Boosting Throughput for 5G mmWave Device Manufacturing

2019-09-27  |  4 min read 

Mobile network operators (MNOs) around the world have set aggressive targets for 5G mobile network deployments — eager to deliver new services to consumers. Operators must deploy 5G networks and need 5G devices to capture 5G market opportunities. Many device makers announced their new lineup of 5G smartphones in 2019. High-volume 5G device manufacturing is imminent.

In the manufacturing phase of the device workflow, new strategies are necessary to meet ever-challenging goals and tighter schedules. Succeeding in high-volume manufacturing of 5G devices requires device makers to accelerate their time to market and reduce the cost of test. Multi-DUT testing is an essential strategy to achieve these goals.

Testing multiple devices at the same time is critical to increase production capacity and reduce the cost of test. Device makers can use parallel device testing to push the concept to its limits by using instrumentation designed with multi-device testing in mind.

5G mmWave represents a brand-new way of thinking about high-volume device manufacturing. Simultaneously testing multiple 5G mmWave devices requires radio heads and chambers for each device under test (DUT).

This also means higher real estate costs in addition to the capital equipment costs. The production capacity of device makers is limited to the real estate they have with contract manufacturers that typically charge by the square foot. Device makers are at a crossroad between higher real estate costs and lower production capacity. They can overcome this challenge by adopting innovative multi-DUT testing solutions that minimize floor space.

For example, with Keysight’s EXM wireless test set, device manufacturers can test four 5G DUTs in Frequency Range 2 (FR2) at once using the four transceiver (TRX) modules. Figure 1 shows a 4-port 5G mmWave solution testing four DUTs simultaneously for four different 3GPP-specified operating bands. Remote radio heads (RRHs) provide scalability, enabling the solution to work against a wide range of mmWave frequencies (FR2) while adding configurability to the test environment.

RRHs’ physical placement close to the measurement probe reduces cable loss. However, when test engineers switch them out manually on the manufacturing line, RRHs can introduce errors and generate calibration issues. To avoid these issues, some device manufacturers have opted to dedicate wireless test sets to different bands. With the Keysight solution, device manufacturers do not have to sacrifice flexibility because the same RRH covers all 3GPP specified bands.

5g mmWave Device Manufacturing Setup

With 5G, the challenges are higher than they have ever been with previous cellular technologies. Testing 5G mmWave devices requires high-performance test equipment and a shift from standard conducted test methods to new OTA testing. These requirements have implications on production real estate that impact the cost of test. Device manufacturers need powerful, highly integrated, yet flexible test solutions to succeed in the manufacturing phase of the device workflow.

For more information on this topic and other strategies to succeed at 5G device manufacturing, download our white paper 5 Tactics to Win the 5G Device Volume Demand.

You can find other resources on challenges and solutions across the device workflow on Keysight’s 5G Device Manufacturers webpage.