The Indian telecom space is witnessing significant activity around 5G as different industry stakeholders collaborate to develop a conducive ecosystem for technology deployment. Testing and measurement (T&M) companies, in particular, are playing a key role by providing diverse test methods that meet the requirements of future 5G networks. In an interview with tele.net, Sudhir Tangri, vice-president and country general manager, and Sandeep Kapoor, AD, MSM-EMEAI and marketing manager, India, Keysight Technologies, talk about the evolving T&M market for 5G in India, the testing challenges related to 5G and the way forward for the T&M market in India. Excerpts…
What are the T&M requirements for 5G?
All stakeholders in the 5G ecosystem including chipset manufacturers, equipment vendors, handset vendors and operators have a unique requirement for testing 5G networks and 5G-enabled devices. At present, the biggest traction is being witnessed among chipset vendors. Among these vendors, those doing protocol-level testing need PRD testers and those doing radio frequency (RF)-level testing need RF-tested measurement tools catering to 5G bandwidth and specifications. Further, companies pursuing over-the-air (OTA) testing need state-of-the-art thermal chambers. These are the three broad types of testing equipment that Keysight provides for engineers working in the 5G domain.
How is the T&M market for 5G evolving in the country?
In India, customers have started seeking 5G solutions in the telecom chipset and handset domains as well as in the academia and research space. Our business has grown from hardly any orders in the 5G space in the Indian context in the first half of 2018 to so much growth that we have actually had to deploy more resources in our organisation than what we had planned. This can provide a perspective to the level of growth that we are witnessing in the 5G space in India. It has grown into a multi-million business within the last six months.
Keysight, in partnership with Qualcomm and Samsung, became the first T&M vendor to demonstrate live 5G calls at the Mobile World Congress at Barcelona in February 2018. This has catapulted us into becoming the lead vendor in terms of 5G T&M solutions for Tier I chipset and device manufacturers worldwide.
What are the testing challenges for 5G?
A major challenge is that OTA testing theoretically requires large thermal chambers, which are practically impossible to create. We are coming up with our patented technology, which enables you to do that testing within a 1.5 metre chamber. Moreover, due to antenna, losses are too high at 5G frequencies. In the case of 5G, the channel fading and channel losses operate very differently. In that case, antenna testing becomes extremely critical and crucial for 5G.
What are some of the T&M solutions that you are working on currently?
Keysight has platforms or solutions that meet 5G requirements. The three categories of solutions that we have are A UXM platform, which is a protocol test solution or PRD solution; spectrum analysers or signal generators, which can be used to understand spectrum for design validation testing; and thermal chambers that are designed for OTA testing. The fourth category is VXC2, which is essentially a tool that can be used for base station manufacturing or device manufacturing. We have a fifth platform called EXM, which is useful for 5G device manufacturing.
How is the demand for 5G T&M solutions different in the Indian vis-a-vis global markets where Keysight operates?
The demand is very similar. It might be lagging by a couple of quarters, but it is not very different. In terms of roll-out stages, the RF characteristics, performance and fibre availability may be different in the Indian environment. But the demand is more or less at par with global markets.
What is your outlook for the growth of the T&M market in India?
The T&M market in India has been growing at 6-7 per cent over the last few years and Keysight has grown at over two times this rate. There are three key drivers for the growth of the Indian market. First, 5G investments by multinational companies and leading Indian research institutes led to massive growth of the market. Second, under the Make in India initiative, three subsegments have been driving growth. These subsegments are the automotive market, specifically the electrical vehicle and e-call applications; the wireless device manufacturing market, and the small and medium enterprise manufacturing. The third key driver for the T&M market in India is the defence sector. This is because the profile of defence customers is changing as they are focusing on their job and want the entire testing to be done by third parties like Keysight.