Multichannel Vector Signal Generator for 5G, 6G mmWave applications

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By Nick Flaherty

Keysight Technologies has developed a four-channel vector signal generator up to 54 GHz for 5G development and 6G research.

The M9484C VXG microwave signal generator provides up to 5 GHz of radio frequency (RF) bandwidth and low phase noise in a single instrument. Adding the V3080A vector signal generator frequency extender expands the frequency range up to 110 GHz for the latest and evolving standards.

The VXG is aimed at 5G mobile communications, 6G research, satellite communications and radar applications that use a wide range of frequencies, up to and including millimetre wave (mmWave) spectrum.

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Testing these applications requires signal generation equipment capable of creating millimetre-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. It also enables multi-antenna test applications such as MIMO and beamforming with precise phase coherence and timing synchronisation.

The signal generator uses a direct digital synthesis (DDS) architecture that eliminates signal impairments caused by traditional analogue I/Q modulators such as gain imbalance, timing skew, quadrature skew, DC offset and phase noise.

The 14bit DDS DAC has a bandwidth of 8.5 GHz for direct conversion to provide real-time signal processing for complex test scenarios. It also supports MIMO real-time fading for all 3GPP 5G new radio (NR) required base station conformance tests with PathWave Signal Generation software.

The digital signal processing engine handles 3 GSamples/s with 8 real-time processing paths per RF port and multiple FIR filters for fading and other processing. This enables complex receiver test scenarios can be developed with 8-virtual-signal emulation per RF channel, up to 32 signals in one instrument. This simplifies test workflow with pre-defined compliance test setups, auto-configuring signal analysis and graphic user interface.

Using the extender for higher frequencies is deliberate architectural choice. At millimetre-wave frequencies, excessive path loss makes RF power limited and costly. Cables and accessories in the path between a signal generator and the device under test (DUT) increase insertion loss. The cable loss can be more than 5 dB and can reduce the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of the test system.

Using an external frequency extender allows customers to move the RF output close to the DUT to shorten the mmWave signal routing, reducing the path loss and improving the SNR.   

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