Wireless communication technologies play a critical role in the rapid rise of mobile devices. Multi-band configurations have particularly contributed to the launch of 4G smartphones. A general 4G phone for use around the world is expected to support over 40 frequency bands in 2016. To keep up with advancement of the highly complicated technologies, it is essential that IC developers and RF module system assemblers with ambitions to grab a share of the market overcome the technical barriers of RF FrontEnd( RFFE) testing as phone signal reception quality and energy consumption are both closely related to the control of PA characterization.
IC design teams have to do additional testing required by signal processing with respect to the PA specs they need to follow. Items including dynamic EVM, ACLR, PAE and RF output power, DC power supply, and channel frequency have to be individually scanned and tested to confirm if the performance of the product that has been designed meets the standard. As IC validation is more challenging than system module testing, IC test engineering teams generally work under tremendous pressure and have to race against time on a daily basis.
IC testing generally starts from setting up various testing instruments and machinery, generally including oscilloscope, spectrum analyzer, a few signal generators that can simulate PA-enabled signals, power supplies needed to simulate PA power sources and a variety of measuring equipment. To model a test environment with fixed conditions, operators generally have to use GPIB to connect all the equipment. The preparation work alone is a daily struggle with all the wire connections behind the instruments.
Operators can then perform measuring, logging and analyzing, and the data is compiled in an Excel file and turned into graphs and charts which are used to verify against IC design specs to check for incompliances or errors. With every design modification, the entire testing process has to be repeated again. It may take a novice team weeks or even months to master the overall process. Therefore, it is natural for product managers and engineering project leaders to feel concerned.
LitePoint has delivered comprehensive automated testing solutions for production in mass quantities, helping manufacturers deliver billions of smartphones to the market every year. Realizing that the extremely demanding testing and verification work in a laboratory can no longer be carried out in the way that it was done before, LitePoint offers zSeries' PA/FEM total design validation solution for optimized testing of PA and FEM modules used in mobile devices.
Because of LitePoint's long-term collaboration with mainstream PA chip makers, LitePoint is able to offer zSeries with a complete understanding of PA characterization and a modularized hardware design integrating all the measuring instruments needed to perform testing in a rack mount chassis with 9 or 18 slots for insertion of the hardware modules. zSeries' design frees test engineering teams from complex wire connections so that they can focus on the demanding function verification work.
In addition to flexible hardware configurations, zSeries also provides software support by using a language architecture similar to a test script to enable editing and modification of different configuration profiles which are similar to regular .BAT files that engineers are familiar with. The scripting language is well liked as some test engineers of LitePoint's customers have nicknamed it "LitePoint Language."
When repeatedly testing PA characterization, test engineers generally have to process a great amount of test data so LitePoint offers IQramp, a data analysis system that makes use of Big Data Analytics and automatically generates reports and charts in PDF format, to help with validation work. Therefore, zSeries is not just a simple tester but a complete solution integrating software, hardware, Big Data analytics, and report creation tools. As Shawn Knapp, LitePoint's product application manager, points out, zSeries not only accelerates the testing process but also offers a flexibly integrated automated testing platform for validation applications in laboratories and during the IC or module manufacturing process. It gives IC designers and RF module makers a flexible approach to enhancing product quality.
zSeries impresses Japan market with promising expansion to other Asian countries for its precision
A case about a LitePoint customer using zSeries is worth mentioning. When a system assembler used zSeries to test the PA characterization of an RF module made by an RF module vendor with its internally-developed PA chip, the system assembler was able to discover that the dynamic EVM did not comply with the specs. This was a problem that the original PA design/test team failed to catch in the lab and was found and solved because the system assembler used zSeries, enabling high-precision testing that impressed the Japan industry.
With zSeries, system manufacturers can learn about PA characterization and thereby gain knowledge on new technologies including dynamic EVM, Digital Pre-Distortion(DPD), and Envelope Tracking(ET), which will help improve their RF IC design capabilities. The testing and verification processes enabled by zSeries will boost overall quality and enhance differentiating features of next generation RF IC designs and applications. For engineering teams that design systems integrating baseband, power management, application processors, and RF modules, competition is escalating and wireless transmission technologies are advancing by leaps and bounds. But zSeries, with robust function verification and automated testing capabilities, will help IC designers and RF module makers achieve their goals of time-to-market efficiency.
zSeries provides tools to generate test data graphs and charts in addition to a Big Data analytics system to enable PA and RF FEM testing
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