Tag Archives: Telecom/Internet

5 Challenges of Wideband 5G Device Test

Post Syndicated from National Instruments original https://spectrum.ieee.org/telecom/internet/5-challenges-of-wideband-5g-device-test

1. Waveforms Are Wider and More Complex

5G New Radio includes two different types of waveforms:

  • Cyclic-prefix OFDM (CP-OFDM) for downlink and uplink
  • Discrete Fourier transform spread OFDM (DFT-S-OFDM) for uplink only; this waveform resembles LTE’s single-carrier frequency division multiple access (SC-FDMA)

Researchers and engineers working on 5G device test have the new challenges of creating, distributing, and generating 5G waveforms among their design and test benches. Engineers need to work with highly complex, standard-compliant uplink and downlink signals that have larger bandwidths than ever before. They include a variety of different resource allocations; modulation and coding sets; demodulation, sounding, and phase-tracking information; and single-carrier and contiguous and non-contiguous carrier-aggregated configurations.

Design tip: Select a 5G standard-compliant toolset that allows you to generate, analyze, and share these waveforms between test benches to fully characterize your DUTs.

2. Instruments Must Be Wideband and Linear, and They Must Cost-effectively Cover an Extensive Frequency Range

Although RF engineers have been working with specialized and expensive test systems for mmWave in industries such as aerospace and military, this represents unexplored territory for the mass-market semiconductor industry. Engineers need cost-effective test equipment to configure more test benches for a shorter time to market. These new benches must support high linearity; tight amplitude and phase accuracy over large bandwidths; low phase noise; extensive frequency coverage for multiband devices; and the ability to test for coexistence with other wireless standards. Along with powerful hardware, modular, software-based test and measurement benches will be able to adapt rapidly to new test requirements. 

Design tip: Invest in a wideband test platform that can evaluate performance in both existing and new frequency bands. Select instrumentation that not only supports coexistence with current standards but also adapts to the evolution of the standard over time.

3. Component Characterization and Validation Require More Testing

Working with wide signals below 6 GHz and at mmWave frequencies requires characterizing and validating greater performance out of RF communications components. Engineers must not only test innovative designs for multiband power amplifiers, low-noise amplifiers, duplexers, mixers, and filters, but also ensure that new and improved RF signal chains support simultaneous operation of 4G and 5G technologies. Additionally, to overcome significant propagation losses, mmWave 5G requires beamforming subsystems and antenna arrays, which demand fast and reliable multiport test solutions.

Design tip: Ensure your test systems can handle both multiband and multichannel 5G devices to address beamformers, FEMs, and transceivers.

4. Over-the-air Testing of Massive MIMO and Beamforming Systems Makes Traditional Measurements Spatially Dependent

Engineers working on 5G beamforming devices face the challenge of characterizing the transmit and receive paths and improving the reciprocity for TX and RX. For example, as the transmit power amplifier goes into compression, it introduces amplitude, phase shifts, and other thermal effects that the LNA in the receiver path would not produce. Additionally, the tolerances of phase shifters, variable attenuators, gain control amplifiers, and other devices could cause unequal phase shifts between channels, which affects the anticipated beam patterns. Measuring these effects requires over-the-air (OTA) test procedures that make traditional measurements like TxP, EVM, ACLR, and sensitivity spatially dependent.

Design tip: Use OTA test techniques that synchronize fast and precise motion control and RF measurements to more accurately characterize 5G beamforming systems without exceeding your test time budget.

5. High-volume Production Test Demands Fast and Efficient Scaling

New 5G applications and industry verticals will exponentially increase the number of 5G components and devices that manufacturers need to produce per year. Manufacturers are challenged by the need to provide quick ways to calibrate the multiple RF paths and antenna configurations of new devices and accelerate the OTA solutions for reliable and repeatable manufacturing test results. However, for volume production of RFICs, traditional RF chambers can take up much of the production floor space, disrupt material handling flows, and multiply capital expenses. To tackle these problems, OTA-capable IC sockets—small RF enclosures with an integrated antenna—are now commercially available. These provide semiconductor OTA test functionality in a reduced form factor. 

Design tip: Select an ATE platform that extends lab-grade 5G instrumentation to the production floor to simplify the correlation of characterization and production test data.

Technical White Paper

Engineer’s Guide to 5G Semiconductor Test

Wideband 5G IC test is complex. The Engineer’s Guide to 5G Semiconductor Test is here to help. A must-read for anyone navigating the time, cost, and quality trade-offs of sub-6 GHz and mmWave IC test, the guide features color diagrams, recommended test procedures, and tips for avoiding common mistakes.

Topics include:

  • Working with wide 5G downlink and uplink OFDM waveforms
  • Configuring wideband test benches for extensive frequency coverage
  • Avoiding common sources of error in 5G beamforming
  • Reducing test times of over-the-air TX and RX test procedures
  • Choosing alternatives to RF chambers for high-volume production of mmWave RFICs

 Download the Engineer’s Guide to 5G Semiconductor Test

A Machine Learning Classifier Can Spot Serial Hijackers Before They Strike

Post Syndicated from Michael Koziol original https://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/telecom/internet/mit-and-caida-researchers-want-to-use-machine-learning-to-plug-one-of-the-internets-biggest-holes

How would you feel if, every time you had to send sensitive information somewhere, you relied on a chain of people playing the telephone game to get that information to where it needs to go? Sounds like a terrible idea, right? Well, too bad, because that’s how the Internet works.

Data is routed through the Internet’s various metaphorical tubes using what’s called the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP). Any data moving over the Internet needs a physical path of networks and routers to make it from A to B. BGP is the protocol that moves information through those paths—though the downside, like a person in a game of telephone, is that each junction in the path only knows what they’ve been told by their immediate neighbor.

Google’s Equiano Cable Will Extend to the Remote Island of Saint Helena, Flooding It With Data

Post Syndicated from Michael Koziol original https://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/telecom/internet/googles-equiano-cable-will-extend-to-the-remote-island-of-saint-helena-flooding-it-with-data

The tiny island will need to turn itself into a data hub to make use of the expected bandwidth

If you know anything about the South Atlantic island of Saint Helena, that’s probably because it was the island where the British government exiled Napoleon until he died in 1821. It was actually the second time Britain attempted to exile Napoleon, and the island was chosen for a very specific reason: It’s incredibly remote.

Napoleon is long gone, but the island’s remoteness continues to pose challenges for its 4,500-odd residents. They used to only be able to reach St. Helena by boat once every 3 weeks, though it’s now possible to catch the occasional flight from Johannesburg, South Africa to what’s been called “the world’s most useless airport.” Residents’ Internet prospects are even worse—the island’s entire population shares a single 50 megabits per second satellite link.

That’s about to change, however, as the St. Helena government has shared a letter of intent describing a plan to connect the island to Google’s recently announced Equiano cable. The cable will be capable of delivering orders of magnitude more data than anything the island has experienced. It will create so much capacity, in fact, that St. Helena could use the opportunity to transform itself from an almost unconnected island to a South Atlantic data hub.

How YouTube Paved the Way for Google’s Stadia Cloud Gaming Service

Post Syndicated from Jeremy Hsu original https://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/telecom/internet/how-the-youtube-era-made-cloud-gaming-possible

Google’s vision is that any device that can play YouTube videos will also have access to cloud gaming through Stadia

When Google’s executives floated a vision for the Stadia cloud gaming service that could make graphically intensive gaming available on any device, they knew the company wouldn’t have to build all the necessary technology from scratch. Instead, the tech giant planned to leverage its expertise in shaping Internet standards and installing infrastructure to support YouTube video streaming for more than a billion people worldwide.

The Internet Is Coming to the Rest of the Animal Kingdom

Post Syndicated from Elie Dolgin original https://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/telecom/internet/internet-of-living-things-can-communication-tools-break-down-the-interspecies-divide

A new Doolittlesque initiative aims to promote Internet communication among smart animals

People surf it. Spiders crawl it. Gophers navigate it.

Now, a leading group of cognitive biologists and computer scientists want to make the tools of the Internet accessible to the rest of the animal kingdom.

Dubbed the Interspecies Internet, the project aims to provide intelligent animals such as elephants, dolphins, magpies, and great apes with a means to communicate among each other and with people online.

And through artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and other digital technologies, researchers hope to crack the code of all the chirps, yips, growls, and whistles that underpin animal communication.

Oh, and musician Peter Gabriel is involved.

“We can use data analysis and technology tools to give non-humans a lot more choice and control,” the former Genesis frontman, dressed in his signature Nehru-style collar shirt and loose, open waistcoat, told IEEE Spectrum at the inaugural Interspecies Internet Workshop, held Monday in Cambridge, Mass. “This will be integral to changing our relationship with the natural world.”

The workshop was a long time in the making.

Shipping Industry Bets Big on IoT in Bid to Save Billions

Post Syndicated from Manon Verchot original https://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/telecom/internet/shipping-industry-bets-big-on-iot-in-bid-to-save-billions

Across the shipping industry, IoT technology is finally graduating from pilots to real-world commercial products

In a bid to save billions of dollars annually, the shipping industry is graduating from pilot projects and finally starting to adopt a smattering of Internet of Things (IoT) technologies for real-world, commercial use. Lately, several large and small shipping companies have turned to Traxens, a French technology firm, to help them deploy IoT devices across their fleets.

Traxens develops technology that tracks and monitors cargo. Since it launched in 2012, the company has earned investments from leading shipping companies. Shipping is responsible for carrying 90 percent of the world’s traded goods, according to the International Chamber of Shipping. This year, A.P. Møller—Mærsk A/S, which is the world’s largest container ship and supply vessel operator, became a Traxens shareholder and customer. 

Then, earlier this month, Traxens equipped Indonesian shipping company, PT TKSolusindo with a set of devices, each slightly longer and thinner than a brick, with sensors including GPS.  These devices can track geolocation, detect shock and motion, and check the temperature, humidity, and alarms on refrigerated containers, often called reefers. 

Melting Arctic Ice Opens a New Fiber Optic Cable Route

Post Syndicated from Michael Koziol original https://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/telecom/internet/melting-sea-ice-opens-the-floodgate-for-a-new-fiber-optic-cable-route

Cinia and MegaFon’s proposed Arctic cable would bring lower latencies and geographical diversity

The most reliable way to reduce latency is to make sure your signal travels over the shortest physical distance possible. Nowhere is that more evident than the fiber optic cables that cross oceans to connect continents. There will always be latency between Europe and North America, for example, but where you lay the cable connecting the two continents affects that latency a great deal.

To that end, Helsinki-based Cinia, which owns and operates about 15,000 kilometers of fiber optic cable, and MegaFon, a Russian telecommunications operator, signed a memorandum of understanding to lay a fiber optic cable across the Arctic Ocean. The cable, if built, would not only reduce latency between users in Europe, Asia, and North America, but provide some much-needed geographical diversity to the world’s undersea cable infrastructure.

The vast majority of undersea cable encircles the world along a relatively similar path: From the east coast of the United States, cables stretch across the northern Atlantic to Europe, through the Mediterranean and Red Seas, across the Indian Ocean before swinging up through the South China Sea and finally spanning the Pacific to arrive at the west coast of the U.S. Other cable routes exist, but none have anywhere near the data throughput that this world-girding trunk line has.

Ari-Jussi Knaapila, the CEO of Cinia, estimates that the planned Arctic cable, which would stretch from London to Alaska, would shorten the physical cable distance between Europe and the western coast of North America by 20 to 30 percent. Additional cable will extend the route down to China and Japan, for a planned total of 10,000 kilometers of new cable.

Knaapila also says that the cable is an important effort to increase geographic diversity of the undersea infrastructure. Because many cables run along the same route, various events—earthquakes, tsunamis, seabed landslides, or even an emergency anchoring by a ship—can damage several cables at once. On December 19, 2008, 14 countries lost their connections to the Internet after ship anchors cut five major undersea cables in the Mediterranean Sea and Red Sea.

“Submarine cables are much more reliable than terrestrial cables with the same length,” Knaapila says. “But when a fault occurs in the submarine cable, the repair time is much longer.” The best way to avoid data crunches when a cable is damaged is to already have cables elsewhere that were unaffected by whatever event broke the original cable in the first place.

Stringing a cable across the Arctic Ocean is not a new idea, though other proposed projects, including the semi-built Arctic Fibre project, have never been completed. In the past, the navigational season in the Arctic was too short to easily build undersea cables. Now, melting sea ice due to climate change is expanding that window and making it more feasible (The shipping industry is coming to similar realizations as new routes open up).

The first step for the firms under the memorandum of understanding is to establish a company by the end of the year tasked with the development of the cable. Then come route surveys of the seabed, construction permits (for both on-shore and off-shore components), and finally, the laying of the cable. According to Knaapila, 700 million euros have been budgeted for investment in the route.

The technical specifics of the cable itself have yet to be determined. Most fiber optic cables use wavelengths of light around 850, 1300, or 1550 nanometers, but for now, the goal is to remain as flexible as possible. For the same reason, the data throughput of the proposed cable remains undecided.

Of course, not all cable projects succeed. The South Atlantic Express (SAex), would be one of the first direct links between Africa and South America, and connect remote islands like St. Helena along the way. But SAex has struggled with funding and currently sits in limbo. Cinia and MegaFon hope to avoid a similar fate.

Rural Cooperatives Deliver High-Speed Internet for Less

Post Syndicated from Lucas Laursen original https://spectrum.ieee.org/telecom/internet/rural-cooperatives-deliver-highspeed-internet-for-less

Tired of waiting, some rural residents are funding their own Wi-Fi networks to bring broadband to their homes

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission proposed a rule update in April that would make it easier for people to install wireless repeater antennas—also known as signal boosters. In some rural regions, Wi-Fi can be the best way to extend the reach of fiber-optic networks at broadband speeds and at affordable prices.

The Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA), the lobbying group that proposed the change, argues that it’s necessary to keep up with market forces that are driving networks toward smaller hubs operating over shorter ranges. The update would also make it easier for communities to build more of their own Internet infrastructure. Already, despite rules in 26 U.S. states that create obstacles for community networks, some 3 million Americans, mostly rural, get their Internet that way.

The federal government spends around US $1.5 billion a year to expand broadband Internet service and subsidize plans for people with low incomes. Still, the so-called digital divide remains.

Some communities in the United States have already taken Internet service into their own hands by ­self-funding high-speed fiber and Wi-Fi networks. A handful of rural electricity cooperatives have even launched broadband cooperatives to build fiber-optic infrastructure. One Missouri electrical cooperative, Co-Mo, applied for U.S. stimulus funding to offer broadband to its members. Despite not winning that grant, the cooperative went ahead with its plans and now offers members broadband for US $50 a month.

The phenomenon reaches across the border to Canada, too. Bell Canada’s CAN $100-a-month DSL service didn’t provide enough bandwidth or speed for entrepreneur Brian Reid’s software and business-service companies, so he paid to extend fiber-optic cables from a nearby road to his business in the village of Lawrencetown, Nova ­Scotia. Soon, others heard about his fast fiber and asked if he would share. He suggested the municipality set up a cooperative to cover the costs of connecting his fiber-optic Internet to members via high-throughput Wi-Fi towers that can transmit from 10 kilometers up to 32 km.

“In rural areas, there is just this sense…that they can’t wait for the federal government or the states to do anything,” says Christopher Mitchell, the director of community broadband networks at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a nonprofit advocacy organization.

Once a fiber-optic line is in place, the hardware to transmit Wi-Fi costs very little. When Reid began researching options for transmitting Wi-Fi outdoors over long distances, he found that the transmitter was the cheap part, costing maybe CAN $1,500. It would cost 10 times as much to lay the concrete and raise a tower, even with volunteer labor.

The Lawrencetown cooperative has since installed four of these towers—including one on a farmer’s silo—and is building a fifth. The high-throughput Wi-Fi he tested early on “kind of blew us away,” he recalls. “I could see 600 megabits per second,” or about 7 times as fast as Nova Scotia’s average fixed broadband speed in 2018.

If government agencies such as the FCC are willing to open up unused licensed spectrum in rural regions, community networks could offer even better service, says telecom engineer ­Carlos Rey-Moreno of the Association for Progressive Communications. “The breakthrough will be at the regulatory level in the U.S. and other countries when they open up 6 gigahertz [and other bands],” he says, to take advantage of technology that can transmit more data than existing Wi-Fi.

Cooperatives have already shown that they can be popular and profitable with today’s technology. At first, the Lawrencetown cooperative, which began offering services in 2017, charged its 150 or so members CAN $60 per month, based on what a neighboring private ISP charged, but the cooperative soon found that it was generating a profit, which it had to repay to members, minus taxes. It has since lowered its prices to CAN $40 a month, and grown its membership to 350, but Reid says it could go lower.

RS Fiber Cooperative, which built fiber-optic service for 6,000 households, farms, and businesses in rural Minnesota, has a similar story. Both RS Fiber and the Lawrencetown co-op relied on municipal loans or backing to build the initial infrastructure. They’ve both since become self-sufficient.

And being first with fiber is always an advantage, Mitchell says: “It’s a hard business plan to make work, but if you can make it work…[you’ll] probably have an effective monopoly for many years.” The only difference, Reid says, is that the community owns this monopoly.

This article appears in the June 2019 print issue as “Rural Co-ops Deliver High-Speed Internet.”

Floating Cell Towers Are the Next Step for 5G

Post Syndicated from Jeremy Hsu original https://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/telecom/internet/internet-balloons-and-drones-look-to-rise-in-the-5g-era

Terrestrial 5G networks will support high-altitude balloons and drones, and could someday merge with them

5G report logo, link to report landing page

As the world races to deploy speedy 5G mobile networks on the ground, some companies remain focused on floating cell towers in the sky. During the final session of the sixth annual Brooklyn 5G Summit on Thursday, Silicon Valley and telecom leaders discussed whether aerial drones and balloons could finally begin providing commercial mobile phone and Internet service from the air.

Australia’s Troubled National Broadband Network Delivers a Fraction of What Was Promised

Post Syndicated from Michael Koziol original https://spectrum.ieee.org/telecom/internet/australias-troubled-national-broadband-network-delivers-a-fraction-of-what-was-promised

The newly elected government will inherit a floundering AUD $51 billion broadband network that’s providing slower service to fewer properties than planned

On 18 May, voters in Australia’s federal election will determine whether the Liberal-National Coalition will remain in control or the Australian Labor Party will win the government. Either way, the new leaders will have to contend with the National Broadband Network (NBN), a lumbering disaster that began as an ambitious effort by the Australian government to construct a countrywide broadband network.

When the NBN was first proposed in April 2009, the government aimed to build a fiber-optic network that would deliver connections of up to 100 megabits per second to 90 percent of Australian homes, schools, and workplaces within eight years. A decade later, however, the NBN has failed to deliver on that promise. NBN Co., the government-owned company created to construct and manage the network, now expects to deliver 50 Mb/s connections to 90 percent of the country by the end of 2020.

“None of the promises have ever been met,” says Rod Tucker, a telecommunications engineer and professor emeritus at the University of Melbourne. The watershed moment for the network was the 2013 federal election. That year, the Labor government that had championed the network was replaced by a conservative coalition government. The new government promptly reevaluated the NBN plan, taking issue with its projected cost.

The original plan, estimated to cost AU $43 billion, was a fiber-to-the-premise (or FTTP) plan. FTTP, as the name implies, requires threading fiber-optic cable to each and every building. The coalition government balked at the price tag, fired NBN Co.’s CEO, restructured the company, and proposed an alternative fiber-to-the-node (or FTTN) strategy, which was estimated to cost no more than AU $29.5 billion. The cost has now ballooned to more than AU $51 billion.

The reason an FTTN network theoretically costs less is because there’s less fiber to install. Rather than run fiber to every premise, FTTN runs fiber to centralized “nodes,” from which any number of technologies can then connect to individual premises. Fiber could be used, but more typically these last-mile connections are made with copper cabling.

The rationale behind the FTTN pivot was that there’s no need to lay fiber to homes and offices because copper landlines already connect those buildings. Unfortunately, copper doesn’t last forever. “A lot of the copper is very old,” says Mark Gregory, an associate professor of engineering at RMIT University, in Melbourne. “Some of it is just not suitable for fiber to the node.” Gregory says that NBN Co. has run into delays more than once as it encounters copper cabling near the end of its usable life and must replace it.

NBN Co. has purchased roughly 26,000 kilometers of copper so far to construct the network, according to Gregory—enough to wrap more than halfway around the Earth. Buying that copper added roughly AU $10 billion to the FTTN price tag, says Tucker. On top of that, NBN Co. is paying AU $1 billion a year to Telstra, the Australian communications company, for the right to use the last-mile copper that Telstra owns.

But perhaps the worst part is that even after the cost blowouts, the lackluster connections, and the outdated copper technology, there doesn’t seem to be a good path forward for the network, which will be obsolete upon arrival. “In terms of infrastructure,” says Gregory, “it’s pretty well the only place I know of that’s spent [AU] $50 billion and built an obsolete network.”

Upgrading the network to deliver the original connection speeds will require yet another huge investment. That’s because copper cables can’t compete with fiber-optic cables. To realize 100 Mb/s, NBN Co. will eventually have to lay fiber from all the nodes to every premise anyway. Gregory, for one, estimates that could cost NBN Co. an additional AU $16 billion, a hard number to swallow for a project that’s already massively over budget. “Fiber to the node is a dead-end technology in that it’s expensive to upgrade,” says Tucker, who also wrote about the challenges the NBN would face in the December 2013 issue of IEEE Spectrum.

After the federal election, the incoming government will have to figure out what to do with this bloated project. NBN Co. is far from profitable, and even if it was, it still owes billions of dollars to the Australian government. If the government does decide to bite the bullet and upgrade to FTTP, it will have to contend with other commercial networks now delivering equivalent speeds.

Had Australia delivered the NBN as originally promised, it would have been one of the fastest, most robust national networks in the world at the time. Instead, the country has watched its place in rankings of broadband speeds around the world continue to drop, says Tucker, while places like New Zealand, Australia’s neighbor “across the ditch,” have invested in and largely completed robust FTTP networks.

“It was an opportunity lost,” says Gregory.

This article appears in the May 2019 print issue as “Australia’s Fiber-Optic Mess.”