mmWave test solution introduced by NI to accelerate race to 5G commercialisation

21 May 2019

NI mmWave VST system
NI mmWave VST system

NI's new mmWave Vector Signal Transceiver reduces both cost & risk of testing 5G NR devices, to accelerate time-to-market.

National Instruments (NI), provider of software-defined automated test & measurement systems, has announced its mmWave Vector Signal Transceiver (VST) to address the test challenges of 5G mmWave RFIC transceivers and power amplifiers. Announced on the keynote stage at NIWeek, NI's annual user conference, the VST will be demonstrated at NIWeek 2019 in multi-site production test configurations for packaged part and wafer-level test and in validation test configurations using over-the-air (OTA) measurements.

With chipmakers racing to commercialise 5G mmWave technology, engineers face the daunting challenge of accelerating product development and release schedules, combined with new and often unsolved technical requirements. NI’s mmWave test solutions address these challenges in both the R&D lab and the high-volume manufacturing environment, delivering:

•    Measurement quality to meet rigorous technical requirements
•    An architecture designed to scale to the specific needs of production test for mmWave chips
•    A unified software experience that simplifies measurement and automation
•    Identical instrumentation in validation and production to simplify correlation efforts and reduce development time  

The mmWave VST combines an RF signal generator, an RF signal analyser and integrated switching with 1 GHz of instantaneous bandwidth at frequencies up to 44 GHz. In addition to existing PXI-based characterisation systems in the lab, this instrument natively integrates into NI's Semiconductor Test System (STS) for deployment in high-volume manufacturing applications. 5G mmWave STS configurations support up to 8 mmWave VST instruments, with integrated IF capabilities, and up to 72 mmWave ports in a tester configuration that is optimised for EVM (error vector magnitude) performance. Testers built on the modular PXI platform can help engineers rapidly and more cost-effectively integrate new measurement capabilities like 5G into their test cells, with less risk of delaying time-to-market.

“In the race to bring 5G technology to market, traditional approaches to RF semiconductor test are struggling to deliver on the flexibility and cost expectations of 5G devices,” said Eric Starkloff, President & Chief Operating Officer at NI. “The mmWave VST is yet another example of NI’s ability to combine our industry-leading platform with deep customer insight to enable customers’ disruptive innovations.”

NIWeek 2019 mmWave VST
NIWeek 2019 mmWave VST

This product features several innovations to address test requirements of 5G mmWave devices. The new calibrated integrated switching for up to 32 channels enables improved accuracy of beamforming and phased array measurements without additional infrastructure. The modular head design delivers accurate and cost-effective measurements while preserving forward compatibility with future 5G bands. With these innovations, engineers can simultaneously perform measurements at both 5-21 GHz and 23-44 GHz.

NI’s mmWave VST is designed to help customers lower cost and shorten time-to-market of RFIC devices. The mmWave VST complements NI’s modular instrumentation portfolio of more than 600 PXI products, ranging from DC to mmWave, and NI’s measurement software for 2G, 3G, LTE Advanced Pro, 5G NR, Wi-Fi 802.11ax, Bluetooth 5 and more, with support for many languages including LabVIEW and C# .NET. 

Find more information about the NI mmWave test solution here or 5G NR for wireless communication here.

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