Mobile World Congress 2012, Day 3
D Sargent- February 29, 2012
My first stop was at the Tektronix Communications booth. There are no oscilloscopes or logic analyzers at the booth, as this event is where's Tek's network monitoring business is the star.
Tek has installed its monitoring solutions into 15 LTE deployments worldwide. According to Tek, that equates to over 50% market share. These deployments start with the K2Air probe, which sniffs the CPRI link that snakes up a cell tower. By doing so, it can sniff the actual signaling between the base station and the handset, critical for early handset compliance and troubleshooting issues.
As the system is built out, monitoring solutions probe wider points in the network. Verizon recently chose Tek's Iris suite and GeoProbe products for its LTE monitoring solution.
I then met with Intel's Ali Sadri, chairman of the WiGig Alliance. WiGig is like Wi-Fi on steroids, with some important differences. Camped at 60 GHz with 2 GHz of bandwidth, WiGig offers 4.5 Gbps of raw bandwidth, and a very achievable 3 Gbps to the user. The 60-GHz bandwidth means higher path attenuation, and that's an advantage. The shorter range, combined with beamforming, allows WiGig to be deployed in large venues without cell-to-cell interference.
The killer application will be at home and at the office: the wireless docking station. New ultrabooks no longer have the connector space for effective docking, and tablets certainly don't. But with WiGig, your laptop, tablet, or even smartphone would connect wirelessly to your docking station at blazing speeds—fast enough for real-time, uncompressed HDTV.
Which brings up some interesting scenarios: your STB (set-top box) could also be a WiGig "docking station." Bring your laptop or smartphone into your living room and display the photos or videos of the day, all wirelessly.
Smartphones with WiGig? Certainly, said Ali. Perhaps with "only" a four-element beamforming antenna, WiGig would enable either real-time streaming or instant caching of content. Go to Starbucks and download your photos to a kiosk while you order your coffee. Then, drive to your next destination while your cached videos are being stored in the cloud. Alternatively, download a movie into your device quickly for later viewing. Huawei and ZTE's recent joining of the WiGig Alliance indicate that the equipment manufacturers are considering some creative uses for WiGig.
Two big plugfests are scheduled for this year. Expect the first interoperability testing at the beginning of 2013, and commercial products to appear in the second half. CES and MWC 2014 will be big WiGig shows.
This brings us to the missing links: test equipment. As I reported in my Day 1 coverage, Agilent Technologies showed a physical layer test system for early developers. It's a step, but Ali said we will need smaller and lower-cost testers for the wide deployment of WiGig. Test and measurement companies, be prepared: A Request for Quote for a WiGig "sniffer" is coming!
My next meeting was with Shane Lo of semiconductor manufacturer Altair, maker of single-mode LTE chipsets (no 2G or 3G radios included). Altair had announced test partnerships with Aeroflex, Agilent, Anritsu, Litepoint, and Rohde & Schwarz. I'll get to why these partnerships are critical in a moment. Altair has a SDR (software-defined radio) architecture that allows it to span from 700 MHz to 2.7 GHz and support TDD and FDD flavors of LTE. The LTE-only focus makes the company's chips suitable for tablets, PCs, and the like.
Shayne described why the test partnerships are important. In R&D, short test times are convenient, but not critical. In ODM (original device manufacturer) production, short test times are essential. Here's why: The cost of test per device is a simple calculation. Add up all your cost per test, equipment, labor, and overhead, and then divide by the number of units produced. Faster throughput means less cost, period. Special test modes and sequences help accelerate testing.
This is where the test partnerships come in. The device is placed in a special non-call-processing mode, and a specific fast test sequence is executed. This can reduce the test times from 15 min to 3 min. Other techniques, such as testing four devices at a time, further multiply the effective throughput. When it comes to radio test, we all feel the need for speed.
The day left me with the impression of how the industry continues to innovate and accelerate. Mobile connectivity will reach new heights, powered by the ingenuity and ambition of the players.
Leaving the conference, however, I found the normal exit was blocked. Protesters had taken over the square in front of Mobile World Congress and the police redirected us to an alternate route. I'm not sure exactly what the protestors' beef was with MWC, but I couldn't help and smile about the irony: They undoubtedly coordinated the demonstration using their mobile phones. T&MW