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Wireless Test Sets: Keysight Innovations Help the Industry Solve 4G Problems Today and Evolve with Changing Requirements Tomorrow

August 15, 2014

  1. Introduction
  2. R&D: Gaining Clarity at Crucial Handoffs with the UXM
  3. Manufacturing: Solving Today, Evolving Tomorrow with the EXM
  4. Summary
  5. Related Information
Introduction

An incredible amount of technology is packed into every smartphone and tablet. The list is long and getting longer: new and legacy cellular formats, multiple wireless-connectivity links, GPS capabilities, cameras, music players, Web browsers, and on and on.

Putting all this power into the hands of several billion subscribers is overloading the frequency spectrum available within today’s wireless infrastructure. In response, the latest cellular standards include techniques such as multiple-input/multiple-output (MIMO) and carrier aggregation (CA). The goal of these advanced techniques is to help operators squeeze more capacity and higher data rates from their existing frequency spectrum.

Today and going forward, all of this will happen on networks that use Internet Protocol (IP) for packet data transfer—but the same networks must also support voice calls, which are better suited to legacy circuit-switched networks. While operators seek to provide high-quality voice services on their all-IP networks, they also have an opportunity to offer a better overall voice experience with integrated services such as video, chat, file sharing, and more.

Looking upstream to the industry’s product lifecycle, this environment also presents challenges to those who develop and manufacture the latest chipsets and user equipment (UE). Testing becomes more difficult when it comes time to characterize the performance of transmitters and receivers or check the behavior of an assembled device.

Test engineers often turn to a category of instruments known colloquially as “one-box testers” and more formally as “wireless test sets.” These solution-specific instruments simplify the process of checking the performance and behavior of chipsets and UEs. Similar to the devices they test, these instruments are becoming increasingly integrated: many include sources for receiver testing, analyzers for transmitter testing, standards-compliant measurements, and a host of built-in functions to support manual, sequenced and automated testing.

This one-box approach has proven to be more convenient and time-efficient than the chore of patching together individual instruments and perhaps a PC. Because these testers are often easily upgradable, they are also cost-effective over the long run.

For more than 25 years, Keysight has been a leading innovator in this field. Many wireless engineers consider the Keysight 8960 to be the benchmark for flexibility and ease of use. Introduced in 2001, the 8960 family has achieved an industry-leading installed base and continues to play a prominent role in the testing of 2G/3G chipsets and UEs.

Today’s increasingly complex chipsets and UEs require a new generation of instruments designed to meet present needs and provide extensibility to satisfy future requirements. Following in the footsteps of the 8960, Keysight has recently introduced two new additions to our industry-leading family of testers: the E7515A UXM wireless test set, introduced January 2014, and the E6640A EXM wireless test set, introduced November 2013.

This backgrounder describes the relevant attributes of the UXM and EXM in the context of their primary applications, which are R&D and manufacturing, respectively. Both instruments are breaking new ground with flexible, future-ready architectures that are equipped to solve today’s problems and easily evolve to meet future challenges.

R&D: Gaining Clarity at Crucial Handoffs with the UXM

Design and validation are essential stages of the R&D process. At key handoff points, engineers make judgment calls about every design, deciding if a chipset or UE is ready to clear the crucial hurdles imposed by internal specifications, conformance tests and operator requirements. Testing covers areas such as functional behavior and RF performance. Clarity around each decision comes from accumulated insights about standards, technologies, in-house design practices, and more.

Defining an architecture for today and the road ahead
The Keysight E7515A UXM wireless test set is the most highly integrated signaling test set created for functional and RF design validation in the 4G era and beyond. It provides a wealth of capabilities that enable testing of the newest designs, delivering LTE-Advanced category 7 now and handling increasingly complex requirements in the future.

The foundation of these "now and later" capabilities is an extensible architecture that can evolve as technology changes: the UXM includes upgradable processors, multiple expansion slots, and high-speed interconnects. Through its industry-leading combination of two independent 100-MHz RF transceivers, the UXM enables multiple cells, carrier aggregation, MIMO up to 4x2, and integrated fading. The instrument also provides built-in servers for extensive functional test applications. Building on that, the UXM is a future-ready, multi-format-capable platform that will handle the next advances in antenna techniques, component carriers and data rates.

The net effect: the UXM enables test engineers to ensure that LTE/LTE-A devices can sustain maximum category 4/6/7 rates and handle realistic fading and MIMO scenarios. As a result, engineers can wring out every design with integrated fading, flexible receiver testing and trusted transmitter measurements—and the UXM is poised to handle more complex test applications in the future.

Going deeper in functional test
With its wealth of integrated capabilities, the UXM lets engineers dive more deeply into functional testing by emulating a wide range of complex operations. For example, with two independent cells built in, the UXM makes it possible to check LTE handover behavior with just one instrument. Connecting a UXM to a Keysight 8960 wireless test set supports verification of the increasing number of inter-radio access technology (IRAT) handover scenarios. The inclusion of Wireshark-based logging software enables thorough analysis of protocol messaging.

Providing greater confidence in RF testing
The UXM also ensures greater confidence in RF performance with flexible automated testing and industry-proven Keysight X‑Series measurement science. One key area of testing is the full range of 3GPP channel configurations. The UXM provides integrated capabilities and flexible automation software with Keysight's Wireless Test Manager (WTM), making it easy to efficiently step through the full range of 3GPP channel configurations for a device-under-test.

To support the development process from early designs to finished products, the UXM supports signaling and non-signaling (i.e., test mode) operation. This lets engineers focus on characterization of RF performance: the UXM pushes aside the protocol barriers and enables the engineer to “just connect” to the device under test.

Manufacturing: Solving Today, Evolving Tomorrow with the EXM

In the wireless industry, successful manufacturing organizations need tools that help them meet ever-tougher goals and tighter schedules. In addition, access to the best resources will help them deal with the technical, business and operational risks that, when managed carefully, ensure success. When these factors are under control, the organization is able to achieve several key goals: ramping up quickly; achieving and optimizing volume production; minimizing the total cost of test; meeting budget; and reducing wastage.

The measurement challenges generated by today’s multi-format, multi-band devices are difficult—and the key to success is finding test methods that are more efficient and more effective. Within this context, the Keysight E6640A EXM wireless test set builds on the non-signaling and sequencing capabilities of Keysight’s previous test sets. In addition, the EXM provides a new architecture that expands parallel testing and provides the ultimate in scalability to match changing production needs. To support the fastest testing of the newest chipsets, the EXM is in sync with the latest cellular and WLAN chipsets. It delivers the speed, accuracy and port density needed to ramp up rapidly and optimize full-volume manufacturing of a broad range of multi-format devices, including those that use LTE-Advanced carrier aggregation, 802.11ac WLAN MIMO, and more.

Rolling out new or upgraded production lines—quickly and confidently
In the new product introduction (NPI) stage, the EXM provides certainty through chipset compatibility and validated test capabilities that directly control chipset functionality. This includes the fastest, most reliable calibration and verification functions offered in each vendor’s chipset.

The EXM’s broad multi-format, multi-port flexibility handles today’s complex chipsets while allowing easy upgradability for tomorrow’s features. For greater scalability, the EXM can be configured with up to four independent transmit/receive (TRX) channels, each of which is a complete vector signal generator, vector signal analyzer and RF I/O section. To further extend port density, the EXM can be customized to connect up to 32 DUTs through multi-port adapter (MPA) technology.

Creating flexible systems for high-volume manufacturing
The EXM enables manufacturers to easily keep pace with production capability and capacity needs. In addition to its multi-port and multi-format capabilities, the EXM helps maximize throughput and yield with the fastest, most accurate parallel testing of multiple devices in its class. This comes from the ultra-fast data processing and transfers, advanced sequencing, and single-acquisition/multi-measurement (SAMM) capability built into the EXM.

The flexibility of the EXM preserves initial equipment investments by making it easy to evolve with changing production needs. Each unit can be expanded with up to four TRX modules, and these can be upgraded with higher frequency coverage and wider analysis bandwidth.

For maximum reliability and uptime, the EXM has been tested to survive the rigors of the factory floor. When calibration or repair service is needed, Keysight's global presence ensures fast turnaround times. The EXM is designed, built and supported to ensure success in manufacturing.

Summary

The drive for faster data speeds and compelling new services seems likely to continue without end. So does the trend toward ever-denser integration of new capabilities into user devices. To help developers and manufacturers keep pace, Keysight has created two highly integrated wireless test sets—the UXM and EXM—that offer the flexibility and extensibility enabled by modern, modular architectures. Both platforms provide the future-readiness needed to meet present and future requirements, and both offer the investment protection that comes from a platform that is easily reusable and upgradable.

New-generation test hardware offers tremendous benefits, but there’s more to the story. Keysight also offers access to a broader set of resources—application engineers, Manufacturing Test Integration teams, worldwide support, and more—that can help developers and manufacturers handle the unknowns, stay on track and meet their goals for the newest chipsets and UE.

About Keysight Technologies

Keysight is a global electronic measurement technology and market leader helping to transform its customers' measurement experience through innovation in wireless, modular, and software solutions. Keysight provides electronic measurement instruments and systems and related software, software design tools and services used in the design, development, manufacture, installation, deployment and operation of electronic equipment. Information about Keysight is available at www.keysight.com.

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For more information, go to www.keysight.com/find/UXM.

Contacts:

Janet Smith, Americas
+1 970 679 5397
janet_smith@keysight.com
Twitter: @JSmithKeysight

Sarah Calnan, Europe
+44 (118) 927 5101
sarah_calnan@keysight.com

Iris Ng, Asia
+852 31977979
iris-hw_ng@keysight.com