Multi-DUT PXI approach reduces small cell manufacturing cost: Page 7 of 7

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.
Example modular instruments include RF signal generators, spectrum analyzers, and – relevant to multi-DUT testing – switches. PXI switches and combiners achieve high analog quality and high density – and are relatively inexpensive compared to the cost of the actual measurement instrument.

One of the most significant benefits of PXI multi-DUT testing is the measurement speed allowed by the PXI platform. Here, the combination of a high-speed data bus (PCI express) and highly capable signal processing technologies (multi-core processors) enables PXI instruments to perform most measurements three to ten times faster than traditional instruments.

Conclusion

Driven by demands for improved network capacity, small cell deployments are becoming increasingly popular with network operators. Consequently, small cell base station vendors are required to increase their manufacturing test throughput and to lower their cost of test. Higher test throughput and lower test cost require new test approaches in the wireless infrastructure industry. Multi-DUT testing helps engineers to improve test equipment utilization and, in turn, throughput and cost.

PXI offers many benefits for small cell testing and its modular architecture lends itself well to the multi-DUT approach. TestStand is a powerful test executive that provides advanced features such multi-threading and auto-scheduling to make productive use of the hardware capabilities.

Setting up a multi-DUT test stand is not for free – it takes some additional hardware, perhaps software upgrades, and test designers must exercise more care in writing their tests – but the speed and throughput benefits far outweigh the slight increase in upfront effort.

Thomas Deckert is a Senior Systems Engineer at National Instruments, www.ni.com.

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