Technical Insights > RF + Microwave

How to Measure Beamformer ICs

2020-06-22  |  4 min read 

Multi-band beamforming antennas play an increasing role in sorting our ever-growing wireless traffic. At the heart of these antennas, beamformer integrated circuits (ICs) drive multiple transmit/receive (T/R) modules. Each T/R module contains complex active components and requires a wide variety of tests, including continuous-wave (CW) measurements like gain and phase as well as modulated signal measurements like error vector magnitude (EVM), adjacent channel power (ACP), and noise power ratio (NPR). Amplifiers in wireless and space applications operate in their compression regions, requiring distortion tests to characterize real-world operation.

Antenna circuits containing beamformer ICs and FEMs
The antenna module contains beamformers which contain T/R modules

The big takeaway from that alphabet soup of acronyms is this: you need to perform many different measurements multiple times when testing T/R modules. If your beamformer IC has 16 T/R modules and you have a network analyzer with four ports and a spectrum analyzer with one port, your measurement setup will limit your test speed.

You can simplify your measurement setup with Keysight’s Modulation Distortion Application that enables modulated signal measurements on the PNA-X, but there’s a limitation — you still only have four ports.

As 5G FR2 moves from R&D to production, production labs must verify complex FR2 devices without the luxury of high-end R&D solutions. And they have to do it quickly to meet the demands of the 5G rollout. How do you maintain a high throughput on highly integrated multiport devices? With a highly integrated multiport test setup.

We’ve seen how multiport network analyzers bring unmatched performance and speed to multiport CW applications, even reducing test time by 80%. If you start with a multiport network analyzer, deconstruct it into a modular set of sources and receivers, add a complete set of component characterization applications, then add advanced modulated signal capabilities, you no longer just have a network analyzer. This newly constructed instrument offers vector-corrected measurements on all the CW and modulated signal measurements you need for wireless and satellite components. It’s called a Vector Component Analyzer (VCA).

Vector component analyzer (VCA)
The Vector Component Analyzer (VCA) with directional couplers in a direct receiver access (DRA) configuration

Based on the M980xA PXI Vector Network Analyzers, the VCA includes receiver-only PXI modules offering direct receiver access for highly accurate modulation distortion analysis. Configure a modular solution for your exact measurement needs and get high throughput and exceptional performance no matter how many ports you add. The multiport configuration is faster and more affordable for production labs that need to quickly verify integrated devices.

Visit the product page to see what the vector component analyzer can do for you.