National Physical Laboratory

Wireless Communications

NPL's wireless communications research group aims to develop new metrology for emerging applications in the communication markets covering a range of topics grouped into four main research areas:

  • Accurate measurement and characterisation of communications waveforms
  • Measurements of small and smart antennas
  • Research into wireless propagation and interference effects
  • Characterisation of wireless sensor networks and the associated uncertainty of system measurands

It also includes the ultrafast pulse measurement service which provides support to some of the above areas.

NPL's Wireless Communications research covers both theoretical and experimental aspects of wireless, optical and antenna systems. Research generally covers either:

  • Measurements relating to individual components or subsystems of the physical layer of a communications system
    or
  • Whole system performance of a system or sensor network

Particular areas of interest include:

  • Quantification of the resilience and reliability of wireless networks in a dense radio environment
  • Signal propagation and interference
  • Characterisation of small and smart antennas
  • Measurements of digital waveform parameters such as jitter and EVM, Bit-Error-Rate (BER)

NPL is a world-leading NMI in rf and Microwave metrology with a number of key facilities and capabilities.

Major facilities include:

  • Spherical Near-field Range housed in a temperature controlled 7.5 m by 7.5 m by 15 m anechoic chamber
  • 6.55 x 5.85 x 3.50 m Reverberation Chamber
  • 60 x 30 m Open Area Test Site
  • EMC antenna calibration range, GTEM cells and several other anechoic chambers
  • Fully and partially screened rooms housing unique guided wave standards and equipment
  • A comprehensive range of network analysers (to 110 GHz), fast sampling and digital storage oscilloscopes (to 80 GHz)
  • An electro-optic sampling system for precise EM field mapping
  • An automated probe station for on-wafer measurements
  • Calibrated antennas are essential for applications such as satellite communications, Earth remote sensing, and Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) testing. NPL has developed a comprehensive range of facilities for calibrating antennas covering the frequency range from 20 Hz up to 110 GHz.
  • SMART facility is available for minimally-invasive measurements of electrically-small, and smart, antennas at frequencies above 400 MHz.
  • The Ultrafast group at NPL provides measurement facilities for characterising fast electrical and optical pulses as well as calibration services for fast pulse generators and high-bandwidth oscilloscopes.

Wireless Communications case studies

  • A new technique proves successful in more accurately assessing the performance of an innovative product designed and manufactured in the UK
  • NPL-designed testing facilities are helping aerial manufacturers maintain high standards in aerial design, which in turn enables people up and down the country to receive a clearer digital television signal.

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