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Agilent talks WiMAX: Reliability is key

Posted: 08 Aug 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:WiMAX? wireless broadband service? WiMAX Forum?

Meurell: Reliable operation in the hands of the consumer should be the ultimate aim for the industry.

WiMAX's grand promise of delivering wireless broadband services anytime, anywhere seems to be questioned at times. Nevertheless, there is no denying the lure of wireless broadband.

An independent research study commissioned by the WiMAX Forum revealed that more than 133 million WiMAX users will emerge across the globe in the next four years. Other market studies also anticipate at least 250 service providers emerging 110 countries, mostly in Asia Pacific and the Americas.

For instance, recent reports indicate that the Indian government will start auctioning wireless licenses, in time for the launch of WiMAX and 3G services by next year.

Field trials meanwhile are being set up in Taiwan for end-to-end mobile WiMAX solutions. The trials complement the formation of Consortium of Mobile Broadband (CMB), a new group organized to facilitate and accelerate the development of WiMAX in Taiwan.

Such forecasts and market developments provide vast opportunity for developers creating chips, modules, end-user devices and base station equipment.

A key player in the WiMAX scene is test equipment vendor Agilent Technologies Inc. In this interview, CJ Meurell, general manager, of Agilent's European operations, talks about WiMAX and what future the technology holds for the company, the market and consumers.

Can you give us a brief background on your WiMAX and WLAN product portfolio?
Agilent provides a broad portfolio of test solutions covering all the WiMAX and WLAN lifecycle phases, such as design and verification bringing solutions to market at the appropriate time for each lifecycle phase. Examples are Advanced Design System Software, E6651A mobile WiMAX test set, Signal Studio Software with Agilent MXG, ESG, and vector signal generators, 89600 Series vector signal analysis software, MXA spectrum analyzer, PSA Series spectrum analyzer, Digital Vector Signal Analysis (DVSA) with logic analyzer, PNA-X network analyzer, ENA Series network analyzer, DSO80000 Series ultrahigh performance oscilloscopes, mobile communications DC source with device, N8300A networking test Set, characterization software.

What has been the biggest roadblock in growing the WiMAX ecosystem from the test and measurement sector perspective?
One of the toughest barriers to break in getting WiMAX products to market has been the technical challenges surrounding the creation of the conformance test process. Interoperability, speed, and reliability are key issues that all the WiMAX vendors across the ecosystem are concerned with as they are critical for customer acceptance.

The WiMAX Forum is working hard to provide the industry standard guidelines for manufacturers to test against. Once these test procedures are established, we should soon see increased stability in base station hardware and a plethora of mobile user devices waiting to go through the certification process. Test and measurement vendors like Agilent will facilitate this process by providing pre-certification and certification test equipment.

Agilent's E6651A mobile WiMAX test set touts flexibility in several applications across the Mobile WiMAX product lifecycle.

What has been the biggest challenge for Agilent in coming up with solutions for the next-generation wireless? How did Agilent overcome these challenges?
Test equipment vendors have to engage at the earliest time possible with the standards committees and lead silicon vendor companies. Agilent is deeply involved in the standards committees of all the major wireless systems and we use this exposure to ensure our test solutions are at the leading edge of the evolving standards.

We have extended existing general-purpose products, such as spectrum analyzers, signal generators and electronic design automation (EDA) software by providing WiMAX and LTE customization for signal creation and analysis tools. At the same time, we have moved to provide dedicated test equipment to address the need for functional, protocol and RF testing.

Rather than re-invent solutions, which takes considerable time, Agilent has forged strong partnerships with technology leaders in order to expand our extensive portfolio of WiMAX and LTE test solutions for development and conformance testing. Those partnerships include suppliers of IP, which we use in our equipment, system suppliers for Protocol Conformance Test (PCT) and Radio Conformance Test (RCT) and key market players such as silicon chipset vendors, mobile device manufacturers, and service providers, who help us, verify that our solutions meet industry needs.

Agilent offers a broad range of WiMAX test and measurement solutions that span the entire WiMAX lifecyclefrom R&D and design verification to manufacturing, conformance and interoperability test. What is the most stringent part of this lifecycle testing instrument-wise?

Reliable operation in the hands of the consumer should be the ultimate aim for the industry. Agilent has made a large investment in conformance test systems, with solutions for PCT, RCP and Radiated Performance Test (RPT). While conformance testing is necessary, it is not sufficient. Agilent's solutions can do much more than test to the letter of the standard. We can simulate real user experience, providing bench-top base-station emulation that allows real user applications to be run on a WiMAX device and different network conditions to be tested including drive test solutions.

What have been the key requirements of your customers when they approach you for a WiMAX test solution?
Reliable functionality and versatility, at the right time for the development cycle and the key requirements. The Agilent E6651A mobile WiMAX test set is becoming the industry standard because of its flexibility in several applications across the Mobile WiMAX product lifecycle, from integration testing through pre-conformance, conformance and acceptance testing. Its application spans RF, protocol and functional test needs. Recognizing the significance of WiMAX technology and the need for test, we fast-tracked our development processes, introducing the E6651A in February 2007, to allow mobile station designers and manufacturers to rapidly move from development to volume production, and to improve the integrity and quality of their products. Agilent's WiMAX PCT solution is based on this hardware platform.

As a principal member of the WiMAX Forum, can you discuss recent initiatives Agilent is involved in the promotion of WiMAX?
We believe that the best way for Agilent to promote WiMAX to the consumer market is by working with our ecosystem partners to ensure their products are successful, thereby supporting rapid adoption of this new technology. Agilent is committed to providing education to our ecosystem partners on the test and measurement issues and challenges inherent in evolving protocol standards and certification requirements. Over the last four years, we've offered a number of complimentary Webcasts, workshops, articles, technology posters, application notes, and sponsored industry newsletters to help "de-mystify" the measurement challenges of critical topics such as MIMO, PCT, RPT and more.

We're starting to work on an increasing number of joint-marketing initiatives with key partners.

Besides helping to define the industry standards as I mentioned earlier, our status as a Principal Member of the WiMAX Forum means that we're at the forefront of the various sponsored Forum tradeshows and other industry events. Lastly, through opportunities with the press such as this interview, we can continue to show our support for this exciting new technology.

- EE Times-Asia





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