With the 5G technology evolution just on the horizon, you can feel the momentum, excitement, and even tension building in the wireless industry. 3GPP is accelerating the New Radio (NR) standard and mobile network operators are fast-tracking their deployment plans. Mobile data demand continues to grow at a rapid pace and new device categories, such as VR/AR headsets, connected/autonomous cars, and cloud-based AI-enabled home assistants, are gaining traction and poised to take advantage of new 5G infrastructure. Although massive machine type communications (mMTC) is taking a backseat to enhanced mobile broadband (eMMB) in the initial 5G standard, operators are deploying new cellular IoT technologies, such as NB-IoT and CAT-M yielding new business models to more industry verticals.
Opportunities abound and so do challenges. To unleash the 5G business potential, chipset and device engineers must overcome significant challenges in the technology evolution and revolution: mm-wave propagation and channel modeling, wideband calibration, antenna complexity, beamforming, over-the-air measurements, protocol optimization for peak data throughput, digital interface capacity, battery life; the list goes on. Those of us in the test and measurement world are addressing the same challenges. We have the extra requirement of ensuring tools are ready in time (i.e. before!) for the designers of 5G systems. But Keysight engineers have also taken full advantage of our deep experience in aerospace & defense mm-wave and wideband applications and from serving the previous four generations of wireless communications.
Collaborating Globally to Realize 5G Technologies
But that list of technical issues is long and the answers require teamwork, (Roger Nichols’ last blog described the benefits of early and broad engagement in these generational changes: Getting Better in 5G—with a Little Help from Your Friends). Operator trials around the world are demonstrating promising results and continue to progress towards commercialization. The path to 5G is forming through the 4G evolution and pre-5G activities. While there is the inevitable concern about the “killer 5G use-case”, we see multiple ideas evolving over time: from stand-alone fixed wireless access for the home to non-standalone mobile access with interworking between traditional LTE networks and the new 5G standard. In addition, regulators are opening new spectrum between 3 and 5GHz for mobile wireless applications. Industry leading chipset vendors have publicly announced 5G modem solutions that will support NR at both sub-6 GHz and mm-wave as well as legacy cellular formats. That breadth of new technology, the addition of legacy technology, the mix of use-cases, and the range of carrier frequency and bandwidth is a huge map of complexity. Collaboration is necessary for success and we are pretty excited to announce another example just last week; that Keysight 5G Test Solutions have been selected by Qualcomm to help accelerate their commercialization strategy. And we are collaborating to test their 5G chipsets. Keysight Technologies Selected by Qualcomm for 5G Test Solutions
Enabling the Fastest Path to 5G
So what does it take to gain the confidence of key players in the industry? Like making an excellent 5-course meal, the recipe is simple but the execution is rather involved.
- Be there on time with necessary tools. Our most recent example is this month’s announcement of Keysight’s 5G Protocol R&D Toolset: Keysight Enables Prototyping of Next-Generation Mobile Devices with the Industry's First 5G Protocol R&D Toolset. Implementing and validating the new capabilities of NR will be particularly challenging given new capabilities like flexible numerology, channel codes, and management of active antenna systems (AAS). Keysight 5G Network Emulation Solutions. 5G Protocol R&D Toolset
- Work very closely with market leaders to understand the nuances of their design needs.
- Add to and update the tools; even make real-time adjustments to plans. Like our first 5G SystemVue solution launched in 2015, the solution described above is only first in a series of (in this case) network emulation solutions to address the 5G device workflow.
What Will we See Next?
The tone of recent public 5G events is a glorious mix of hype, amazing technology, and anxiety about how best to succeed in this industry. We remain convinced that the business model concerns will be addressed by the same kinds of smart people who developed everything from smart-phones to the most popular social media applications. It is up to us on the technology side to be ready for those innovative business ideas that will use the 5G network to its hilt. It is very exciting to be focused on enabling time to market and cost efficiencies by delivering solutions that stitch together the wireless device development workflow.
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