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18 SMT007 MAGAZINE I MAY 2018 "What that means is it increases the like- lihood of needing to do over-the-air testing, which is once taboo—a no-no in the wireless community for many years," Hall says. "But now, it's actually essential when you have antennas that are tightly integrated with the radio itself. By far, 5G is one of the biggest test challenges of mobile communications today, even as other standards are coming out—such as IEEE 802.11ax and Bluetooth Low Energy. But for the other standards, they sort of follow all the same rules. But 5G, and the use of new bands, creates a lot of challenges." One of the biggest challenges that their customers are facing right now is the acceler- ating rate of technology changes. The time it took for the industry to go from 2G to 3G was longer than what it is when going from 4G to 4.5, to 5G. "What that means is that customers have less time to react to handling new test chal- lenges and new technical challenges. Our goal to provide a platform-based approach is to allow our customers to develop a test system— the main IP for the customers is their soft- ware—and allow them to continue to reuse that software for long periods of time and be able to insert new hardware as the needs arise," explains Hall. "An example of that is the vector signal transceiver, which we announced in 2012. If you wrote a piece of test software that uses the vector signal transceiver back in 2012, you can still use that software today with the newest vector signal transceiver. But now, the new vector signal transceiver has better error vector magnitude (EVM) performance, better noise floor performance, and over 10x the bandwidth. That's a good example of help- ing customers preserve their investment— by giving them access to the latest and great- est hardware, without having to do significant rework." Developing 5G Test Systems National Instruments provides automated test equipment and virtual instrumentation solutions. To help customers going into 5G, the company is working with several lead users of the 5G test front, "because many of these customers are looking at millimeter-wave test- ing systems for the very first time, and it is something they have never dealt with before," says Hall. NI is working closely with them in lead- user engagements where it gives them the first prototype of some of the company's test technologies, and the users give feedback on what's working and what's not, and some of the challenges that they are uncovering in test. In this way, the company—with the help of their customer manufacturers—are defining some of the 5G test products together. According to Hall, the company recently collaborated with AT&T is to help them build a channel sounder, a system used to measure some of the real-world electromagnetic prop- agation effects in the 28GHz spectrum. In that collaboration, NI provided the software- defined radio hardware as well as engineering resources to help AT&T develop the system. "With this system, AT&T is already taking real measurements and being able to character- ize the channel in a way that was impossible before," notes Hall. David Hall

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