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All Places > Keysight Blogs > Next Generation Wireless Communications > Blog > 2016 > October
2016

As engineers, sometimes the most useful way to imagine forward is to pause and look at how far we’ve come over the past several decades. These days, many of us are doing that with 5G.

 

Why am I so excited about the fifth generation of wireless communication? As history reveals, the hallmark of any great technology is the way it improves the human condition and revolutionizes our understanding of the world.

New technology builds on existing technology, and then takes it farther—sometimes in unexpected ways. The humble wheel led to carts and chariots, and it also led to cogwheels and bicycles and trains and automobiles. It turned into waterwheels and turbines, and it begot astrolabes and clocks and hard disk drives.

 

Evolution and revolution has also occurred in human communication, driven by a need to connect beyond shouting distance. In the beginning, we tried smoke signals and the beating of drums. As the human mind improved, our ancestors came to realize there might be better, more efficient, more nuanced ways to communicate over long distances.

 

Semaphore flags and newspapers all found their place in the timeline of communications. But the Cambrian explosion of communications came about in the 19th and 20th centuries, with pioneers introducing all kinds of new systems: rotary printing presses, electric telegraphs, telephones, and radios. Thank you, Mr. Edison and Professor Maxwell, and danke shoen, Herr Doktor Hertz.

 

Science fiction has also played its part, stirring our imaginations and inspiring innovation. The biggest names in science fiction have been renowned for being ahead of their time in terms of their ideas: the first geosynchronous communications satellite was launched less than two decades after Arthur C. Clarke wrote his article on the topic.

In 1966, the original Star Trek put wireless portable communication on our TV screens and firmly into our collective mind. Of course, the first “mobile phones” were so large the radios had to be mounted in car trunks or carried in a briefcase. And they weren’t cellular: they could connect into the local public telephone network, but they didn’t use base station sites to communicate.

 

That technology took root in the 1980s. Over the last 30 years we have been accelerating from 1G analog technology to the alphabet soup of digital modulation and multiple-access schemes: 2G had GSM, GPRS, cdmaOne and EDGE; 3G, which is still widely used, has W-CDMA, HSPA, HSPA+, cdma2000, and more; and 4G has OFDMA, SC-FDMA, CDMA, MC-CDMA, and more.

 

Innovations give us reason to be excited about 4G LTE and the future vision that may become reality in 5G. Big steps forward include spatial processing techniques such as multi-antenna schemes and multi-user MIMO, and these will give way to experimentation with massive MIMO, millimeter-wave frequencies and multi-gigahertz bandwidths.

 

It has already been a long journey from Maxwell’s equations to the too-large-for-my-pocket smartphone. Moving forward, 5G is expected to enable possibilities like an Internet of Things that may contain tens of billions of connected devices, enabling another technology revolution.

 

Although the 5G standards are yet to be finalized, a sizable workforce around the world is doing the difficult groundwork, once again turning science fiction into hard science. Here at Keysight, we’re doing our part to support those efforts. And we'll keep writing about it.

How much does a $1.00 battery cost? That may seem to be self-answering, along the lines of, “Who is in Grant’s Tomb?” or, “When was the War of 1812?” However, a single $1.00 battery may actually cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars when you consider all of the costs associated with its failure. Given the proliferation of batteries in the Internet of Things (IoT), it is especially important to understand the costs involved.

 

Before the Battery Fails

Before the battery fails, you have the transaction costs associated with ordering, receiving, accounting for, and stocking the battery. If you fail to stock replacement batteries, you may need to have an employee make a special trip to purchase the battery or to pay for a delivery service, either one of which might easily cost you many times the price of the battery.

 

For some applications, such as implanted medical devices or remote security devices, you need to consider the cost of actively monitoring the remaining battery level. These sorts of runtime-critical applications may also require you to test and verify the replacement battery’s capacity and charge level.

 

When the Battery Fails

The minute the battery fails, additional costs accrue due to the loss of device functionality. Perhaps a dead battery is just a minor inconvenience, such as loss of remote control for a projector, but perhaps a dead battery delays a production process or customer engagement. In the extreme, a dead battery could endanger lives, as in military, outdoor adventure, or medical applications.

 

Once you have identified the need to replace the battery, there are costs associated with the person who replaces the battery. Depending on the application, the replacement may be performed by an entry-level employee, a skilled technician, or even a cardiologist or thoracic surgeon.

 

In addition to the employee costs, there may be disruption costs associated with the replacement process. For example, consider a telemetry device that transmits patient data to a nursing station. A battery change disrupts other activities of the nurse aide, and the patient often wakes up when the nurse aide changes the telemetry device battery. If the battery is inside the patient, as in an implantable defibrillator, the total cost of the surgery, anesthesia, hospital stay, and follow-up care can cost $50,000.

 

A battery replacement procedure may also include transportation costs when special equipment is required. A consumer may be able to replace a battery on an inexpensive watch, but a high-end or waterproof watch may require special disassembly or resealing equipment.

 

Finally, there are opportunity costs associated with battery replacement. Every minute and every dollar devoted to battery replacement is a resource that cannot be devoted to other activities.

 

After the Battery Replacement

Once the battery has been replaced, there are additional costs to be considered. There is the waste management cost borne by the company, and in some cases there is an additional environmental cost borne by the larger community. If the battery is rechargeable, there are costs associated with the equipment, power, and people involved in the recharging process.

 

A short battery runtime may negatively affect the user’s view of the product, and if two similar devices have similar features, battery life may be the deciding factor in customers’ purchase decisions. In the extreme, there may even be product recall costs or legal liability associated with failed batteries, especially in the medical field.

 

Conclusion

In summary, a $1 battery can end up costing users far more than the basic purchase price. There are costs before, during, and after replacement, and in extreme situations, battery runtime can even be a life safety issue. Design engineers who focus on improving the battery runtime of their devices can substantially improve their customers’ bottom lines, and in so doing they may generate improved sales and customer loyalty.

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind—literally and figuratively.

 

On Tuesday, October 4, the European Microwave Week exhibition opened in London. We at Keysight—with some fanfare—pulled the fancy red drape off our new 110 GHz signal analyzer, the N9041B UXA. This thing is a total game-changer: it covers 3 Hz to 110 GHz in one unbanded sweep, has sensitivity 25 dB better than the alternatives, and provides up to 5 GHz of analysis bandwidth at high frequencies. Similar to other devices we all use, the UXA also has a large pinch/swipe multi-touch display.

Keysight N9041B UXA 110GHz Signal Analyzer showing a 3Hz to 110GHz sweep

 

Did I mention it goes all the way to 110 GHz? That’s like the volume going to 11 on a guitar amp! I mean, this is seriously kinda cool.

 

While my colleagues were uncorking champagne, chatting up journalists, nibbling on tiny cheese-and-cracker appetizers, and showing off our super analyzer to all comers, I skipped the party and did what every good sales and marketing manager does: jumped on a plane and headed the other direction, visiting Japan, Korea, and China in a whirlwind two-week trip.


Arriving in Tokyo ahead of the storm – everything looks calm

 

One small whirlwind problem: Super Typhoon Chaba. He started as a grumpy little storm, but during my long flight west, Chaba bulked up and turned into a typhoon (a hurricane to us Westerners) with a truly bad attitude. Monday morning, before the launch in London, Chaba was preparing to make landfall in Japan’s western islands while I was to the east near Tokyo, meeting with some of our backhaul customers.

 

Backhaul is a tricky business. You need to push lots of Pokémon GO and cat video data to the cell tower so it can be beamed to all those cellphones. If you’re like me, you always imagined this happening with a big fat optical pipe (fiber). But it turns out those cell towers aren’t easy to plumb and some just happen to be moving–like, say, on a high-speed train.

 

Point-to-point wireless costs less than digging up the neighborhood and laying pipe, and carriers can use high-frequency signals and high-gain antennas to solve their last-mile problem. These wireless solutions are also a good fit for seismically active areas (i.e., Japan). Thus, many network equipment manufacturers (NEMs) are investing in high-capacity backhaul to enable the new big-bandwidth requirements of 4.5G and 5G.

 

In backhaul, each pair of high-gain antennas better not be spewing signals at the wrong frequencies and in the wrong direction. Validating this requires out-of-band (OOB) spurious emissions testing, which my colleague Ben Zarlingo refers to as "compromising emanations” In a curious coincidence for our new 110 GHz Signal Analyzer, the Japanese government requires emissions testing all the way out to 110 GHz.

Watching the storm coming down on Japan

 

While Chaba continued to grow into an official Super Typhoon, my meetings were comparatively calm. At one key lab, a well-known Ph.D. thought we were joking when we described the analyzer’s performance and capabilities. My Japanese doesn’t go much beyond yakitori and Asahi, but I learned how the word “super” sounds when two separate hosts used the adjective to describe the new UXA: “suu-pah!

 

Because as it turns out, the alternative to a single-sweep instrument that can measure from 3 Hz to 110 GHz involves a harmonic mixer, which has inband imaging issues and can limit the analysis bandwidth due to IF complications. Mixer-based solutions are proving to be a big thorn in the side of the R&D teams responsible for some seriously complicated millimeter-wave testing. Thus, a 110 GHz Super Signal Analyzer is exactly what backhaul designers are looking for—and that made it a real pleasure to show these backhaul customers Keysight’s newest UXA.

 

As Super Typhoon Chaba moved north of Japan, I flew around the storm to South Korea. That’s where I met with some customers who are developing 5G wireless capability—and I’ll write about that next time.