New Orleans, Louisiana (NOLA) served as the host city for this years’ International CTIA WIRELESS® 2012 from May 8th through the 10th at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. This was the first post-Katrina return to the city that had been home to several past CTIA events and New Orleans welcomed the industry back with open arms, smoking hot music and spectacular dining. The event this year was held almost 6 weeks later than previous years in order to put some distance between the largest dedicated mobile-industry gathering in North America and its European counterpart, Mobile World Congress. I’m pleased to report that NOLA has come roaring back and is ready, willing and able to continue its legacy in hospitality, especially for an event the size of this one.
This year's exhibit space was expanded to accommodate more than 40,000 mobile industry professionals and 366 first time exhibitors. In addition, we've made way for two Retail and Technology zones, 19 International Partners, the 15th Annual Tower Technology Summit and a total of 15 Technology Pavilions. Among these Tech Pavilions, Microwave Journal and its parent company Horizon House organized the RF Zone, M2M Zone and Mobile Backhaul Zone.
Targeting wireless, telecom and broadband technologies as well as the key vertical markets that have entered into wireless, CTIA 2012 offered a glimpse into the future of wireless enterprise technology in key verticals like automotive, energy and health. Interactive exhibits from industry leaders such as AT&T, Verizon, Dell and Accenture, gave attendees a broader vision of how these North American telecoms plan, design, test and deploy their solutions. Top executives from Cellcom, Electronic Arts, MasterCard, Mozilla, Pandora, Spotify and Visa were featured in keynote talks this year, provided a forward-looking perspective on the evolving wireless market.
Other keynote highlights included the four largest U.S. mobile carriers in a roundtable discussion moderated by CNBC’s Jim Cramer and a final day keynote session from former President Bill Clinton, who clearly had a personal relationship with the highest ranking members of the CTIA organization, stemming back to his days as the President during much of the early wireless build-out in the 1990’s.
While the move to a later date and to ever-popular NOLA (yes,) was popular among convention attendees, some exhibitors expressed concern that the show was either still too close to MWC for the introduction of significant new products or that the overall focus was not the best fit for their marketing efforts. Still, I saw some impressive new technologies on the exhibition floor between the RF and the M2M Zones. As a topic that seems to be of growing interest for everyone pursuing LTE network/UE design, deployment and verification, the Two MIMO OTA expert panels organized by Microwave Journal drew respectable crowds for both the live event and online webcast.
Agilent announced the availability of the PXT wireless communications test set for testing voice quality on Voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) 4G phones with the Brüel & Kjær PULSE Audio Analyzer and Head and Torso Simulator (HATS). Transporting voice over a packet-based LTE cellular infrastructure poses challenges that make voice-quality testing essential. The Agilent and Brüel & Kjær solution combines standards-based test methods with real-world base station emulation, RF test and functional test to ensure that VoLTE phones will meet user’s expectations.
Agilent will demonstrate the following test and measurement solutions at the show:
The Agilent E6621A PXT is awireless communications test set that provides real-time LTE network and base station emulation for easy-to-use, real-world integration, validation and application tests. The PXT offers automated InterRAT, battery drain, mobility, data throughput, and parametric testing of devices for operator acceptance and device development. The PXT is the test set for all phases of device development.
The new E5515E hardware platform for the 8960 wireless communications test set provides high data rates, multiple signaling and RF paths, and increased headroom to support today's cutting-edge 3.5G technologies, such as 42-Mbps DC-HSDPA and MIMO. Coupled with the E6621A PXT wireless communications test set, this platform provides powerful 2G-, 3G-, and 3.5G-LTE handover test capability, seamlessly supporting the 4G evolution.
Making one of its first public debuts, Agilent's new line-up of RF signal generators provides enhancements well-suited for cellular and wireless physical-layer test solutions. These state-of-the art RF vector signal generators enable the creation of real-time signals for testing LTE and GNSS, as well as waveform playback for testing cellular and wireless standards such as 802.11ac WLAN and LTE-Advanced.
The Agilent E6607A EXT wireless communications test set offers fast test speed and low capital investment for manufacturers testing multi-format LTE/4G/3G/2G devices. The test set combines fast measurements and flexible sequencer techniques to work in synch with chipset test modes, accelerating calibration and verification of the latest smartphones and other wireless devices.
For field testing, Agilent was showing off their portfolio of portable analyzers, including the 7, 13.6 and 20 GHz handheld spectrum analyzers, as well as the 4 and 6-GHz FieldFox RF analyzers, which offer multiple capabilities, including cable and antenna analysis, spectrum analysis and vector network analysis with QuickCal.
It was a big show for the folks at Anritsu who were displaying analysis solutions for Next Generation Networks (NGN), including test instruments that can be used during development and manufacturing of chipsets and UEs, as well as field solutions for network deployment, installation, and maintenance. Anritsu lays claim to demonstrating the world’s first “full-stack” Carrier Aggregation capability. Other capabilities showcased in Anritsu’s booth included demonstrations on testing LTE Advanced, VoLTE, and Passive Intermodulation (PIM).
Among the demoed products were the MD8430A LTE Network Simulator and Signalion’s SORBAS UE Simulator, which paired together to provide interoperability testing for LTE Advanced Carrier Aggregation. The network simulator makes available two active LTE base stations and four downlink RF transmitters in a single unit. When each active base station is configured with two RFs in a 2x2 MIMO configuration, 150 MB/s downlink throughput is available from each base station, and 300 MB/s downlink throughput is available after aggregation. Although the demonstration shows intra-band Carrier Aggregation in Band 1, both intra- and inter-band aggregation are available with the MD8430A, using either contiguous or non-contiguous carriers.
Anritsu and Radvision also introduced comprehensive VoLTE device test capability through the integration of Anritsu’s Rapid Test Designer (RTD) graphical scripting software and MD8430A LTE Network Simulator with Radvision’s ProLab IMS/VoLTE Testing Suite. Anritsu is demonstrating the new VoLTE device test solution. See the Videos in our CTIA 2012 video gallery for more detail.
Released April 26th, CTIA was most likely the first major public outing for the company’s new EB Propsim F32 radio channel emulator for testing the performance of wireless networks, base stations, terminals and chipsets utilizing multi-antenna and multi-radio technologies. EB Propsim F32 offers 32 RF channels and 128 fading channels specifically for testing complex technologies such as 3G/4G, LTE, LTE-Advanced and beyond. It is a scalable test solution with up to eight times the traditional emulator testing capacity in a single box. This is the first radio channel emulator that can truly test the performance of an entire 4G LTE network in a laboratory. The EB Propsim F32 uses field data to provide a highly accurate lab environment emulation to verify the network or terminals under drive conditions. The user interface steps the test engineer through the set-up, where it then can perform automated test set-ups. Primary customers include the likes of LG Electronics on the mobile device side and China Mobile on the network side. The scalable unit is offered in two platforms, f32 targeting LTE and f8 for WiFi and defense testing.
Rohde & Schwarz
Also in the area of over-the-air (OTA) measurements for networks, Andreas Roessler, Technology Manager for R&S provided an in-booth demo of the company’s latest drive test solution - the R&S®ROMES4, a combination of unique scanners from Rohde & Schwarz and network problem analyzer (NPA) tool that form an all-in-one solution for radio network analysis and optimization. The R&S®ROMES4, software platform for network optimization systems can be combined with other test and measurement equipment such as wireless communications scanners and test mobile phones, providing the necessary information for many essential tasks involved in coverage measurements, interference identification and performance measurements in wireless communications networks, currently supporting GSM/EDGE, WCDMA/HSPA+, WiMAX, LTE, and more. Standard-compliant RF level measurements can be time- and route-triggered over a very wide frequency range (9 kHz to 7 GHz).
Andreas’ went over the theoretical and practical aspects of MIMO OTA challenges during our OTA Signal Challenges and recommendations for LTE RAN panel on Wednesday, May 9th, while his demo is captured on the MWJ CTIA 2012 video coverage.
Spirent had a number of non-product related press releases timed with CTIA much of which was focused in wireless ATE partnering including the announcement that CETECOM a respected industry-leading laboratory for LTE device certification lab will use Spirent’s LTE and CDMA test solutions to expand its operator acceptance testing services. In addition, Gnodal selected Spirent TestCenter HyperMetrics dX to showcase the performance of the GS-Series Family of switches including its latest GS-Series 40G Ethernet switch. The company also announced the launch of Spirent TestCenter OpenFlow, offering protocol emulation along with the ability to benchmark flow scalability and forwarding performance of High Speed Ethernet (HSE) OpenFlow network devices. The solution delivers the required empirical data to determine if OpenFlow network devices and Software Defined Networking (SDN) applications can deliver the business benefits without degrading the user experience.
Fresscale had a number of new products to show off in the RF Zone including the announcement of a pair of new InGaP HBT amplifiers. The two linear power amplifiers based on GaAs MMICs optimized for wireless infrastructure applications were designed to streamline development for 3G and 4G networks and are ideally suited for small cell applications, including Femtocell and Picocell, as well as macro cell base stations, tower mount amplifiers (TMA), remote radio heads (RRH) and repeaters. Both devices are housed in cost-effective, surface mount QFN plastic packages.
Equally impressive was the company’s new reference design for small office/home office (SOHO) base station applications that is partially powered by two advanced gallium arsenide (GaAs) monolithic microwave integrated circuits (MMIC). The comprehensive baseband-to-antenna reference design combines the QorIQ Qonverge BSC9131 base station system-on-chip (SoC) with Freescale RF radio boards, and is a multi-protocol solution that scales across a range of cellular bands to ease developers’ transition from 3G to 4G LTE. Sourcing the base station SoC and RF devices from the same vendor speeds time to market and helps ensure optimal compatibility and integration.
The Freescale GaAs MMIC devices deployed on the radio boards are the MMZ25332B and MMZ09312B amplifiers. Both MMICs provide exceptional linearity and power efficiency and can cover multiple bands, including Band 1/WCDMA and Band 13/LTE. Along with the radio board, the MMICs can be easily tuned to support multiple UMTS frequency bands.
NXP was in full force as a new RF Zone exhibitor, unveiling their new marketing campaign “Unleash RF”. Showing off both LDMOS and GaN products, the company was highlighting pre-distorted LDMOS amplifiers in two-way asymmetric Doherty configurations as well as three-way asymmetric and symmetric Doherty topologies that have been gaining design win momentum in 4G LTE radio base stations. The high power densities and wide operating bandwidths of GaN, are making multi-way Doherty GaN amplifiers particularly attractive to next generation wireless applications, particularly above 2.5 GHz. With operators interested in RAN sharing, Multi-way Doherty pre-distorted GaN RF PAs can also be used in wideband and multiband (100 to 200 MHz), multi-standard, multi-carrier transceivers at lower operating costs, according to the company representatives at the show. The company was touting their digital RF PAs featuring extremely fast (high BW, high slew rate) and extremely linear high voltage pre-drive (1.2 VDD) and driver amps (6 VDD) for the digital RF PA reference design. The company was also talking about future switch-mode PAs that are showing efficiency gains of 10%, low cost and low distortion; something to look for at IMS 2012 in Montreal.
NXP was showcasing the latest generation of their High-Performance RF (HPRF) and Near Field Communication (NFC) solutions with the following products:
First time CTIA exhibitor, SIAE MICROELETTRONICA had a commanding booth in the RF Zone. With claims of being the largest privately-owned Microwave design and manufacturing company in the world, the company executives at CTIA credit SIAE’s ability to compete effectively in the global market in terms ofperformance, pricing and delivery, thanks to their highly skilled resources. This international company is based in Italy and offers products in the areas of point to point microwave radio systems, up to 42 GHz, IP and TDM technologies, 2G/3G/4G mobile backhauling systems, high speed LAN-to-LAN interconnections through microwave or Fibre Optics. SIAE MICROELETTRONICA solution portfolio include, flexible access and ADM multiplexers, cell-site gateways, network switching devices, network management systems. While not so well known in the US, this company is looking to expand into this market and are worth keeping an eye on for future success.