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mm-wave beamforming

Modular and scalable testing for mm-wave technologies

Working with the University of Surrey 5GIC, NPL has developed an advanced mm-wave hybrid beamforming testbed and research capability. The testbed system comprises high performance components combined with a bespoke mm-wave hybrid beamformer allowing modular and scalable testing of prototype mm-wave technologies and systems designs. This facilitates evaluation and characterisation of antennas, components, beam pointing performance, algorithms and overall link performance.

Beamforming focuses higher quality signals to a single receiving device meaning faster information transfer and fewer errors. This allows you to maximise signal strength in close proximities such as arenas, shopping centres or stations where there is huge footfall and need for multiple and uninterrupted wireless access. The technique avoids the signal being spread in all directions from a broadcast antenna, and results in more direct connections which are faster and more reliable.

Examples of testbed capability

The beamformer system offers the ability of full customisation, featuring individual high-resolution control of the phase and attenuation at each of the 128 antenna elements and full arbitrary waveform access to the baseband waveforms. The testbed helps to accelerate innovation in the important emerging area of mm-wave communications including:

  • Evaluating various 5G NR (New Radio) candidate waveform technologies
  • Evaluating system-level performance for 5G system compliance testing
  • Evaluating the performance of various adaptive beamforming algorithms and the associated beam pointing errors
  • Reconfiguring multiple-antenna system architectures with baseband, RF and hybrid beamforming structures
  • Linking performance with multiple user-equipment in indoor and outdoor environment
  • Evaluating channel quality performance of the transmit-receive beam pairs and thus select the best beam pair for date transmissions
  • Measurement throughput of SNR, SINR, SIR, EVM, CSI, CQI, CRC and BER.

Impact of beamforming

NPL's research and development programmes will enhance the deployment of mm-wave 5G in the UK which will result in:

  • Improved and enhanced wireless communications within close proximity and where there is high footfall
  • Greater uptake at the higher mm-wave band and use of new applications with improved performance
  • Confidence in the performance of mm-wave antenna devices, including complex arrays and tracking.

The testbed is available for collaborative research, consultancy, testing and measurement services.

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