compliant protocol development. Featuring a frequency range up to 6 GHz and a bandwidth of 40 MHz, the architecture of the R&S CMW500 for LTE can easily handle evolving wireless standards. Benefits include significant cost reductions for the entire development of UMTS LTE wireless devices and a reduction in time to market since hardware and software can be co-developed, tested and fine-tuned simultaneously. Future versions will accommodate complex scenarios including MIMO, multiple radio cells, and inter-RAT functionality as well as higher data rates and a digital I/Q interface

Another significant announcement was that the company has added channel coding and MIMO precoding for up to four transmit antennas to its signal generators for 3GPP LTE (uplink and downlink). Solutions are available for those seeking a unique all-in-one solution for 2x2 MIMO signals and real time fading or simply standard-compliant RF or baseband signal solutions. The new firmware can be installed on the R&S SMU200A, R&S SMATE200A and R&S SMJ100A vector signal generators, as well as into the R&S AMU200A and R&S AFQ100A baseband signal generators.

The company also showcased a signal generator solution for HSPA+. The new software option handles comprehensive physical layer tests on HSPA+ receivers, baseband modules, and RF front ends (including MIMO tests). The option for R&S vector and baseband signal generators covers the physical layer extensions defined for HSPA+, which include higher order modulation (HOM) in the uplink and downlink, continuous packet connectivity (CPC), and MIMO extensions for HSDPA.

Sequoia Communications’ SEQ7400 HEDGE transceiver has been verified to support HSUPA, TD-SCDMA, S-Band and GMR satellite specifications via extensive testing, making it the first true ‘flexible radio’. All of these modes were demonstrated. The SEQ7400 is based on the company’s patented FullSpectra architecture, which uses polar modulation in all modes. The key to the transceiver’s ability to easily support additional modes, like TD-SCDMA, lies in the all-polar transmitter, which uses a single, transmit path for all modes.

The single-path polar architecture for the analogue portion of the radio is claimed to give it the most efficient size and power consumption possible. The company then added a very flexible, all-digital programming interface that is easily modified in software to accommodate additional modes and frequency bands. This combination of analogue and digital approaches provides an optimal trade-off between flexibility and the key handset metrics.

Skyworks Solutions introduced what it claims to be the industry's first front-end module (FEM) for 3.9G wireless applications. The SKY77445 FEM is designed for LTE and evolved UMTS terrestrial radio access network (EUTRAN) applications. The SKY77445 Band VII (2.6 GHz) high integration FEM is a fully matched, 16-pin surface mount module. Small and efficient, the LTE FEM integrates the PA, interstage filter, input and output matching, power detection, and duplexer in a single 4 by 7 by 1.1 mm package.

The FEM provides good Tx attenuation in the Rx band, and operates at a low voltage of 3.3 V with high linearity and efficiency. In addition, the solution meets stringent adjacent channel power radio (ACPR) and EVM requirements as demanded by the LTE/EUTRAN standards. Samples of the SKY77445 FEM are currently available, with volume production scheduled to begin in the first quarter of 2009. The company also showcased its portfolio of Intera™ FEMs and Helios™ radio solutions at the Mobile World Congress.

Tektronix Communications announced the expansion of its 3G network optimization portfolio with the introduction of DT-Synergy, an advanced software application that enables enhanced productivity through improved time-to-resolution during optimization campaigns. For network optimization engineers, the software combines the benefits of drive test with the network intelligence delivered by the company’s advanced protocol analysis solutions.

DT-Synergy enables optimization and troubleshooting engineers to increase their intelligence of potential network problems while removing the burden of unnecessary time and resource consuming tasks. Full visibility of Uu, Iub, Iur and Iu interfaces is achieved through correlation of the Tektronix Network & Service Analyzer (NSA) sessions with drive test log files and network planning data. The call data is plotted on geographical maps while radio measurement parameters are graphically displayed. This allows for concurrent analysis and comparison of uplink and downlink events and measurements.

Triquint Semiconductor unveiled its latest technology including the first two members of its HADRON II PA Module™ family; the TQM7M5012 and TQM7M5005. These second-generation EDGE PAs were designed using the company’s CuFlip™ copper bump technology, which improves RF performance while reducing current consumption to provide longer device battery life. Debuting with a 5mm by 5mm footprint, these quad-band edge PA modules are 50 percent smaller than the previous generation, providing handset manufacturers additional board space to add other rich features.

Also, announced was a new multi-mode system solution using highly integrated modules to support all global standards from 2G GSM/GPRS to the latest multimedia-centric 3G standards, including HSUPA. The four new highly compact modules are aligned with Infineon's SMARTi™ UE transceivers.

READING THE SIGNS

As can be seen, the 2008 Mobile World Congress was a showcase for emerging technologies that demonstrated the speed of innovation impacting on the mobile communications industry. And just like the multitude of acronyms that proliferate in this sector, deciphering the trends that will ultimately dominate is not easy, with competing technologies often being developed side by side. What is clear is that innovation is moving at a pace and it will be interesting to evaluate how it develops over the coming year and what will be the main talking points of the 2008 Mobile World Congress. Until then I shall leave you with a quaint English acronym — TTFN — Ta Ta for Now!

Recent Articles by Richard Mumford, Microwave Journal

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