It's all About Data Rates
How electronic test and measurement accelerates the success of communications

June 6, 2013

  1. Introduction
  2. Key Products
  3. Summary
  4. Related Information

Last year, for the first time, smartphone shipments outnumbered PC shipments. What's more, people bought three times as many tablets as the year before.

Users of these mobile devices download a billion apps each month. Apps for music and movies. Apps for searching, buying, selling and trading. Apps for home security and energy efficiency. You name it, there's an app for that.

Simply put, there's a lot of data flying through the air at any given moment. The challenge is making sure it all gets where it needs to be without delay, and that's where Keysight plays a critical role.

"There's a reason Keysight is No. 1 in the communications market for test," says Jan Whitacre, marketing lead for Keysight's communications industry program.

She notes that smartphone and tablet makers–not to mention chipset developers and network operators–depend on design and test from Keysight to help them design, prototype, test, build, install and maintain their products.

How hard can it be?

"Picture multiple users on the same busy street corner all accessing different data streams at the same time," Jan says. "The wireless spectrum that carries all the data is limited, so the overall delivery rate will slow to a crawl, and some users may find it hard to connect at all."

That's why service providers have been making huge investments–adding base stations with more and more antennas, adding many small cells and upgrading to new technologies–to improve the speed and quality of their wireless networks.

Meanwhile, demand just keeps growing.

How can Keysight help?

Because Keysight engineers actively participate in numerous standards bodies, the company can accelerate the design and testing of new communication technologies and intelligent networks.

"If you look at the new technologies that are coming out," Jan says, "they're all about increasing data rates–and getting to market first with these advances is what wins business."

The three key approaches to improving speed and quality:

  1. Enhance existing wireless capabilities with upgrades to current technologies
  2. Move to faster and more spectrum-efficient wireless technologies such as LTE, LTE-Advanced and WLAN 802.11ac and 802.11ad
  3. Offload wireless data traffic via Wi-Fi hotspots and small cells
  4. Use MIMO technologies

Agilent supplies the products that help communications companies design and test these increasingly complex technologies. In fact, from concept to consumer, no other company delivers a complete, integrated environment with simulation, characterization and evaluation tools.

"We have the broadest product range of anybody" Jan says. "The benefit is all our systems work together. From design to manufacturing to compliance testing, we give greater insight into what's really happening when you use our products to test your products."

In short, Keysight solutions are more accurate and feature-rich than other offerings.

"For example, our 89600 VSA software gives you a more detailed analysis of the data and lets you see more test results simultaneously, in color."

Key Products

How many solutions does Keysight offer?

"All of Keysight's major product categories touch on wireless" Jan says. "Oscilloscopes, logic analyzers, signal generators, signal analyzers, wireless test sets, handhelds, power supplies, modular instruments, design software. I can't think of what wouldn't touch on it."

Take oscilloscopes, for example. In communications, an R&D engineer may use an oscilloscope to test device compliance to a specific industry standard. Makers of integrated circuits and computer chips that go into mobile phones and other devices use high-speed real-time oscilloscopes in R&D to validate and debug new semiconductors produced with their latest fabrication processes. Who makes the world's best real-time oscilloscopes? Agilent.

Or consider signal analyzers and signal sources. Manufacturing engineers producing new communication systems need to ensure that cellular base stations and handsets provide distortion-free transmission and reception over multiple channels–while avoiding interference with adjacent transmitters. "Keysight's X-Series signal analyzers are used to perform the necessary tests to ensure crystal-clear communication," Jan says.

For wireless devices such as smartphones or tablets, one-box testers measure performance characteristics at the chip, module or device level prior to deployment in a real network. These testers offer wireless developers realistic network-simulation and software-verification tools–including Internet connectivity with real data-traffic flows–in order to characterize and validate a design or device before it goes into production.

"Picture a teenager sending multiple text messages while surfing the mobile Web during a phone call," Jan says. "Simulating a scenario like that can determine a device's ability to simultaneously handle extended amounts of data and voice traffic … switch between 2G, 3G and 4G networks … manage smartphone apps … and maintain battery life. Keysight's one-box testers provide comprehensive solutions to these functional test challenges."

General-purpose instruments–power supplies, voltmeters, multimeters, low-frequency sources–are found in almost every type of electronics laboratory because they are foundational, providing voltage and current, measuring voltage or current, or producing time-varying signals.

Power supplies, for example, generate the precise voltage and current levels needed to drive electrical circuitry and understand the effects of power variations on a circuit.

"One common use is mimicking a mobile phone battery," Jan says. "In fact, manufacturers use a number of Keysight's general-purpose instruments to test battery characteristics and ensure that the phones and tablets we carry are designed to optimize battery life."

Adding to Keysight's line-up are its modular products, allowing customers the flexibility to choose the solution that they need.

Agilent is also a leader in electronic design automation, or EDA. Customers use our SystemVue software to design, simulate and optimize the performance of electronic circuits on a chip or printed circuit board.

"With SystemVue, engineers accelerate the design and validation of communication products before building the first prototype, often achieving first-pass success," Jan says.

"When you consider that taking a chip design to first silicon costs about $5 million and each new iteration is another $1 million, you can see why our customers want to thoroughly test their designs in software first, silicon later."

She also notes that component designers use Keysight's software to design complex multiband modules for mobile phones–and that some of Keysight's newer products are designed to simulate entire systems, including wireless communications architectures.

"Ultimately," Jan says, "Agilent design and test products and solutions help communications companies ensure that their customers enjoy the most positive experience possible."


Keysight's powerful wireless solutions help engineers gain greater insight, acquire increased confidence in their measurement results and overcome test challenges from product development to manufacturing and deployment. Additional information can be found at;

Learn more, Keysight's LTE and the Evolution to 4G Wireless: Design and Measurement Challenges, 2nd Edition book

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

Related Information

Janet Smith, Americas
+1 970 679 5397
Twitter: @JSmithKeysight

Sarah Calnan, Europe
+44 (118) 927 5101

Iris Ng, Asia
+852 31977979