Joe Rickert Discusses Keysight’s Latest Microwave Signal Generator Innovation

Article By : EETimes Asia

Keysight's Joe Rickert discusses how their new microwave signal generator helps developers address the demanding new wireless industry applications.

New 5G mobile communications, 6G research, satellite communications and radar applications increasingly utilize a wide range of frequencies, up to and including the millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum. Testing these wireless applications requires signal generation equipment capable of creating millimeter-wave signals at extremely high bandwidth.

These new applications also adopt multi-antenna techniques, such as spatial diversity, spatial multiplexing and beamforming to achieve diversity, multiplexing and antenna gains for high-throughput and robust communications. These demands in the RF layer bring new design and test challenges to the next-generation wireless devices.

In addition, companies that produce or consume RF components for manufacturing electronic equipment have unique requirements for signal fidelity to accurately characterize their components or sub-systems.

We talk to Keysight’s Vice President of Radio Frequency Product Management and R&D, Joe Rickert, to find out how Keysight’s new microwave signal generator helps developers address these demanding new wireless industry applications.

EETimes Asia (EETA): What is Keysight Announcing?

Joe Rickert: The demand for ubiquitous wireless communications challenges receiver designs and tests. When wireless systems operate in a crowded wireless environment on the same frequency bands, interference between the systems can occur. Designing receivers for robust links is challenging because wireless devices must handle various input signal conditions which are typically difficult to predict. This makes the process of designing, testing and isolating system problems more complex, and RF engineers must emulate sophisticated test scenarios to characterize the receiver’s performance.

To meet these requirements, Keysight is introducing the M9484C VXG microwave signal generator. This new VXG expands Keysight’s signal generator portfolio with real-time capabilities.

In more detail, the M9484C VXG signal generator is a four-channel vector signal generator, with frequency up to 54 GHz that offers up to 5 GHz of radio frequency (RF) bandwidth and low phase noise in a single instrument. With a V3080A vector signal generator frequency extender, the frequency range of the VXG extends up to 110 GHz to address the needs for the latest and evolving standard

EETA: How will this product introduction benefit customers?

Rickert: This product will help customers reduce their test system setup complexity and achieve accurate and repeatable multi-channel measurements, delivering three key benefits in a single instrument as follows:

The scalable architecture of the M9484C VXG enables the most demanding wideband and multichannel test signals with frequencies up to 110 GHz. The signal generator generates demanding test signals with an RF bandwidth up to 5 GHz; covers frequency ranges from 9 kHz to 54 GHz and up to 110 GHz with a V3080A vector signal generator frequency extender; and enables multi-antenna test applications such as MIMO and beamforming with precise phase coherence and timing synchronization.

The fully integrated, calibrated and synchronized signal generation solution delivers low phase noise and minimizes measurement uncertainty by overcoming the excessive path loss experienced at mmW frequencies with low error vector magnitude (EVM) and distortion at high output power; delivering advanced RF performance with direct digital synthesis (DDS) technology for accurately characterizing device under tests (DUTs); and enabling precise multi-channel / multi-instrument synchronization and triggering test applications.

Sophisticated real-time signal processing and comprehensive signal creation tools enable complex test scenarios and simplify test complexity for receiver and performance tests. It supports MIMO real-time fading for all 3GPP 5G new radio (NR) required base station conformance tests with PathWave Signal Generation software; streamlines complex receiver test scenarios with the world’s first 8-virtual-signal emulation per RF channel, up to 32 signals in one instrument; and it simplifies test workflow with pre-defined compliance test setups, auto-configuring signal analysis and graphic user interface.

These capabilities help designers generate high frequency, wide channel bandwidth signals in multiple coherent channels. Combined with spectral purity and real-time signal processing, they make addressing multichannel test requirements for MIMO, beamforming, selectivity and blocking tests simple and fast.

Engineers are able to optimize measurement integrity and minimize measurement uncertainty by generating signals with a fully integrated, calibrated and synchronized multichannel signal generation solution. They can innovate designs that enable higher frequencies, wider bandwidths and multichannel applications, and ensure they meet the latest and evolving standard test requirements. And they can simplify measurement setup and complex calibration routines associated with multi-box solutions with a one-box approach. This saves time and reduces measurement errors related to changing equipment configuration and cabling. In addition, the M9484C VXG eliminates signal impairments caused by traditional analog I/Q modulators with a new DDS (Data Distribution Service) architecture, and delivers advanced signal fidelity for wideband signal generation.

EETA: Are there any engineering breakthroughs in this new signal generation solution?

Rickert: Keysight Labs, the research laboratory of Keysight Technologies, has been working for years on the underlying semiconductor, ASIC and MMIC technology designed to deliver industry-leading performance, purposely built for test and measurement equipment. The new ASIC in the M9484C VXG provides powerful digital signal processing for digital upconversion and generates IF/RF signals up to 8.5 GHz direct from a high-sampling-rate 14-bit digital-to-analog converter (DAC) without signal impairments found in traditional vector signal generator architectures.

The DDS eliminates signal impairments caused by a traditional analog I/Q modulator, such as gain imbalance, timing skew, quadrature skew, DC offset and phase noise. This new architecture improves a signal’s dynamic range and offers advanced signal fidelity, especially for wideband signal generation. The performance of the VXG enables accurate characterization of components and receivers.

Another key DSP ASIC can emulate up to 8 baseband signals and aggregate them into one wideband signal in real time. It provides flexible, real-time manipulation of baseband signals, where each baseband signal can be independently controlled, filtered, faded and placed anywhere within a 2.5 GHz bandwidth in real time.

The combination of these two ASICs allows customers to generate 8 RF signals in one RF channel without generating intermodulation distortion and carrier feedthrough. This solution simplifies the receiver test setups that conventionally require several signal generators for simulating wanted and interfering signals with improved signal fidelity, simple test setup and cost-effectiveness.

EETA: Designing wireless receivers is challenging because the wireless device is required to handle a wide variety of input signal conditions. This makes the process of designing, testing and isolating system problems more complex. How does Keysight help customers shorten the development cycle?

Rickert: The sophisticated real-time signal processing of the VXG enables complex test scenarios for receiver and performance tests. The VXG’s built-in DSP ASIC allows engineers to emulate MIMO fading with additive white Gaussian noise (AWGN) for 5G base station performance conformance testing.

Keysight PathWave Signal Generation software is a flexible suite of signal-creation tools that will reduce the time engineers spend on signal simulation. The software’s performance-optimized reference signals – validated by Keysight – enhance the characterization and verification of wireless devices. The software supports a wide range of general-purpose or standard-based signals and ensures wireless designs meet the latest standards and test requirements.


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