The 2012 Mobile World Congress (MWC), which took place at the Fira de Barcelona Conference and Exhibition Centre between February 27 and March 1, addressed the evolution of the mobile communications industry. An earlier Report outlined the global issues that were raised during the four days. Key technological activity concentrated on addressing the strain on network capacity and the need to increase performance of PAs, batteries etc. Hot topics included carrier aggregation, Voice over LTE (VoLTE) and envelope tracking, just to name a few.

Companies large and small, from across the globe are focused on developing technologies that will shape the future and a number targeted MWC 2012 to make key product announcements. Those particularly active in the RF and microwave sector were the test and measurement, semiconductor and chipset, components, small cell and backhaul equipment manufacturers. Read on for a selection of the new products that were showcased.

Test & Measurement

Aeroflex Limited claims that the TM500 LTE Test Mobile is the first test mobile to emulate LTE Category 5 user equipment, allowing operators to verify the operation of their networks and equipment vendors to prove the performance of their eNodeB (LTE base stations) at the higher data rates that are enabled by Cat5 handsets and terminals.

Cat5 is a classification for LTE UEs that provides enhanced data rates for both UL and DL. Using a 20 MHz bandwidth and FDD under good channel conditions, a data rate of 300 Mbps is available in the downlink, due to the addition of support for 4x4 MIMO. In the uplink the data rate is boosted to 75 Mbps by taking advantage of 64QAM modulation in addition to the earlier QPSK and 16QAM. Cat5 also introduces limited buffer rate matching in the DL, which confines the memory requirements allowing for cost effective handsets.

The TM500 Test Mobile now provides demodulation and decoding of downlink signals transmitted in 4x4 MIMO, and transmission of uplink signals modulated using 64QAM, in support of these higher LTE data rates. It can also be used in stress test cases at an early stage in the development of Cat5, where one or two of the TM500 units are used in an attempt to utilize all the eNodeB resources while other handsets or UE are also required to be served.

Agilent Technologies announced the new E6703H W-CDMA/HSPA lab application that includes support for 42 Mbps DC-HSDPA test modes and IP data connections. The application uses the recently introduced high-performance E5515E 8960 Series 10 wireless communications test set, which delivers sustained, end-to-end IP data throughput at 42 Mbps, flexible and comprehensive RF measurements, and improved hardware capability for future requirements, making it easy and fast to stress wireless devices and verify their performance at full data rates. The E5515E also enables LTE developers to extensively test the performance of their device’s LTE-to-2G/3G handover, when used in conjunction with the Agilent E6621A PXT wireless test set.

The company also announced that Bluetest AB now supports its PXI wireless communications test set. The Bluetest Reverberation Test System (RTS), which uses the Agilent PXT test set to evaluate LTE devices over the air is an accurate and cost-effective reverberation test system used to verify wireless devices and small antennas over the air.

Bluetest enables the user to perform MIMO OTA tests in an isotropic multipath environment and offers measurement options for all cellular standards and many other wireless communication protocols. The Agilent PXT wireless communication test set incorporates flexible base station/network emulation and RF parametric tests into one integrated unit and the PXT hardware is configurable with a number of advanced test and analysis software options.

Exhibition floor demonstrations included: Performing RF and parametric tests to the latest standards for LTE and LTE-Advanced using the company’s LTE & LTE-Advanced signal-generation and analysis tools such as 89600 VSA software, X-Series signal analyzers (including the N9030A PXA and the N9020A MXA), SystemVue and Signal Studio software; the ability to look at up to eight measurement channels for TD-LTE base station RF antenna beamforming with the N7109A multichannel signal analyzer; and addressed the challenges of multi-standard radio per 3GPP Release 9 with the N9083A MSR X-Series measurement application operating on Agilent X-Series signal analyzers, including the N9030A PXA and the N9020A MXA.

The MG3710A signal generator from Anritsu boasts unique new measurement techniques that support the latest wireless transmission standards, enabling RF designers to verify that their products are able to meet the challenges of next generation wireless technology. Features include ‘waveform combining’ to enable an engineer to quickly create more complex signal combinations from libraries of signals, and the dual RF capability that addresses the future needs of Carrier Aggregation and multi-carrier transmissions that are being developed for higher speed data links. The architecture allows for multiple units to be locked together in RF phase and signal clock, enabling the effective and simple implementation of test systems for high order MIMO configurations that are currently in development (e.g. 8x8 MIMO).

The company also announced that it has demonstrated the first laboratory simulation of Single Radio Voice Call Continuity (SRVCC) using its Rapid Test Designer (RTD) protocol development solution. The demonstration showed that a VoLTE call connected with an Anritsu MD8430A LTE signalling tester and RADVISION PROLAB IMS server can be transferred to a circuit switched voice connection with an Anritsu MD8480C WCDMA signalling tester. This capability provides developers of leading edge LTE smartphones with a comprehensive solution for testing voice calls and handovers between LTE and other radio technologies. Another demonstration involved using the current MD8430A platform to make calls with LTE-Advanced (Rel.10) technology and data rates in a multi-vendor test development environment.

Nujira Ltd. launched a new handset RF power amplifier characterisation system, the NCT-T9102, targeted at OEMs, chipset suppliers and PA vendors wishing to measure the performance of Envelope Tracking RF PAs for low power applications. The test system can be used to characterize existing PAs and also to develop future ET-optimized PA devices. OEMs and platform chipset vendors wishing to compare and contrast ET PAs from different vendors can also benefit from the capabilities of the characterization system.

The NCT-T9102 system features a high bandwidth, low impedance dynamic supply modulator with a power supply bandwidth in excess of 60 MHz, incorporating accurate measurement of dynamic PA efficiency. The supplied software provides real time displays of the AM/AM and AM/PM distortions in the amplifier as well as the resultant spectrum and efficiency profile. The hardware includes an IQ modulated transmitter and two complex receivers, covering the 650-2700 MHz frequency range. The system includes a selection of predefined WCDMA and LTE waveforms, as defined by the OpenET Alliance and enables development of the shaping table function which maps RF level to PA supply voltage.

The latest Rohde & Schwarz test solution for LTE is based on the R&S CMW500 wideband radio communication tester with new options, which emulates an LTE network and the R&S UPV audio analyzer that assesses the voice transmission and voice quality of the LTE user equipment according to an objective set of test criteria. The analyzer uses a state-of-the-art perceptual objective listening quality analysis (POLQA) measurement algorithm to perform this task. The solution also tests whether the LTE user equipment can signal a voice call and how it performs under realistic network conditions. The R&S CMW-KAF10 option, which is designed for carrying out conformance tests, is particularly aimed at equipment developers who deal with the relevant R&D scenarios for VoLTE. The company also offers test cases for text messaging (SMS) services over LTE.

In a different sector the company announced that its audio/video test platform is available in two models: the R&S VTE video tester and the R&S VTS compact video tester. Both products come with an MHL test module. MHL allows HD video and audio content, such as available over LTE, to be transmitted from a smartphone or tablet PC to an HD TV. The R&S VTE is a modular, expandable platform for testing video and audio interfaces in development and quality assurance, and features state-of-the-art touch screen operation. It is is an all-round, compact 3 HU, 1/2 19" instrument, while the lower-priced R&S VTS is only 1 HU high for optimum integration into test setups, with applications in production. Both products have a built-in computer, eliminating the need for an external PC.

Another product of note is the R&S TS8980LBS that allows users to be confident that location-based services such as LTE positioning protocol (LPP) work properly during network operation. Manufacturers of mobile wireless devices and components can now perform preconfigured conformance tests such as SUPL2.0 in compliance with the standards defined by GCF and PTCRB. In addition, the R&S TS8980LBS can perform protocol tests and specific network operator test cases that combine data transmission tests and position location, for example.

Spirent Communications announced that the Spirent CS8 Wireless Device Design Tester now offers a configurable IMS implementation to aid in the development of mobile devices and chipsets. Testing with this new functionality enables mobile device designers to bring products to market that deliver IMS-based services such as VoLTE, presence-based instant messaging, video messaging, desktop sharing and new location-based services, faster and with fewer issues. By offering complete flexibility in IMS configuration, the Spirent CS8 allows an engineer to replicate specific network implementations during the design phase, with the advantage that issues can be identified and addressed in the development lab, which in turn has a direct effect on time to market.

The company also focused on the addition of Wi-Fi Offload Gateway testing capability to its Spirent Landslide solution. This solution tests the performance of Wi-Fi Offload Gateways which handle offloading of data from sources such as Over-The-Top video, as well as traditional services such as voice calling and SMS, from a 3G/4G/LTE cellular network to a WiFi network. Capable of emulating thousands of access points and millions of users, as well as mobile applications and the 2G/3G/4G core network, the Wi-Fi offload testing capability on Spirent Landslide supports the testing of authentication, inter/intra Access Point Mobility and cellular-to-Wi-Fi network mobility at scale under real-world conditions.

Spirent has also added a new mobile application performance monitoring capability to its Spirent TestCenter™ Live next-generation service assurance solution. The new capability monitors application performance, from the mobile devices on the Radio Access Network (RAN) through the mobile backhaul into the application server/gateway in the mobile packet core. This allows operators to actively monitor availability and performance metrics including download speeds of web pages, on-line gaming, VoIP, SMS and other applications.

Efficiency and Size Matter for RF Front-end Solutions

Moving away from a one size fits all PAM approach, Skyworks was highlighting front-end modules with 50 percent power added efficiency and a 30 percent smaller footprint for Smartphone baseband platforms. Partnering with leading basedband providers, the company is able to offer modules that are compatible with the world’s first fully integrated LTE modem chipset containing an integrated dual core application processor for smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices. A family of Power amplifier modules (PAMs) based on the newest high efficiency PAs can be combined with Skyworks’ latest 3G and 4G PAs for the highest performance in the smallest footprint for any LTE modem implementation, according to the company. High efficiency is required for networks to reduce current consumption and allow operators to reduce operating costs and their carbon footprint. The performance of each member of this new family of PAMs has been optimized to support specific LTE bands (VIII/XIV, XII/XVII, I,II,IV,V and VII) and offer lower current consumption than the prevailing, multimode, multiband solutions.

RFMD was also highlighting its expanded product portfolio with a focus on RF power management for addressing specific RF requirements of LTE devices related to band count, current consumption, thermal performance and linearity. Once again, the company was featuring their PowerSmart® power platforms, which utilizes RFMD’s proprietary RF Configurable Power Core™ to deliver converged coverage of all cellular communications modulation schemes (2G/3G/4G, up to LTE 64QAM). In addition to the converge solution offered by PowerSmart, RFMD was also featuring ultra-high efficiency 3G/4G power amplifiers, as well as its expanding portfolio of switches and switch-based products for 4G LTE, TD-SCDMA, WCDMA, 2G/EDGE, and WiFi devices.

TriQuint Semiconductor unveiled new TRITIUM Duo™ family for global 3G and 4G smartphones, combining two band-specific PA and duplexers in a single compact module, effectively replacing up to twelve discrete components. In doing so, the company claims to offer the industry's smallest dual-band PA duplexer (PAD) - 2 PAs & 2 Duplexers in a module smaller than a single-band PAD, A quad-band solution (2 TRITIUM Duos) is approximately 50mm2, half the footprint of a comparable discrete solution

The TRITIUM Duo family shares a common 6 x 4.5mm footprint and supports multi-band, multi-mode operations across multiple platforms. The dramatic size reductions should provide space for mobile device designers to include more features or larger batteries in thinner, and lighter form factors. The TRITIUM Duo™ is currently being evaluated by customers for use in next generation smartphones, according to Ralph Quinsey, president and chief executive officer of TriQuint.

The new dual-band TRITIUM Duo implements proprietary TriQuint CuFlip™ technology to replace wire bonds with copper bumps; saving board real estate and improving performance by providing better heat dissipation and eliminating noise-radiating wires. The new TPAD also employs a wafer level packaging (WLP) technique to provide hermetic filter encapsulation for improved performance and a reduced size. In addition, the modules integrate high-performance BAW and SAW duplexer capabilities.

ANADIGICS also introduced a new family of PAD modules also measuring in at 4.5 mm by 6 mm.  Combining the company’s high-efficiency HELP3E power amplifiers and high performance duplexers, with separate RF paths, these new 3G / 4G PAD modules are targeting mobile device manufacturers looking to extend battery-life, while reducing device design and assembly complexity. The company also announced its new multimode multiband power amplifiers (MMPA), a 5 mm by 7.5 mm power amplifiers that provides a single module solution for quad-band GSM/EDGE and dual-band WCDMA/LTE applications as well as a family of small-cell infrastructure power amplifiers to support E-UTRA Band 7.  The two new power amplifiers are optimized for WCDMA, HSPA, and LTE base stations, including picocells, enterprise-class femtocells, and CPE devices.  The AWB7128 PA delivers +24.5 dBm linear output power, which is optimized for ½ Watt applications.  The AWB7228 PA delivers +27 dBm linear output power, which is optimized for ¼ Watt applications. 

Recent development in CMOS RF PAs for the mobile device market was represented at Mobile World Congress by the relatively new start-up Black Sand (with personnel ties to RF Silicon Labs). The company was featuring family of small-cell infrastructure power amplifiers to support E-UTRA Band 7.  The two new power amplifiers are optimized for WCDMA, HSPA, and LTE base stations, including picocells, enterprise-class femtocells, and CPE devices.  The AWB7128 PA delivers +24.5 dBm linear output power, which is optimized for ½ Watt applications.  The AWB7228 PA delivers +27 dBm linear output power, which is optimized for ¼ Watt applications.

Components & Systems

Centre stage for Fujitsu was the MB86L11A 2G/3G/LTE transceiver, a successor to the MB86L12A, which eliminates external LNAs and inter-stage SAW filters from the TX and RX paths of both 3G and LTE. It also adds support for TD-SCDMA bands 34 and 39, while reducing the package size to 6.6 by 6.6 mm. A high-level programming model controls the radio using an open standard digital interface (3G and 4G DigRF/ MIPI), which is compatible with a wide range of industry basebands. Simultaneous support of both 3G and 4G interfaces allows the MB86L11A to be paired with one or two baseband processor ICs as needed.

Building on the short-cycle RF programming method used in Fujitsu’s MB86L01A, the MB86L11A speeds RF subsystem implementations with simplified layer one programming and embedded intelligence. Eight outputs directly drive the power amplifier and eliminate the need for TX inter-stage SAW filters, while the new RF front-end eliminates the need for LNAs and RX inter-stage SAW filters. Nine primary and six secondary inputs support LTE, WCDMA and GSM/EDGE. The receiver also incorporates anti-aliasing filters, digital channel filters, digital gain control and high-dynamic range ADCs.

Nujira Ltdshowcased the NCT-L1100 – the first IC in its Coolteq.L product family of Envelope Tracking power supply modulators for mobile handsets. The NCT-L1100 demonstrates power conversion efficiencies in excess of 80% and supports the maximum 20 MHz channel bandwidth of LTE. The new Coolteq.L chip is compatible with multiple air interface standards, including TDD and FDD LTE.

Nujira’s ISOGAIN™ linearization technology delivers improved ACLR and EVM performance, eliminating antenna load mismatch and providing additional output power from the PA. The NCT-L1100 features the industry-standard OpenET analogue envelope interface, and a MIPI RFFE control interface. Production devices will be available in small footprint WLCSP packages. The NCT-L1100 is currently sampling to lead partners with general availability in Q4 2012.

Sivers Ima showcased its E-Band and V-Band converters that enable customers to design their own Gbps links. The converters have 57-63, 71-76 and 81-86 GHz RF bandwidths, 0.1-8 GHz or 0.1-10 GHz IF bandwidth and are based on a platform concept that makes them easy to customize. Optional are both a synthesizer that is fully computer controlled through a serial 12C interface and a diplexer with very high isolation. As well as being small and lightweight they feature a standard waveguide and SMA. Applications include point-to-point or multipoint radio, multi-Gbps wireless transfer, measurement systems and electronic defence and security systems.

TE Connectivity presented a range of new Distributed Antenna Systems solutions, which are extensions to the company’s InterReach and FlexWave Prism DAS product lines. The solutions included an all-digital integrated DAS and base station, which uses ip.access E16 small cells integrated with TE’s FlexWave Prism, InterReach Spectrum, or InterReach Fusion DAS products to provide a one-stop system for service providers wishing to improve mobile service throughout their networks.

The FlexWave Prism high power DAS high density module (HDM) is a new, backward compatible, RF module that doubles the number of frequencies a FlexWave Prism DAS can support or doubles its output power in a single service slot for new or deployed solutions, while the FlexWave Prism in-building remote unit (IRU) is an in-building high power hybrid fibre coax DAS for indoor 850, 900, 1800 and 2100 MHz applications;

The InterReach Express in-building DAS is a single-band, all-Ethernet in-building DAS for 850, 900, 1800 and 2100 MHz applications in small and medium-sized buildings and the InterReach Fusion in-building DAS 2600 MIMO now supports LTE services and 2x2 MIMO in the 2.6 GHz frequency band.

Small Cells

ip.accessconfirmed plans to build its first integrated LTE and 3G small cell. The company mounted a capability demonstration of the new unit, codenamed the E-100, which will be the first from the company to be based on the QorIQ Qonverge® platform from US chip maker Freescale. The E-100 is a small cell Access Point targeted for use in enterprises and public indoor environments. The device will provide simultaneous 4G and 3G mobile phone signals with data speeds of up to 150 Mbps and 42 Mbps respectively. The product will be ready for entry into customer labs later this year, with field trials expected in Q1 2013.

The E-100 will be integrated into ip.access' nanoConverge end-to-end small cell solution architecture, allowing operators to deploy the E-100 alongside the company's existing 3G and 2G small cells using the same gateways and network management system. Using the E-100, mobile network operators will be able to improve mobile phone service quality and data speeds inside office buildings, shopping malls, hotels and other public indoor areas, while at the same time relieving congestion on the outdoor network.

Mindspeed Technologies Inc. showed over 30 different small cell products from 25 customers. The company featured the latest T22xx and T33xx dual-mode small cell system-on-chip (SoC) products, alongside its Transcede family, as well as Picochip’s 3G portfolio, following the company’s recent acquisition.

A residential HSPA femtocell demonstration involved a commercially-available femtocell integrated with a set top box featuring IPTV functionality. This solution enables femto services, such as the ability to recognize mobile handsets and devices connected to the femtocell while selecting video accordingly, including targeted ad insertion or custom content.

A high-performance enterprise femtocell, integrating Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) for ‘one wire’ simplicity was showcased as part of an enterprise network demonstration, which incorporated Mindspeed's HSPA technology and highlighted a one step connection to a live core network. The company also showed commercial solutions for Frequency Division Duplexing LTE (FDD-LTE) and Time Division Duplexing LTE (TDDLTE) small cell base stations. These included carrier-grade solutions from a number of customers and partners.

Ubiquisys demonstrated smart cells, a new type of small cell. With support from Intel Corporation, the company has developed a new range of communications-tuned modules based on Intel® architecture. When added to a 3G/LTE/WiFi small cell base station, they add great processing power and storage at the edge of the network, opening new opportunities for operators, end users and application developers.

The Ubiquisys® smart cell modules feature the 2nd generation Intel® CoreTM processor CPU family with data plane hardware accelerators. There are variants based on Intel® Core™ processors for public space hotspots and large enterprise, and Intel® AtomTM processor-based variants for SOHO and residential environments. The company is engaging with 3rd party application developers to release the first applications for smart cells. These include: backhaul optimisation, video optimisation, user protection and fast upload. The Ubiquisys smart cell modules will be made available to manufacturing partners in Q2 2012.

Radios & Mobile Backhaul

In recognition that microwave capacity requirements continue to increase unabated, Ceragon Networks Ltd. has added 1024 QAM modulation to its Evolution IP Long-Haul. 1024 QAM is now the most advanced modulation technology for microwave communications and boosts capacity by as much as 25% over the widely implemented 256 QAM.

DragonWaveshowcased its Avenue portfolio, which includes several microcellular solutions ranging from urban-optimized backhaul, to what is claimed to be the industry's first fully-integrated microcellular platform offering multi-beam backhaul and independently-aligned antenna array, Ethernet switching, power supply, battery backup and a slot for a 3G/4G micro base station; all within a single zoning-friendly enclosure that can be mounted on street lamps, traffic light poles, or the sides of buildings.

Avenue’s flexibly accommodates a wide range of 3G or 4G microcellular RAN access units and leverages an integrated backhaul antenna array supporting up to three simultaneous backhaul beam paths using frequencies ranging from 2 GHz to 80 GHz to deliver 1.2 Gbps of aggregate, full-duplex capacity. RAN base stations integrated into the Avenue can be backhauled over distances up to 4 km. The Avenue's ultra-high capacity enables the support of a wide range of network topologies (self-healing rings, constrained meshes, point-to-point/daisy-chaining or multi-point).

Looking to the near future NEC Corporation announced that it will implement 2048 Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (2048QAM) within its iPASOLINK microwave radio systems product family in the second half of 2012. High modulation is the key component in enabling high capacity and eventually delivering 10 Gbps microwave transmission in combination with multiplexing techniques such as XPIC, RTA and MIMO.

Being the first microwave radio systems provider to introduce 2048QAM, the company claims it can deliver up to 40% per-channel capacity increase to its customers, relative to the systems commonly in operation today which employ up to 256QAM. The design also supports a full sequence of Adaptive Modulation in all steps from 2048QAM down to QPSK. This feature allows scalable addition of capacity without compromising the reach and availability of transmission links deployed in the network.

Siklu demonstrated that it has successfully adapted its advanced all-silicon millimetre-wave technology for LTE small cell backhaul operating in the unlicensed 57-66 GHz spectrum. This technology will be leveraged to provide an ultra-low-cost, invisible-footprint backhaul for the expected large-scale deployment of small cells.

Leveraging its disruptive all-silicon radio technology, the company designed and developed the EtherHaul-600, an ultra-small all-outdoor small cell backhaul product that enables rapid deployment anywhere, from street lamps to rooftops. The solution offers extremely low power consumption and plug-and-play installation into an operator's Self Organizing Network (SON). Siklu is now initiating trials of the EtherHaul-600 with leading mobile operators who are formulating their strategies for cost-effective small cells and backhaul deployments. The first commercial offering of the EtherHaul-600 is expected to be available in 2013.

Link to Photo Gallery from the show.

Link to Video Gallery from the show.