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Poised for continued strong dynamics

There is always going to be a need for more bandwidth. As applications evolve, the market will ask for more bandwidth, and the T&M industry in turn will need to offer innovative solutions.

While consumers and enterprise decision makers continue to weigh the benefits of updating to Wi-Fi 6, the wireless industry is already preparing for the arrival of Wi-Fi 7 and T&M. Wi-Fi 6 does not necessarily suffer from severe technology limitations. Instead, what Wi-Fi 7 really offers is more spectrum to serve all of the emerging use-cases and devices that rely on wireless connectivity. It promises better interference mitigations, higher capacity, and lower latency. Wi-Fi 7 will operate, similarly to Wi-Fi 6E, in the 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, and 6 GHz bands, with some small adaptations on the tone plane.

The main target for 802.11be is to increase data throughput to tens of gigabits per second at low latency in order to keep pace with latest application trends, such as ultra-high-definition video streaming, virtual reality, or augmented reality applications.

With Wi-Fi 7, there is a new level of testing that needs to happen. Newer features add a new level of complexity and require innovative test solutions. As the standard evolves and improves, test equipment too will need to evolve.

Wi-Fi 7 will support 320-megahertz transmissions, which is double the 160-megahertz of Wi-Fi 6, as well as 4096-QAM – up from 1024-QAM in Wi-Fi 6. It is these two improvements, primarily, that will create new test scenarios and require testing equipment to be revamped.

Parameters A comparison
Frequencies Dual band: 2.4/5 GHz Tri-band: 2.4/5/6 GHz Tri-band: 2.4/5/6 GHz
Bandwidth Up to 160 MHz Up to 160 MHz Up to 320 MHz
Data rate Up to 9.6 Gbps Up to 9.6 Gbps 30-46.1 Gps
Modulation OFDMA, 1024-QAM OFDMA, 1024-QAM OFDMA, 4096-QAM
Spatial multi­plexing MU-MIMO (8 users) MU-MIMO (8 users) MU-MIMO (16 users)
EVM limit -35 dB -35 dB -38 dB

Wi-Fi 7’s higher modulation of 4096-QAM results in the need for more linear instrumentation when testing the functionality of the Wi-Fi chips. 4096-QAM modulation requires signal-generation capabilities to transmit signals with very low distortion over a bandwidth of up to 320 MHz as well as spectrum analyzers with the required analysis bandwidth able to perform with a very low residual EVM. In order to know if a Wi-Fi chip is meeting the requirements for transmitting and receiving the 4096 discrete phases of magnitude supported by Wi-Fi 7 standards, test equipment will need to meet these requirements.

The foundation of extreme high throughput is based on supporting wider channels, more spatial streams, and higher-modulation schemes. However, they are by far not sufficient to meet future application requirements. This is why a couple of additional features are considered for the task. They include assigning multiple resource units (RUs) per user, optimized HARQ process, multi-link operation over all bands, and several kinds of coordinated multi-access point operations. And, MRU assignment in multi-user operation will extend the demand for signaling test solutions, allowing verification of parameters like timing error, unused tone error, and TX power adjustment.

T&M industry – An update

ETSI is holding a virtual event focused on test automation in late October. The organization’s eighth User Conference on Advanced Automated Testing (UCAAT) will be held October 19–21. Titled Testing to the Edge, this year’s event provides a platform for the testing community – including users, vendors, service providers, and researchers from many different application domains – to share experiences and learn about the latest advances in the industrial use of test automation.

EXFO Inc. has completed its going-private transaction and is delisting its shares from TSX and NASDAQ. Germain Lamonde has acquired all the issued and outstanding subordinate voting shares of EXFO, other than the subordinate voting shares held by him, for USD 6.25 per subordinate voting share in cash. Consideration for the purchased subordinate voting shares has been paid to AST Trust Company, Canada, and will be sent to former shareholders as soon as reasonably practicable.

“As we’re about to write a new chapter in EXFO’s 36-year history, I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation to shareholders, customers, and employees around the world as we heard you loud and clear with your overwhelming support and confidence in our going-private transaction,” said Germain Lamonde, EXFO’s founder and majority shareholder. “EXFO has built a tremendous reputation as a disruptive innovator and partner of choice with best-of-class support and service on a global basis. Although a competitor created unnecessary noise during this privatization process to reduce the competitive environment, I can assure all customers that EXFO is emerging stronger and more determined than ever to continue making a difference in your networks while expanding our leadership in the telecom test and service assurance industry.”

A growing number of mobile operators are leveraging cloud and edge computing to bring high-speed, low-latency, and secure connectivity to the network edge while optimizing operational efficiencies. Keysight joined Google Cloud’s partner initiative to enable a cloud-centric 5G ecosystem to connect a software-driven infrastructure from the edge of the radio access network (RAN) to the core. “As a Google Cloud partner, Keysight will support service providers transitioning to cloud and edge computing, which are needed for delivering advanced applications and use-cases, such as streaming media, cloud gaming, connected vehicles, private wireless networks, and immersive experiences,” said Scott Bryden, VP of Keysight’s operator industry solutions group. “Keysight’s solutions across wireless and wireline technologies enable hyperscalers and mobile operators to create unified, heterogenous networks that support a wide range of use-cases, requirements, and applications.” The test company has also with MediaTek reached a new milestone in 5G, aggregating three new radio (NR) carriers for 300 MHz of bandwidth in sub-6 GHz spectrum, and thereby achieving 6 Gbps data speeds. MediaTek used its own M80 5G modem and Keysight’s 5G Protocol R&D toolset for the testing at MediaTek’s lab at Hsinchu Science Park.

Anritsu and MediaTek recently announced that they have verified the first observed time difference of arrival (OTDOA) protocol conformance test for 5G NR. The test was conducted with Anritsu’s 5G NR mobile device test platform ME7834NR and a device using MediaTek’s M70 5G modem. Anritsu has also announced the deployment of its mobile network service assurance solutions on the public cloud with AWS. The vendor had also earlier announced two Tier-I 5G standalone service assurance wins. Anritsu, in partnership with its mobile network customers and with AWS, now introduces a solution to fully deploy the service assurance systems in the public cloud.

Perceptions of public cloud for telecoms networks have seen a significant shift over the last 12–18 months, with many operators assessing how to move network functions from a private cloud to a hybrid or public cloud, whilst also taking into consideration privacy, security, costs, and control. Visibility via service assurance solutions is vital to assure the quality of network services and achieve a return on the significant investments in 5G standalone.

Service assurance needs to sit alongside those network functions in the same cloud, working to understand, monitor, assure, and control the network functions and services. With the complexity and dynamicity of today’s and tomorrow’s networks, service assurance, automation, AI, and analytics are pivotal to the rollout of new services, network slices, MEC (multi-access edge computing), and customer experience.

Rohde & Schwarz has teamed up with Cadence Design Systems to develop a new solution to support engineering from RF design to implementation while using realistic signals for testing and simulation.

Viavi Solutions notched a recent win with Picocom, the semiconductor company that designs and markets O-RAN standard-compliant baseband SoCs and carrier-grade software products for 5G small-cell infrastructure. Picocom will rely on Viavi’s test solutions to validate O-RAN base station components from chips to protocol stack software for 5G small cell networks. Viavi’s TM500 network tester will be used in Picocom’s lab to create “a sophisticated and precise test environment” that includes simulated RF, comprehensive feature interactions, and “accurate replications of real-world user-behavior profiles,” Viavi said, so that the company can make sure that O-RAN small cell base stations will perform as needed.

The test and measurement global equipment market is poised to grow at a CAGR of 3.7 percent, from USD 27.7 billion in 2021 to USD 33.3 billion in 2026, as estimated by MarketsandMarkets. The general-purpose test equipment include oscilloscopes, signal generators, digital multimeters, logic analyzers, spectrum analyzers, bit error rate tester (BERT) solutions, network analyzers, power meters, electronic counters, modular instruments, and automated test equipment (ATE), and power supplies currently hold the largest share.

With the COVID-19 pandemic refusing to relent, the adoption of test and measurement equipment for testing applications is high in healthcare and pharmaceuticals, biological research, and food and beverages end-user industries. However, the outbreak and the spread of the virus have led to a decrease in demand for several products. Moreover, manufacturing plants in a number of countries have been shut down to contain the spread of the virus.

In the past five years, a tremendous change has been observed in internet penetration globally. The emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT) and smart applications platform is an important factor for the overall growth of the semiconductor industry. Presently, almost one-third of the world population uses high-bandwidth internet. This has ultimately resulted in an increase in the number of internet-enabled smart devices in emerging economies, such as China, India, and Thailand. Variations in wireless local area network (WLAN), Bluetooth, ZigBee, and other wireless technologies drive the growth of the test and measurement equipment market as devices based on these technologies need to be tested to ensure that they can communicate and interoperate seamlessly.

The rising adoption of multiple-input and multiple-output (MIMO) for 5G NR technology is expected to lead to the increased use of test and measurement equipment for performance evaluation of the radiation patterns of the device under test (DUT). As such, antenna arrays are used for high antenna gain from beamforming to compensate for the free space path loss occurring from high-frequency 5G systems. Beamforming is achieved when antenna arrays use several antenna components to obtain directional characteristics. It helps reduce the energy consumption of electronic devices.

The antenna array calibration is carried out to meet the strict requirement of antenna array beam steering for the precise measurement of phase and amplitude differences among different antenna elements. Phase, amplitude, and frequency or timing tolerances of the DUTs are required to be calibrated.

For instance, antenna arrays need to be calibrated for the frequency drift, which occurs due to the non-usage of a common local oscillator (LO) network between modules.

With the leading players responding to these needs, the T&M sector is poised for continued strong dynamics.

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