Multi-DUT PXI approach reduces small cell manufacturing cost

November 24, 2014 // By Thomas Deckert, National Instruments
Small cell base stations are a key technology that will increase capacity and coverage of today’s cellular mobile networks. In fact, the growth in the small cell industry is creating a new cost structure of base station manufacturing test.

Due to the growth in small cell deployments, base stations are becoming an increasingly high-volume product. As a result, challenges such as reducing the cost of test and maximizing test throughput are becoming increasingly important in device manufacturing. Multi-DUT testing can provide great cost and throughput benefits. This article talks about the major aspects of setting up multi-DUT test systems and also discusses the advantages of the PXI modular platform to implement such systems.

Small cells – high-volume production demands low test cost

As the adoption and usage of smart phones continues to rise, mobile network operators see the demand for data rate and coverage growing – exponentially (Figure 1). Cisco’s Visual Networking Index estimates that from 2013 to 2018 there will be an 11-fold increase in global mobile data traffic. A view commonly held in the industry is that by 2020 operators must improve mobile network capacity 1000-fold, compared to the beginning of the decade to meet market demands.

Figure 1: Mobile data traffic increases exponentially. Click image to enlarge.

Smalls cells are a critical technology in addressing the challenge of delivering higher network capacity. Their coverage area is much smaller than that of traditional “macro cells” (couple of 100 meters versus several kilometers). Small cell base stations operate at lower transmission power, have a smaller size and cost less than macro base stations. However, mobile operators will install – and vendors must manufacture – them in much larger numbers than their bigger counterparts (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Small cells can provide cost-effective coverage and vast capacity in dense urban areas and indoor environments. Click image to enlarge.

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