By Avinash Hachappa, Application Consultant, Wireless, Keysight Technologies
Telecom test and measurement (T&M) equipment in India has evolved over time, in tandem with the growth in the telecom research and development (R&D) and manufacturing sectors. The T&M market has huge potential for growth in various end-use segments such as mobile broadband, automotive and industrial internet of things (IoT). The expansion of the T&M equipment market is driven by technological advancements and increased R&D spending. Moreover, the development of a 5G mobile network and rapid penetration of IoT devices present opportunities for T&M equipment market players.
Future of wireless and mobile technology
Wireless and mobile technologies have revolutionised how people access the internet. The number of connected devices has witnessed a huge leap in growth, from 1 per cent in the early 1990s to over 28 per cent, and it is expected to continue to grow in the foreseeable future. Advancements in wireless technology continue to be the focus of the telecom industry, which is always looking for a faster, more effective connectivity solution.
With improvements in mobile communication already adding to the conveniences of everyday life and improving business operations, it is hard to believe that things could get even better. Yet, that is exactly what the tech industry aims and plans to accomplish.
5G: The perspective
While 4G is still being deployed in India, the industry has started working on 5G. Initially, it will use the 4G core network to operate in non-stand-alone mode, but the goal is to connect all devices via 5G networks. The demand for faster networks is real and imperative, due to the rapid growth in data traffic, and networks need to be ready for a multifold increase in data volumes.
The technical requirements of 5G mobile standards are yet to be decided. The requirements pertaining to connection speeds of up to 10 gigabits per second, and response times below 1 millisecond have already been decided upon. However, decisions regarding the use of the radio spectrum band and technologies for 5G networks are pending.
The advent of low power wide area network (LPWAN) technology will bring about an exponential boost in low data rates and low power consumption, which will be important and beneficial to IoT. As more devices get connected both in the consumer and industrial spaces, there is an increasing need for new network technology that reaches further and is more reliable. A considerable share of the future growth for the electronics industry is linked to IoT. Thus, a number of companies are investing in sensors, smart chips and telecom services with the aim of capitalising on the interrelationship of 5G networks and IoT.
Another advancement is in wireless LAN networks, which use radio frequency (RF) and millimetre wave (mmWave) frequencies to communicate data. A new revision – 802.11ax, also called high efficiency wireless – seeks to improve the average throughput per user by a factor of at least 4x in dense user environments. This new standard implements several mechanisms to serve consistent and reliable data throughput to more users in crowded places with different kinds of connectivity devices.
802.11ay is a high speed version of WLAN that promises to deliver up a few gigabits per second in close proximity transmission and uses 2.16 GHz up to 8.64 GHz wide bandwidth at mmWave, near 60 GHz. As such, it should be viewed as a complementary technology to 802.11ax.
Design and test challenges
Challenges are an inherent part of any new technology. 5G and 802.11ay at mmWave integration will change the mechanical geometries of devices and it will be difficult to isolate problems at intermediate frequency and RF. Antenna array bonded to the BBIC (baseband IC) means that no connector will be required and testing can be done over the air. A limited link budget at a higher frequency will boost transmit power with a sharper beam, which requires better antenna characterisation and superior beam-steering performance.
Further, 802.11ax reduces sub-carrier spacing from 312.5 kHz to 78.125 kHz, which makes phase noise and clock drift impact the performance. Higher modulation means a receiver needs better signal-to-noise ratio sensitivity, resulting in symbol clock error.
In such scenarios, the moot questions are how do we ensure that IoT devices will work in a wide range of environments? And how quickly and inexpensively can we do tests, given the volume of products and market cost demands?