Roland Steffen, Rohde & Schwarz, Head of Test & Measurement Division
MWJ - What new technologies such as MIMO, LTE or DigRF are impacting the requirements for test equipment and how?
R&S - Compared with existing technologies such as WCDMA or GSM, standards such as LTE and HSPA+ place more stringent requirements on test and measurement equipment, due to more complex modulation methods (64QAM), multi-antenna systems (MIMO – multiple input, multiple output) and expanded layer-1 configuration capabilities. Processes are becoming more complicated in the protocols as well. Test equipment has to meet these requirements. Furthermore, LTE is a new technology, and the specifications are still evolving. A close working relationship between the test equipment vendor, wireless device manufacturers and chipset designers is required to synchronize feature implementation, reference specifications and timely delivery of the test equipment software.
MWJ - How is technology improving the capabilities of test equipment?
R&S -Wireless devices evolve more and more into multistandard platforms. Therefore, wireless device manufacturers need T&M equipment that supports all important cellular and noncellular standards. In general, T&M equipment manufacturers are expected to be able to implement new trends in their products very quickly in order to provide the flexibility customers demand. That’s why a key aspect today is the capability to upgrade T&M products by means of software – when new standards require higher data rates, for instance. Rohde & Schwarz develops test instruments that easily accommodate such changes. There’s no need to buy or develop a new box − just perform a software update.
Since the 1950s, the consumer electronics industry, from radios to mobile phones, has experienced a tenfold increase in the upper frequency limit around every 20 years. Modern digital standards such as WiMAX, LTE and WLAN 802.11n or vehicle distance radar are advancing this development. It won’t be long before the 100 GHz boundary for user applications is exceeded. In anticipation of this trend, test equipment must be prepared to serve customers as they step up to very high frequencies.
MWJ - What’s the importance of speed in test today? Can you give examples of where speed is critical and what sets the standard today?
R&S -Intense price competition forces the manufacturers of wireless equipment to cut costs wherever possible – this includes production costs and test costs. For these users, faster measurement speed is necessary to attain shorter test cycles and the best price for a given performance level. The R&S FSV signal and spectrum analyzer, for example, is designed specifically for speed and design considerations. With up to 500 sweep repetitions in manual operation and up to 1000 in remote operation, the R&S FSV is up to four to five times faster than other currently available signal analyzers. This high sweep rate is important for more than just production applications. Whenever accurate and repeatable power measurements require averaging, or when a certain number of averages is required by a standard specification, this sweep rate will allow development engineers to achieve their results in a much shorter time.
With the R&S Smart Alignment test concept Rohde & Schwarz has developed special approaches to saving time and costs in production: By utilizing this test concept, the R&S CMW500 wideband radio communication tester makes alignment times up to ten times faster than with conventional methods. Plus, the tester is optionally equipped with two channels, which allows parallel measurement of two DUTs using different standards. Since a maximum first pass yield is necessary in order to achieve minimum production costs, high standards were placed on absolute accuracy, repeatability and linearity during the development of the tester.
MWJ - Does the market expect the same or better accuracy and speed for less money? If so, is this being addressed?
R&S -The price pressure on the market is increasing. Therefore manufacturers of wireless devices and related components are faced with a big challenge: Today's technologies are of increasing complexity and require ever higher bandwidths. Yet, development and production time must be shortened and costs must be reduced. Rohde & Schwarz leads the industry by simultaneously satisfying these two opposing requirements. With the R&S FSV or the R&S SMBV vector signal generator, the company offers first-class technology to cost-conscious users.
One-box solutions like the R&S CMW500 wideband radio communication tester perform all tasks that usually require multiple test instruments – cost-efficiently and space-saving. Test equipment with high frequency ranges is ideally prepared to meet future technological challenges. A modular concept allows users to add new standards easily via optional updates, ensures minimum test costs plus high investment safety.