M9415A VXT PXIe Vector Transceiver


The wireless industry is in the process of adopting 5G new radio (NR) technology to deliver enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) communications, as well as applications, that depend on ultra-low latencies and ultra-high reliability. To achieve the high data throughput that many use cases require, 5G NR utilizes wide bandwidths at high frequency bands. Consequently, designers of 5G radio frequency (RF) components, base stations and user equipment need to address new technical challenges to meet time-to-market and cost-of-test goals, especially during the transition from research and development (R&D) to design verification and volume production.

Many vendors are progressing from research to product development following the global standard organization 3GPP’s approval of Release 15, which supports 5G NR standard in standalone (SA) mode. As the standard evolves, Release 16 will extend support for 5G NR in unlicensed spectrum (NR-U), enabling designers to use sub-7GHz spectrum, including bands 2.4 GHz, 3.5 GHz, 5 GHz, and 6 GHz.

To support global spectrum requirements and meet wider channel bandwidths and higher measurement performance, designers need test instruments that support the latest 3GPP specifications, and deliver superior RF performance in a flexible and scalable platform.

Keysight has developed a new PXIe vector transceiver (VXT) - M9415A – which enables customers to address design and test challenges.

Customer Problem

Test Demands and Challenges

Cellular technology shifts create new test demands and considerations, such as number and variety of frequencies, bandwidths and test performance requirements.

Global Spectrum Requirements

To accommodate global spectrum requirements, the 5G NR standard specifies two frequency ranges: sub-7GHz (FR1) and mmWave (also referred to as FR2). This means 5G devices and test instrumentation need to support one or both frequency ranges. The use of mmWave frequencies poses challenges related to path loss and signal propagation. At these higher frequencies, the excess path loss between instruments and devices under test (DUTs) is very high. Therefore, test engineers need to move the test plane closer to the DUT, shortening the path that signals at mmWave frequencies need to travel.

Wider Channel Bandwidths

The 5G NR maximum channel bandwidth for FR2 has been defined as 400 MHz. By using carrier aggregation (CA), it is possible to achieve up to 1200 MHz of aggregated channel bandwidth. To characterize the non-linear performance of power amplifiers (PAs) using advanced measurements, such as digital pre-distortion (DPD) techniques for RF, test engineers require signal generation and analysis test systems that support up to three times the channel bandwidth.

Test Performance Requirements

At mmWave frequencies, the components are compact and highly integrated with no place to probe test signals, resulting in the need for radiated tests, also known as over-the-air (OTA) tests. The excessive path loss between instruments and DUTs results in a lower signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) making accurate measurements challenging. Also, wider signal bandwidths introduce more broadband noise, which lowers the SNR. The low SNR causes the transmitter measurements to deliver insufficient error vector magnitude (EVM) and adjacent channel power ratio (ACPR) performance, mis-representing the true performance of the DUT. Wideband noise and phase noise at mmWave frequencies degrade modulation quality for signal generation.

To overcome these challenges at higher frequency bands and wider bandwidths, high-performance signal generators and signal analyzers are essential to ensure errors are not generated by the test instruments. The test system integration and test costs create higher barriers from R&D to volume production.

In summary, technology shifts and test requirements introduce challenges that can only be addressed using test instruments that deliver enhanced performance and capability.

How Does Keysight Address these Challenges?

The Keysight M9415A PXIe vector transceiver (VXT) supports flexible wide bandwidths and frequency ranges to efficiently address channel bandwidth and new frequency bands requirements. The new VXT uses an external mixing test structure to extend the frequency range to mmWave to address global spectrum requirements and move the test plane closer to the DUT, thereby reducing the path loss.

With a bandwidth of up to 1.2 GHz, the VXT supports 5G advanced test needs such as PA digital pre-distortion (DPD) characterization and carrier aggregation. Its compact modular design allows the user to integrate additional PXI modules to provide the flexibility and scalability users require to efficiently perform multi-site testing in the production phase. This is achieved by integrating a 6, 8, or 12 GHz Vector Signal Generator (VSG) and a Vector Signal Analyzer (VSA) in a three-slot PXIe module and by supporting up to four VXT modules in an 18-slot PXI chassis.

Keysight's VXT supports a wide range of applications using the same measurement application software used in benchtop instruments. These trusted measurement applications offer users powerful troubleshooting tools and consistent measurement science to easily and quickly transition from R&D to production.

Keysight's VXT delivers high throughout yield, reducing the cost of test and enabling a quick transition from development to production. The new VXT offers a flexible, future-ready architecture that is equipped to solve today's problems and easily evolve to also meet future 5G test challenges.

Key Features and Business Benefits

1. Superior RF performance: Greater test margin for R&D DVT and increased production throughout yield.

  • Built-in 1.2 GHz signal generation and analysis bandwidth
  • High output power up to +20 dBm
  • Superior single sideband (SSB) phase noise <–130 dBc/Hz at 1 GHz (10 kHz offset)
  • Excellent amplitude accuracy <±0.5 dB for both generator and analyzer
  • <0.3% EVM of 100 MHz bandwidth OFDM signal for accurate 5G DVT

2. Modular instrumentation: Increased flexibility and scalability by integrating systems to enable testing of complex devices.

  • Allows four M9415A VXT modules in a single 18-slot chassis for multi-site test
  • PCIe Gen 3 interface provides high data transfer rate for accelerating measurement speed

3. Trusted measurement applications: Powerful troubleshooting tools and consistent measurement science from R&D to production.  

  • Supports the PathWave Signal Generation software for waveform creation, and PathWave X-Series Applications and PathWave 89600 VSA software for signal analysis.
  • Together with PathWave software platform, Keysight’s common software platform for connected design and test, the new Keysight solution enables wireless equipment makers to quickly and cost-effectively transition from R&D design validation, integration, and verification to volume manufacturing.
  • Provides a comprehensive portfolio of instrument drivers and documentation.

Related Information

About Keysight Technologies

Keysight Technologies, Inc. (NYSE: KEYS) is a leading technology company that helps enterprises, service providers and governments accelerate innovation to connect and secure the world. Keysight's solutions optimize networks and bring electronic products to market faster and at a lower cost with offerings from design simulation, to prototype validation, to manufacturing test, to optimization in networks and cloud environments. Customers span the worldwide communications ecosystem, aerospace and defense, automotive, energy, semiconductor and general electronics end markets. Keysight generated revenues of $3.9B in fiscal year 2018. More information is available at www.keysight.com.

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Beth Hespe, Americas/Europe
+1 609 994–7442

Fusako Dohi, Asia
+81 42 660–2162