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.