What are the challenges that test instrument companies face while delivering solutions to the 5G ecosystem?

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Raghunandan N V - National Instruments

Oct 16, 2017

Test and measurement solutions will be a key link in the commercialization cycle. The initial 3GPP specification drafts for release 15 introduce new antenna concepts with controllable/steerable beams, new spectrum in the mmWave frequency bands, and very wide bandwidths compared to LTE today. In hybrid beam forming systems using phased array antenna technologies for mmWave mobile access, the test equipment must not only step up in frequency to the mmWave bands, but key performance metrics must also be characterized beam-by-beam because of the directional nature of transmission and reception at these frequencies. Additionally, while bandwidth is a familiar test challenge, the tested bandwidth with 5G may increase by 50x over a standard LTE channel. At these bandwidths, the test systems must only generate and acquire these wider bandwidth waveforms but must also have the processing capability to process all data. And to make things even more complicated, in an over-the-air (OTA) scenario, these samples must be processed real-time. While there has been much focus and excitement regarding 5G, the challenges that test instrument vendors face delivering solutions to the 5G ecosystem have perhaps been overlooked. These challenges must be solved before 5G can go mainstream and prime time is just around the corner. Test equipment vendors must develop cost effective, flexible solutions that are software configurable to address the challenges presented by 5G. It seems clear that FPGAs must certainly be a part of these systems due in part to their software programmability and immense processing capability. With 5G getting closer, it’s the test and measurement industry’s turn to innovate.
 

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