The shortage of bandwidth has triggered the exploration of the millimeter wave (mm-wave) frequency spectrum for future broadband wireless networks, such as 5G. To optimize the time-to-market of the upcoming 5G networks and services, measurements and further research are needed to gather information about wireless mm-wave propagation, in both indoor and outdoor environments. The market is currently in a product development and piloting phase where numerous networks are being deployed globally. So far, 5G coverage has been emulated in the lab, but once the equipment is field/pilot-ready, it needs to be field tested as soon as possible. Network vendors need to ensure the used emulation algorithms match reality and real-world environments, while network operators require data on how the coverage of the base station is laid out, for example, to determine what the beam form is to verify the 5G network planning models.
No 5G devices – What to do?
Currently there are very few 5G devices available, hence you may not be able to perform similar RF measurements as you would with existing broadband networks, such as 4G / LTE, where the smartphone’s interface is used to measure data throughput and signaling between the smartphone and a base station. One way to perform such measurements is using a combination of traditional drive test equipment that can post-process and visualize the measurements, and a spectrum analyzer that can measure the 5G signal power level from the base station. With this combination, you can collect basic data, meeting the requirements of both the network vendor and the operator. The combined 5G measurement solution provides a complete measurement system for millimeter wave propagation measurements, and verifies the go-to-market of 5G equipment hence speeding up the time-to-revenue of 5G products. It verifies 5G coverage algorithms securing the quality of product. For operators, it gives real-world data in a pre-5G / 3GPP standard environment.
Performing the measurements
The 5G beam is narrow, which poses challenges on how to perform measurements. The easiest way is to set up the 5G antenna on a tripod with a line-of-sight to the 5G base station. For easy positioning, you can use a telescopic sight, greatly simplifying the setup and usage. The correctly positioned antenna is connected to the spectrum analyzer which again is connected to a drive test software running on a laptop (Figure 1).
Visualizing the results
The need for post-processing and visualization of measurement results to ensure the usability of the data should not be underestimated. Post-processing tools generally come with a post-processing, analysis, and visualization software (Figure 2). The 5G solution will measure and verify mm-wave frequency propagation, path loss, reflection, and penetration for indoor and outdoor environments. It provides accurate total channel power level over the measured bandwidth, visualizing the measurement results on maps and floorplans (Figure 3). The solution also generates statistical reports and coverage plots.
Filed Under: Wireless, M2M (machine to machine)