NI has announced the next-generation mmWave vector signal transceiver (VST) to address the test challenges of 5G mmWave RFIC transceivers and power amplifiers. The mmWave VST combines an RF signal generator, RF signal analyzer and integrated switching, with 1 GHz instantaneous bandwidth up to 44 GHz.

Demonstrated at NIWeek 2019, it supports multi-site production test configurations for packaged part and wafer-level testing and in validation test configurations using over-the-air (OTA) measurements.

In addition to being compatible with existing PXI-based characterization systems in the lab, the mmWave VST instrument natively integrates into the NI Semiconductor Test System (STS) for deployment in high volume manufacturing applications. 5G mmWave STS configurations support up to eight mmWave VST instruments with integrated IF capabilities and up to 72 mmWave ports in a tester configuration that is optimized for error vector magnitude (EVM) performance.

The VST features several innovations to address the test requirements of 5G mmWave devices. The new calibrated integrated switching for up to 32 channels enables improved accuracy of beamforming and phased array measurements without additional infrastructure. The modular head design delivers accurate and cost-effective measurements while preserving forward compatibility with future 5G bands. With these innovations, engineers can simultaneously perform measurements at both 5 to 21 and 23 to 44 GHz.

Choosing a tester built on the modular PXI platform helps engineers adopting STS quickly integrate new measurement capabilities, such as for 5G, into test cells more cost-effectively and with less risk of delaying time to market.

NI’s release of the mmWave VST is part of NI’s continued commitment to help customers lower the cost and shorten the time to market of RFIC devices. The mmWave VST complements NI’s modular instrumentation portfolio of more than 600 PXI products, ranging from DC to mmWave, and NI’s measurement software for 2G, 3G, LTE Advanced Pro, 5G NR, Wi-Fi 802.11ax and Bluetooth 5, with support for many languages including LabVIEW and C# .NET.

“In the race to bring 5G technology to market, traditional approaches to RF semiconductor test are struggling to deliver on the flexibility and cost expectations of 5G devices. The mmWave VST is yet another example of NI’s ability to combine our industry-leading platform with deep customer insight to enable customers’ disruptive innovations.” — Eric Starkloff, president and chief operating officer at NI

With chipmakers racing to commercialize 5G mmWave technology, engineers face the daunting challenge of accelerating product schedules combined with new and often unsolved technical requirements. NI’s mmWave test solutions address these challenges in both the R&D lab and the high-volume manufacturing environment. They deliver:

  • Measurement quality to meet rigorous technical requirements.
  • An architecture designed to scale to the specific needs of production test for mmWave ICs.
  • A unified software experience that simplifies measurement and automation.
  • Identical instrumentation in validation and production to simplify correlation efforts and reduce development time.