Guest Column | May 11, 2007

Industry Views: 4G Systems Bring New Design And Testing Challenges

By Mark Elo, Keithley Instruments, Inc.

Today's cell phones aren't what they used to be. With each new generation of cell phone standard, designers are tasked with squeezing more features into less space. These engineering tasks pose equal challenges to test engineers seeking to build the high-volume testers for newer generations of cell phones as they move into production in the near future.

The next generation of cell phone technology, called 4G (for fourth generation), promises to be an evolutionary leap in technology. The new 4G standard will support interactive services, wider bandwidth, higher bit rates, packet-switched networks, and an all-digital network. Single cell phones operating in 4G will be able to operate within multiple wireless networks. Plus, 4G is expected to rival Wi-Fi for dominance as a wireless alternative to cable and DSL technologies.

Test instrumentation will have to be cost-effective enough and yet be able to test a broad range of standards which includes an intense amount of firmware, algorithm, and process development. Instrumentation will also have to operate faster, in near real-time speeds, and perform more real-time analysis. Such real-time instruments are not prevalent today.

One of the struggles test engineers are facing is that at this time, there is not yet a formal definition of the 4G standard. This will delay the initial launch of the technology, which is expected to become available over the next couple of years.

One area of concern for designers is the introduction of newer, more sophisticated coding schemes to handle the larger volume of data and different data types. The more complex the coding scheme, the harder it is to demodulate the signal. Consequently, the easier it is to have problems. It also takes more time to process the signal and decode it.

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Industry Views: 4G Systems Bring New Design And Testing Challenges

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