The 2014 Mobile World Congress that was held from 24 to 27 February in Barcelona is billed as an industry-defining event but the pace at which the mobile telecommunications industry continues to evolve makes the accurate definition and prediction of trends and especially their timescale for implementation a difficult task. However, having all of the major players under one extensive roof offers the opportunity to take stock, gauge opinions, talk to innovators at the forefront of technology and hopefully be able to see the wood for the 4Gs (or is that 5Gs now?).

Official figures proclaim that more than 85,000 attendees from over 200 countries took advantage of the networking opportunities; product showcases and announcements on offer. For those seeking inspiration and a glimpse into the wide mobile communications market the conferences featured an interesting line-up of speakers from mobile operators, consumer brands, organisations, and industries impacted by the mobile market including advertising, health, entertainment and education.

Keynote speakers included representatives from Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco, Deutsche Telekom, EMC Corporation, Ford Motor Company, NTT Docomo, SingTel, Tele2 Group and

VimpelCom to name a few. And, of course, anyone looking at his Facebook page would have known that Mark Zuckerberg offered his opinions too!

Demonstrating innovation and offering opinions on technology development were more than 1,800 companies who showcased their companies/organisations through exhibition stands and hospitality space across nine halls and outdoor spaces at Fira Gran Via and Fira Montjuïc, with the former being the main focus for technologies in the RF and microwave domain.

As usual the Congress offered an insight as to whether the touted technologies of the previous year are developing at pace, have lost momentum or stalled completely. For sure LTE and its incarnations of LTE-Advanced and TD-LTE have progressed from being a ‘talked about technology’ to fruition. LTE is developing into the global wireless communications standard for delivering mobile broadband data and high-definition voice.

Europe is still rolling out LTE – with full coverage expected by the end of 2014/2015. Significantly too LTE offers public safety features with governmental authorities in the United States adopting the LTE standard for critical communications. In the US, FirstNet is responsible for a dedicated LTE-based network for reliable communications for first and second responders, with LTE Band 14 being utilised.

As numerous new LTE bands are allocated smartphone manufacturers serving the global market are looking to avoid producing several regional variants. For a few years now carrier aggregation has been viewed as a forerunner to enable mobile service providers to combine spectrum and increase data rate throughput by utilizing two or more bands simultaneously. Network operators are starting the deployment of carrier aggregation technology and it is expected that many LTE operators will deploy it, not only to provide higher peak data rates, but also to enable more efficient utilization and combining of available spectrum.

Significantly, at MWC, Huawei and South Korea operator LG Uplus jointly conducted a live on-site demo of what is claimed to be the world’s first three-carrier (3CC) carrier aggregation for LTE-Advanced, which exhibited peak data rates as high as 450 Mbps.

Also at the forefront were front ends, RF front-ends to be precise! Specific innovation is highlighted in the product round-up that follows – look out for Peregrine Semiconductor in particular but, in general, multichip front-end modules epitomise an important trend in RF receiver design – ever-increasing levels of system integration to increase functionality, lower costs and power consumption and reduce product size.

The development and utilisation of envelope tracking is also an area that is continuing to generate interest and debate and provided one of the best anecdotes of the Congress from a developer of ET who had been approached by a representative from a Postal Service wanting so see the machine that could track envelopes!

As always the nature of the Mobile World Congress is to look beyond the present to the future. The development of 5G was on many agendas, with numerous companies, test houses, research establishments and organisations announcing their intent to play a part in the technology’s development. Just like 3G and 4G there is an end goal but at this stage the route the technology will take and how it can effectively be achieved is a matter of debate but that epitomises what MWC is all about.

All of these themes were showcased in the exhibition which also offered an insight into the latest phones, tablets, devices, back-end solutions, technologies, applications, accessories, and more. Companies from across the globe, covering the complete mobile communications spectrum demonstrated their latest innovations. Those particularly active in the RF and microwave sector were the test and measurement, semiconductor and chipset, components, and small cell manufacturers. Read on for a selection of the new products which were showcased.

Test & Measurement

Centre stage for Aeroflex Ltd. was a live demonstration of a system for testing the offload of live data calls between LTE and Wi-Fi. The Wi-Fi offload test system comprised an Aeroflex E500 LTE Capacity Test System, including D500 Real Data Generator, Evolved Packet Core (EPC) for LTE/Wi-Fi, and Wi-Fi STA (station) systems. For the demonstration the company used a small cell LTE eNodeB and commercially available Wi-Fi wireless access point (AP).

In keeping with many at MWC Aeroflex announced that it is actively working on developing technologies toward potential 5G wireless systems, and that it is a founding member of the 5G Innovation Centre (5GIC) program, led by the University of Surrey, UK.

Agilent Technologies showed its newest wireless design and test solutions that address present and future test technology challenges in LTE, LTE-A, and 3GPP, Releases 11 and 12. The new E6640A EXM wireless test set offers breakthrough manufacturing-test scalability in wireless and connectivity technology coverage. It features the performance and capacity to test up to 32 cellular and wireless-connectivity devices in parallel for Category 6 data throughput.

The E7515A UXM wireless test set is a highly integrated signaling test set created for functional and RF design validation in the 4G era and beyond. The UXM delivers a broad range of capabilities that enable testing of the newest wireless device designs, delivering LTE-Advanced Category 6 now and handling increasingly complex test cases in the future.

The company also extended LTE-Advanced measurement capability with its latest X-Series measurement application release. The software provides comprehensive RF conformance testing of LTE-Advanced FDD and TDD transmitters and components to the 3GPP Release 11 specification. It is available for both benchtop and modular products.

Of course, we could not ignore the fact that Agilent Technologies is in the process of spinning off electronic measurement company Keysight Technologies. So, Microwave Journal talked to Agilent, President and Chief Executive Officer, Keysight Technologies Ron Nersesian to find out more. Look out for the online Executive Interview, which will appear later this month (March).

Anite focused on a major multi-link emulation enhancement to its Propsim channel emulator platform, which significantly increases the performance testing capacity of LTE-Advanced multi-mode chipsets, devices and base stations. It is also claimed to enable users to save up to 150 percent in test tools CAPEX compared to investing in multi-box solutions.

Propsim F32 enables comprehensive testing of new LTE-Advanced features such as Carrier Aggregation, ICIC and enhanced Inter Cell Interference Coordination (eICIC) using real-world like scenarios for each user independently. With enhanced emulation capacity, Propsim F32 now supports performance testing of four LTE devices and four LTE base station cells, or up to ten LTE devices connected to two base stations when conducting Carrier Aggregation or handover testing.

Anritsu showcased a selection of its LTE test and monitoring solutions for every aspect of testing from handsets to base stations and networks. The hot topic of Carrier Aggregation was demonstrated using the MD8430A/RTD platform for R&D test (with devices up to 300 Mb/s), the ME7834L and ME7873L certification platforms, and MT8820C One Box Testers.  There was also a demonstration of live broadcast to eMBMS capable terminals using the RTD/ MD8430A R&D test solution.

The MD8475A was shown with live WiFi offload operation, while new RTD based test solutions with the MD8475A platform, developed to address multi-band and multi-RAT test requirements, were also featured. Anritsu demonstrated the latest Release 10 Carrier Aggregation capabilities and unique solutions to shorten test time and increase test capacity on the ME7873L and highlighted the MT8870A Universal Wireless Test Set.

The company showed a number of solutions for base station installation and maintenance designed to troubleshoot problems on-site, reduce ‘no-trouble-found’ issues and improve the performance of wireless networks. The new vehicle-mounted MA2775A and handheld MA2700A Interference Hunting solutions were featured, along with the MW82119A PIM tester.

Narda Safety Test Solutions demonstrated that it has equipped the second generation of its Interference and Direction Analyzer with I/Q analyzer functions. Based on the I/Q data, the device generates high resolution spectrograms, persistence spectrums and time domain displays that were previously only available from high cost laboratory instruments. Radio spectrum interference and impairments can thus be detected and analyzed on the spot.

The new IDA 2 with I/Q analysis functions records the I/Q data in real time at a maximum channel bandwidth of 32 MHz, and saves up to 250,000 I/Q data pairs without compression, i.e. without loss of data. Based on this data, the IDA 2 computes high resolution spectrograms, persistence spectrums or oscilloscope-like displays versus time. Computation is done continuously during the measurement or subsequently from the stored data set. Since the underlying data remains unchanged in the device memory, the user can alter the display parameters such as the frequency or time resolution afterwards and zoom in on details right down to the original resolution offered by the I/Q data.

National Instruments highlighted the NI PXIe-5646R vector signal transceiver with 200 MHz of RF bandwidth for testing the latest wireless standards such as IEEE 802.11ac, 160 MHz WLAN and LTE Advanced. NI vector signal transceivers combine a vector signal analyzer with a vector signal generator and a user-programmable FPGA for real-time signal processing and control.

Built on the NI LabVIEW RIO architecture, the vector signal transceiver combines programming flexibility and the latest RF hardware. The NI PXIe-5646R offers 200 MHz of complex bandwidth via a sample rate of 250 MS/s, which is greater than eight times the data rate for the standard LTE radio frame. This makes the vector signal transceiver suitable for the latest design and test techniques such as digital predistortion and envelope tracking.

Again looking forward to 5G National Instruments and Lund University are collaborating on the development of a test bed capable of prototyping a massive MIMO system. Massive MIMO is a relatively new concept in 5G communications and addresses capacity and energy challenges facing next-generation communication systems. Another academic collaboration is with the University of Edinburgh to develop a test bed to dramatically improve indoor wireless communications capacity.

Rohde & Schwarz showcased the R&S TSME – a new, ultracompact drive test scanner for today's and tomorrow’s wireless communications standards and frequency bands, which measures 151 mm x 47 mm x 93 mm and weighs just 650 g. Thanks to its 350 MHz to 4.4 GHz measurement bandwidth, the R&S TSME covers all bands specified for wireless communications technologies, and can simultaneously measure any combination of technologies in each band. Typical combinations include UMTS and GSM in the 900 MHz band, LTE and GSM in the 1800 MHz band, UMTS in the 2100 MHz band and LTE in the 2600 MHz band..

Rohde & Schwarz will present various setups to demonstrate the new functions of its R&S CMW500 wideband radio communication tester. The future-ready platform covers a wide spectrum of functional tests, from verification to specific certification test plans for network operators. This solution allows smartphone and infrastructure manufacturers to ensure standard-compliant implementation of LTE-WLAN traffic offload.

The R&S CMW500 is said to be the first tester to perform tests with three component carriers in the downlink. It can also test two component carriers in the uplink. The tester delivers the performance required for end-to-end tests on category 6 (Cat6) chipsets and smartphones. Tests are carried out under realistic conditions since downlink carrier aggregation with 2x2 MIMO, including 3GPP fading profiles, can be performed with a single instrument. This makes the R&S CMW500 applicable for development tests, carrier acceptance tests and protocol conformance tests, both for FDD and TDD.

Spirent Communications showcased Quantum, an automated system for measuring and driving improvements to the battery life of mobile devices. It is claimed to be the industry’s first user experience analytics system to automatically execute consumer use cases on a mobile device while performing synchronized power consumption measurements.

This use-case-based approach enables device and component makers to understand the real-world battery life of new products, identify component and design weaknesses and make improvements to power efficiency. Quantum allows thousands of tests to run automatically, ensuring power consumption and battery life measurements are statistically robust, repeatable and highly realistic with respect to real-world performance.

Devices & Components

In this sector the breaking news in the run up to the show was that RF Micro Devices Inc. (RFMD and TriQuint Semiconductor Inc. had announced a definitive merger agreement under which the companies will combine in an all-stock transaction. At the Mobile World Congress the two companies were still operating as separate businesses and both made major announcements (see below).

Imec, in collaboration with Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium, presented what is claimed to be the world’s first 79 GHz radar transmitter implemented in plain digital 28 nm CMOS. With an output power above 10dBm, the transmitter front-end paves the way towards full radar-on-chip solutions for automotive and smart environment applications.

The organisation believes a low power compact radar technology will be key to enable the application of mm-wave sensors in next generation automotive and smart environment applications. Imec’s continuous wave radar transmitter operates in the 79 GHz band. Implemented in 28 nm CMOS, with a supply voltage of 0.9 V, it only consumes 121 mW and is fully compliant with the spectral mask imposed by ETSI. Phase modulation guarantees high resilience against interference and enables code-domain MIMO radar.

Kaelus, a Smiths Microwave business, showcaed new low-PIM certified products They included the latest in tower mounted amplifiers, diplexers, triplexers, and dual band combiners, and a new array of DAS interface Solutions for SISO and MIMO in-building networks.

Nujira Ltd. proudly claimed that it had successfully delivered the full efficiency benefits of envelope tracking in TD-LTE mode for the first time. In test published results Nujira demonstrated that its high bandwidth 20 MHz NCT-L1300 ET modulator chip achieved twice the energy saving for RF power amplifiers operating in TD-LTE mode compared to lower bandwidth ET solutions.

The company also announced the availability of EasyET, a new development toolkit that simplifies the deployment of ET and enables handset designers to achieve maximum RF front end system performance with minimal design effort. It  is a combination of PA characterization tools, reference hardware and a suite of software. By maximizing flexibility, EasyET enables rapid development and performance tuning of multiple region-specific RF front end platform configurations.

Peregrine Semiconductor hosted the first public demonstrations of the UltraCMOS Global 1 power amplifier, which is claimed to be the industry’s first LTE CMOS PA to deliver the performance level of gallium GaAs PAs. It offers the benefit of being integrated onto a single chip with Peregrine’s Global 1 system, the first reconfigurable RF front end (RFFE). Only with an integrated, reconfigurable RFFE can 4G LTE platform providers and OEMs create a single-SKU handset design for global markets. The new device supports over 40 frequency bands and a more than 5,000-fold increase in the number of possible operating states.

The company’s entire UltraCMOS Global 1 system – multimode, multiband (MMMB) power amplifier; post-PA switch; antenna switch; and antenna tuner – is based on Peregrine’s UltraCMOS 10 technology platform. The demonstration illustrated that the UltraCMOS Global 1 PA has the same raw performance as the leading GaAs PAs, as well as a 33 percent efficiency increase over other CMOS PAs. This level of performance is reached without enhancements from envelope tracking or digital predistortion.

Those unable to attend MWC or who just want to see the demonstration again have the opportunity to do so at EDI CON 2014 in Beijing, China (8-10 April) when the company will be launching the UltraCMOS Global 1 to the Chinese/Asian market.

RF Micro Devices Inc. anticipates that growth in 4G RF components will outpace smartphone unit growth, with the increasing adoption of envelope tracking, carrier aggregation, and antenna tuning. Therefore, the company featured its broad portfolio of high-performance RF solutions covering all major air interface standards, including average power tracking and envelope tracking enabled multimode multi-band (MMMB) and discrete PAs, APT and ET PMICs, antenna tuners, impedance tuners, routing switches, LNAs, antenna switch modules (up to 21 throws), switch filter modules, and switch duplexer modules. RFMD is leveraging its deep engineering resources to combine its best-in-class products and technologies into complete RF front end solutions that are tailored to each individual customer application.

Upcoming 4G smartphones will incorporate multiple RFMD ET-capable RF solutions, including MMMB and discrete satellite PAs and ET PMICs. The company estimates its ET-capable RF solutions will support the leading ET-capable LTE devices scheduled to ramp in 2014. As an example, in an upcoming ET-capable flagship Android smartphone, RFMD's content will include its ET MMMB PA (covering bands 1-5, 8, 18 and 26), three ET satellite PAs (for bands 7, 17 and 20), a PA module for TD-LTE (band 41) and 3G/4G antenna diversity switches.

Skyworks Solutions Inc. unveiled its second-generation SkyOne™ platforms, which is a family of fully optimized, scalable devices that integrate all of the high-performance RF and analogue content between the transceiver and antenna into the industry’s smallest footprint. The newest front-end solutions cover more frequency bands, integrate up to seven duplexers, support carrier aggregation and provide standardized inputs for all leading chipsets that are MIPI® RFFE compatible.

SkyOne devices also support standardized inputs to industry leading basebands  and address both transmit and receive switching paths. Skyworks’ carrier aggregation switching solutions, which are compliant to tier-one, carrier-driven specifications, are based on silicon-on-insulator wafer process technologies and available in many different configurations.

The company also unveiled a set of antenna switch solutions supporting LTE, LTE-Advanced and next-generation carrier aggregation architectures. Designed specifically for carrier aggregation, the SKY13530 (dual-pole-ten-throw), SKY13532 (dual-pole-14-throw) and SKY13535 (dual-pole-21-throw) ASM portfolio has independent programmable registers for low band and mid-high band switch banks, allowing for multiple carrier aggregation band combinations.  This flexibility provides rapid regional customization for smartphone and modem manufacturers.  In addition, the low band switch banks are optimized for improved harmonic suppression.

TriQuint Semiconductor Inc. featured several new premium filters for next-generation smartphones and other mobile devices. The number of cellular and Wi-Fi bands packed inside compact high-end smartphones is skyrocketing to support 2G/3G/4G voice and data services, as well as global roaming. Advanced filter technology is required to mitigate the resulting interference issues.

The high-performance filters utilize the company’s advanced acoustic wave filtering technologies to address some of the industry’s toughest LTE interference problems. The new filters reflect the TriQuint hallmark:  providing industry-leading performance in the world’s smallest form factors. They include the industry’s first diplexer for LTE Bands 38 and 40, which is more than 30 percent smaller than discrete solutions.

The company also announced three new multi-mode, multi-band power amplifier modules (MMPAs) that deliver longer battery life for LTE smartphones while simplifying increasingly complex RF design. Building on TriQuint’s highly integrated TRIUMF™ MMPAs, the three new products add more LTE bands to cover more regional markets, as well as support for power-saving envelope tracking and a versatile new MIPI interface.

Small Cells

The Small Cell Forum, the independent industry and operator association that supports small cell deployment worldwide, launched the next step of its Release Program that will help harness the vast potential of the urban small cell market. Release Three: Urban Foundations has been developed to help operators with the rollout of small cells in the important public access arena. It builds on two earlier releases that focused on the established market for residential small cells (Release One) and the growing market for enterprise small cells (Release Two).

Release Three addresses a step change in market evolution: the commercial deployment of small cells in the urban environment. It establishes the business case and market drivers for urban small cells. It also identifies and starts to address many of the technical, economic and operational challenges to successful deployment and the opportunities this market could offer.

ip.access announced a new breed of small cells designed around the concept of ‘Presence’.  The first of its new P-series of Presence Cells, which are based on FSM® small cells solutions, products of Qualcomm Technologies Inc., are designed to unlock a range of new solutions and revenue opportunities.

The company said the new small cells unlock the capture of presence data and support mobile phone location authentication to enable a range of new solutions including retail analytics, mobile finance and mobile promotions. The new Presence Cells are currently compatible with more than two billion 3G handsets with no modifications, no specific applications or user configuration required.   Variants of Presence Cells are under development to operate within LTE networks.

MIMOon GmbH, a leading LTE software vendor for small cells and terminals, and NuRAN Wireless, a leading supplier of mobile and broadband wireless solutions, have cooperated to deliver LTE small cell base stations. NuRAN Wireless is developing an LTE base station which integrates MIMOon’s Physical Layer (mi!SmallCellPHY™), Protocol Stack (mi!SmallCellSTACK™) and advanced scheduler (mi!SmallCellSPECTRUM™) software products, which have been licensed by leading small cell product developers around the globe. MIMOon is said to be the only software vendor to offer complete LTE software from physical layer to protocol stack for both base stations as well as for terminals.

Texas Instruments (TI) and PureWave Networks Inc., announced their collaboration on a first-of-its-kind single-board, end-to-end (ENET to RF) solution platform for enterprise and pico small cell base stations. The Hercules solutions platform utilizes TI's highly-integrated KeyStone™-based  TCI6630K2L System-on-Chip (SoC), combined with TI's analogue front end transceiver, the AFE7500, allowing customers to demonstrate 4G cellular functionality and performance right out of the box. This innovative platform is production optimized with BOM, schematics and layout files available for developers to use as a hardware design reference to speed time to market.

Mobile Backhaul & Networks

DragonWave Inc. has expanded its product portfolio with the introduction of the Harmony Eband, a compact, lightweight radio that operates in the 70 to 80 GHz spectrum with low-energy consumption. The Harmony Eband provides an enhanced option for mobile backhaul markets, providing reach comparable at 23-38 GHz, higher capacity and a lower OPEX expansion solution.  It is suitable for urban and small cell deployments, and comes equipped with multiple ports and a proprietary mechanical design for self-weatherization.  With its integrated switch, it delivers a complete, all-outdoor solution and what is claimed to be the industry’s first uncompressed CPRI transport mode that enables wireless fronthaul.

Kathrein launched the new K-BOW Micro C-RAN system, which bridges the gap between established network architectures and those required to deliver future wireless service provision indoors and over mixed indoor/outdoor sites. K-BOW supports multi-operator, multi-band and multi-standard operation and uses the flexibility of a mobile communications capacity pool to dynamically meet changing demand for data.

K-BOW aggregates data traffic with a centralised RAN platform and transmits multiple combinations of signals to individual radio units (RUs). The solution is remotely-controlled over a network monitoring system so that capacity in any area within the building can be easily increased or decreased. This allows for the creation of self-organising networks (SONs) in buildings, while LTE MIMO can also be directly introduced to offer end user data rates equivalent to those outside of buildings.

The iPASOLINK iX was launched as NEC Corporation’s latest offering in the iPASOLINK All Outdoor Radio series of microwave mobile backhaul products. It is a 6-42 GHz radio communications system that is suitable for mobile telecommunications carriers seeking to rapidly expand network capacity. It offers flexibility and scalability and can support mobile network service providers for rapid network transformation with several optional menus.

Owing to the distinctive inbuilt feature and design, the iPASOLINK iX is applicable to a wide range of deployment scenarios and environments. High power output and high-order modulation also contribute to the freedom in deployment. Depending on the customer’s rollout and network design, these attributes can be easily changed locally or remotely from the network management, during and even after site installations.