The promise of 5G is drawing near and will bring about many changes throughout the next decade and will change the way we interact with technology on a day-to-day basis.
With its ultra-fast speeds and unprecedented response times, the complex information that can be transmitted through 5G’s High Band frequencies has the potential for and virtually unlimited possibilities for growth and advancement in nearly every industrial sector of the economy.
From health, transportation, manufacturing and smart devices to VR applications, many of the most advanced technological uses of 5G are just now being designed and will take years before they become a staple of modern-day life. Some of the areas that 5G will impact include:
- Improved broadband and cellular capabilities – faster speeds and a better data management will extend the way cellular services are used.
- Public health and safety – technology leveraging 5G will advance how metropolitan areas manage safety, from traffic to natural disasters. 5G will also allow for better healthcare, including patient monitoring and telemedicine.
- Transportation – from autonomous vehicles to traffic control, 5G will help revolutionize the way we travel.
- Smart devices – 5G will make communication between smart devices seamless and efficient and allow for hundreds of devices to be connected through a single base station. It will make smart devices smarter!
- Remote industrial control – With the improved speeds and latency of 5G, the control of industrial machinery and robotics remotely will become widely available. This will make the workplace safer and more efficient.
Enter 5G Testing
The proper testing of 5G networks will play a vital role in its development, deployment, and operation as 5G expands into its full potential. 5G testing will need to encompass more than just verifying the coverage density and download speeds.
New 5G networks will need to meet testing and characterizing demands that are unparalleled with respect to network speeds, bandwidth, and synchronization. This will require the testing of new technologies, components and including multiple-input, multiple-output (MIMO) antenna arrays and the testing and generation of high GHz, millimeter-wave frequencies.
The 3rd Generation Partnership Project, or 3GPP, has released a preliminary standard in the development of 5G, called 5G New Radio (5GNR). This standard identifies two 5GNR frequency ranges, FR1 that operates between 450 MHz and 6 GHz and FR2 that operates between 24.25 GHz and 52.6 GHz. Initially, 5G systems will utilize the sub-6 GHz frequencies and the 28 GHz and 39 GHz frequencies.
Various types of Vector Signal Analyzers and other Signal and Spectrum Analyzers/Generators will be the main instrument types to test the performance of 5G systems. This equipment will be able to test and characterize the wideband components and wireless communication systems that support the 5G bandwidth requirements and can set up complex measurements quickly and easily. With bandwidths and output capabilities over 50GHz, the testing equipment used to evaluate and calibrate the 5G networks will need to push the boundaries of the testing equipment available on the market today.
As future 5G capabilities and the network equipment are being developed, new measurement requirements and technologies must be identified to anticipate the future operational needs of the 5G infrastructure. The use of cloud-based test equipment and software automation will bring added complexity and technical challenges to developing network test solutions. MIMO will require a large number of antennas and special robotics are also being developed for precise antenna positioning to provide new levels of measurement precision for 5G system testing.
The Need for 5G Test Equipment Calibration
From Digital Sampling Oscilloscopes, Power Meters, Vector Signal Generators, and Network Spectrum Analyzers, the RF test equipment required to calibrate the variety of Signal and Spectrum Analyzers/Generators will need to initially have capabilities to measure and generate signals to 40GHz for the current 5GNR standards but will also need the capability to ramp up to higher frequencies as 5G equipment continues to evolve and advanced beamforming and mmWave systems are designed.
The RF calibration equipment must provide amplitude, modulation and phase generation over the testing instrument’s full bandwidth at any operating frequency. All of these tests must be made with a high degree of accuracy and repeatability and must provide traceability to primary reference standards.
As with all advancements in technology, the calibration of 5G testing equipment will require significant advances in the performance of microprocessor technology, software design and hardware interfaces to create the highest accuracies for the calibration of 5G testing equipment.