Interview with Frank Groeger from Rohde & Schwarz

  • Frank Groeger - Director of Strategic Marketing in the Test & Measurement Division of R&S

Frank Groegner

everything RF Interviewed Frank Groeger, the Director of Strategic Marketing in the Test and Measurement Division of Rohde & Schwarz GmbH & Co. KG, to learn more about the company, their products, and their outlook and approach towards technologies such as PXI and 5G.

R&S was founded more than 80 year ago. Can you tell us a little about the history of the company?

Frank Groeger: The beginnings of the Munich-based electronics group Rohde & Schwarz were at the university in Jena, Germany, in the late 1920s. Two young physics students became acquainted and soon discovered a mutual fascination with radiofrequency technology. Before long, they established a company in a Munich apartment with just 120 square meters of floor space. In 1933, the “Physikalisch-Technisches Entwicklungslabor Dr. L. Rohde und Dr. H. Schwarz” or PTE (Physical-Technological Development Laboratory), the initial name of the Rohde & Schwarz company, was born.

Many milestones in the company’s history are also chapters in the history of technology, including the first portable crystal clock (1938), Europe’s first VHF FM transmitter (1949), the first vector network analyzer (1950), the first automatic direction finder (1955), the robust and highly accurate EK07 shortwave receiver (1957), the first GSM system simulator (1991) and the first professional, tap-proof encryption device for mobile phones (2001).

Today, Rohde & Schwarz is a leading global solution provider in all its fields of activity. The electronics group is strategically based on five pillars: test and measurement, broadcast and media, cybersecurity, secure communications, radiomonitoring and radiolocation. The company supports manufacturers of electronic equipment in development and production with top-quality, highly precise test and measurement instruments and systems. Rohde & Schwarz T&M expertise is involved in the development or manufacture of half of all mobile phones in the world today. In broadcasting, the company has established itself as a market leader with a full range of transmission and measuring equipment. As an independent, family-owned company, Rohde & Schwarz generates its growth from its own resources. Rohde & Schwarz has approximately 9900 employees, with about 5900 working in Germany. The group achieved a net revenue of EUR 1.83 billion in the 2014/2015 fiscal year (July to June).

What are some new and interesting areas for which R&S is developing products?

Groeger: Innovative strength is one of the keys to the success of Rohde & Schwarz. We are always at the forefront when it comes to new technologies and developments. In the area of test and measurement, we are especially involved in 5G and LTE-Advanced Pro, Internet of Things, radar testing, EMC and oscilloscope applications. With our R&S CMW500, for example, we drive the development of enhanced mobile broadband applications with LTE Advanced and extend the capabilities of RF, protocol and end-to-end tests.

CMW500

On the path to the next mobile communications generation, it is clear that 5G will use new air interfaces as well as additional frequency bands in the millimeter wave range for commercial wireless communications. We have already developed the first test solutions for such applications, including testing of broadband 5G and WLAN signals up to a bandwidth of 2 GHz, generating and analyzing 5G air interface candidates, over-the-air test solutions, 5G channel sounding and characterizing mmWave components.

We also see significant potential in oscilloscopes. Which is why we are constantly expanding our portfolio. For example, we recently introduced the R&S Scope Rider, a handheld oscilloscope that offers the functionality and user experience of a state-of-the-art lab oscilloscope.

Scope Rider

Another area is EMC. We have developed the R&S ESW, for instance. This EMI test receiver can perform the highly sophisticated certification and R&D measurements required in the A&D and automotive sectors.

What are the areas in T&M where you expect to see major growth over the next few years?

Groeger: First in 5G. The fifth mobile communications generation will generate new growth in the entire industry. We are well positioned here since we have the necessary technology for the new 5G components. And due to our leading position in LTE, we are also able to offer our customers the best possible support when migrating to 5G. LTE-Advanced Pro will also be a source of strong innovation and growth on the market in the next few years. Examples include technologies such as narrowband IoT, device-to-device (D2D) for critical communications, vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) for automotive applications, and license assisted access (LAA).

There is also radar testing. This area is being driven by the A&D and automotive sectors and should see positive development. Efforts in the area of autonomous driving will place new requirements on car sensor technology and communications equipment, and these will need to be tested. Beyond this, we see a number of new and faster bus technologies, not just in the automotive sector.

What is your view on 5G and how is R&S planning on addressing the test requirements of this new evolving standard?

Groeger: 5G mobile communications is the next step for the wireless industry where we were involved early on in the research phase. The challenges are in the areas of new air interface technologies, mmWave frequencies combined with high bandwidth, support of massive MIMO and over-the-air measurements, low latency, network slicing and cloud-based network infrastructures. We expect a gradual development process. Probably, mobile network operators will first improve their established networks. They will optimize frequency use and then gradually work their way toward higher frequencies. Rohde & Schwarz supports where an accelerated pace of innovation is needed. The Verizon 5G Technology Forum established specifications to facilitate early trials and deployments in the 28/39 GHz range.

To support developers in their research activities surrounding 5G mobile networks, we offer test instrumentation for 5G channel sounding, wideband applications in the GHz range, new air interface candidates and OTA test solutions. Additionally we are an active participant in many 5G initiatives around the globe, providing support for ongoing research and development of the new mobile network. These initiatives include, for example, the 5G Forum in South Korea, the 5G Innovation Centre in Great Britain, the NGMN 5G Initiative and the 5G Lab Germany at the Technical University of Dresden. Finally and importantly, Rohde & Schwarz has joined the China Mobile 5G Innovation Center.

How do you see R&S contributing to the expected IoT growth?

Groeger: First, there is the technological aspect. We observe that to some extent in the IoT context, the technologies in use are well established – technologies we have known for years. This is primarily true for the cellular technologies like GSM and LTE. However, IoT applications and their diverse requirements sometimes lead to the emergence of new technologies that, for instance, address power efficiency requirements. For us, this situation creates new business opportunities. 

Second is that communications increasingly plays a role in mission-critical and life-critical applications – and these applications have to be tested. The certification tools needed for this purpose are an interesting field of future business for us. An example is vehicle-to-X communications. In the USA and Europe, standardization of this technology has already reached an advanced stage. With IEEE 802.11p, a kind of modified Wi-Fi standard that originally was not designed for this type of application is now in use. For this reason, issues such as fading, concurrent handling of multiple requests, etc. have to be resolved. We are collaborating closely with the respective industry players to develop test methods and to simulate realistic environments such as fading profiles to ensure that these devices work reliably under all circumstances. 

The industry is aware of these well-known figures of 50 billion connected devices. These are enormous abstract numbers that help us understand that communications technologies are being used in more and more industry fields and applications. With our test and measurement competence, we can contribute to make these new applications become reality. Two examples of application-specific markets are eCall and vehicle-to-X. We are very active in these markets, and of course we also cover the cellular technologies with all the test cases associated with them.

R&S has not entered the modular test products (PXI) space. Is this something R&S is planning on doing? What are your thoughts on this space?

Groeger: Modular test and measurement equipment, especially PXI T&M equipment, can be viewed as T&M instruments in a different form factor. This makes sense, for example, when different or multiple measurement functions are needed and there is no off-the-shelf instrument for this application. Users can build their own T&M instruments from these separate modules. However, this results in extra development effort on the part of the customer that is not needed for an off-the-shelf instrument. Measurement uncertainties must be taken into account when combining and adding measurement modules. It is also necessary to develop a calibration concept. In our experience, most customers prefer integrated, powerful systems.

But for special applications, we already deliver modular T&M equipment based on Compact PCI and PXI. This includes, for example, programmable power supplies, in-circuit test modules and measurement cards for current and voltage. 

Naturally, we keep an eye on the market for modular T&M equipment. If sufficient demand develops and we can provide the customer with a meaningful contribution, then we will offer such a solution. Whether the then applicable standard will still be called PXI is difficult to say today.

PC-driven low-cost test and measurement equipment is an area which has seen growth over the last couple of years. What is your view on this area? Is this something R&S is considering entering?

Groeger: This discussion has been going on as long as there have been PCs. The low-cost T&M instrument segment does not grow more than the T&M instrument segment overall. But the tendency is that instruments are becoming more powerful. This trend applies to all T&M segments, all the way up to high-end solutions. For certain applications that only need basic measurement functions, performance and accuracy, simple T&M solutions are sufficient. That is why we are consistently expanding our T&M portfolio so that users can perform basic, yet reliable, high-quality measurements at a reasonable price.

In what regional areas do you expect the most growth in the near future?

Groeger: We have outstanding products that we want to use and will use to grow even faster than the market. We see significant potential especially in Asia and North America. This is underscored by our development sites in the USA and Singapore.

With the acquisition of Hameg Instruments, R&S introduced a value line of products. How are these products different from conventional R&S products?

Groeger: Hameg products are an essential component for the value segment. Here we want to offer economical quality T&M instruments at an excellent price/performance ratio. In the premium segment, the focus is more on maximum product performance, whereas for value instruments the focus is much more on the production costs. 

The integration of Hameg into the Rohde & Schwarz group is now complete. We can now jointly use all processes, from development to production to sales. There will be no more differences in the future. Hameg products are Rohde & Schwarz products.

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R&S Headquarters

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