Home Featured Articles Ultraportable USB-Powered Spectrum Analyzer Revolutionizes mmWave Testing

Ultraportable USB-Powered Spectrum Analyzer Revolutionizes mmWave Testing

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by Russel Lindsay – Anritsu Company

The explosion in data-intensive, high-speed services has created a mini-revolution within the wireless industry. Commercial applications are no longer the sole domain of the RF and microwave spectrums. As the industry prepares (i.e. designs) for a new generation of commercial wireless that includes 5G, automotive radar, 60 GHz WiFi (WiGig or 802.11ad) and other technologies to satisfy a growing and demanding consumer base, millimeter wave (mmWave) frequencies have become one answer to the question of, “How do we deal with all these high-bandwidth challenges?”

The economies of developing and deploying these technologies is another question that engineers are being asked to solve. More affordable and efficient test solutions is one key approach to satisfying the cost concern. To that end, Anritsu Company has introduced the Spectrum Master™ MS2760A family of ultraportable spectrum analyzers (Figure 1) that brings unprecedented cost, as well as size and performance, benefits to the emerging mmWave markets.

Small Size, Big Performance

Incorporating an innovative new mmWave spectrum analyzer design, the MS2760A family delivers basic spectrum analysis capabilities well below the price point of traditional spectrum analyzers in an unimaginably small form factor. The MS2760A family consists of the world’s first handheld mmWave spectrum analyzers to provide continuous coverage from 9 kHz up to 110 GHz. With five different frequency models (32, 44, 50, 70, and 110 GHz), the MS2760A analyzers are well-positioned for emerging mmWave applications. A 90 GHz model is also available for countries where an export license is required for analyzers above 90 GHz.

Figure 1: The Spectrum Master MS2760A ultraportable spectrum analyzer

The MS2760A models are direct conversion spectrum analyzers below 6.15 GHz and utilize sampler-based conversion above 6.15 GHz. The sampler-based conversion of the MS2760A leverages Anritsu’s patented shockline nonlinear transmission line (NLTL) sampling technology in a customized MMIC-based RFIC. Unique software algorithms are also employed to minimize image responses that may appear under certain use cases when wideband modulated and multi-tone signals are being analyzed.

Each model takes advantage of an ultraportable form factor that measures 155 x 84 x 27 mm and weighs 255 g (9 oz.). Since they are about the size of a smartphone, the analyzers are small and light enough to be directly connected to many devices under test (DUTs), eliminating the need for lossy, expensive cables or antennas. It is even equipped with mounting holes to be attached to a bracket for direct connection to a semiconductor wafer probe.

Greater Measurement Confidence

The elimination of cables and antennas also removes their associated uncertainty, which is particularly important in high-frequency designs. At mmWave frequencies, long cable runs can result in significant loss. At lower frequencies, a bench instrument on a cart with the antenna elevated on a pole fed with coax cable is typically used. At 70 GHz, however, a three-meter cable will have over 20 dB loss, significantly reducing the measurement range and accuracy. Also, the loss and phase characteristics of cables vary with temperature, adding to the uncertainty. An MS2760A ultraportable spectrum analyzer can be directly connected to the antenna and elevated away from the control PC with a USB extender cable.

While small in size, the Spectrum Master MS2760A provides the performance associated with benchtop spectrum analyzers. It provides a continuous sweep from 9 kHz up to 110 GHz in less than 13 seconds (processor speed dependent), to capture more signals that vary in time and frequency. The ultraportable spectrum analyzers also have best-in-class dynamic range (greater than 100 dB to 110 GHz to simultaneously measure weak and strong signals) and amplitude accuracy.

The MS2760A models are USB-powered and controlled from a Windows-based PC, laptop, or tablet. Because of their design, the spectrum analyzers are uniquely flexible for use in the lab, on the manufacturing floor, or in the field.

Lab Use

A fraction of the cost of a benchtop instrument, the Spectrum Masters MS2760A can conduct basic spectrum analysis measurements with pass/fail limits, such as spectrum, channel power, adjacent channel power, and occupied bandwidth. This approach eliminates the need for multiple labs/groups to share fewer instruments, as or the need to force engineers to purchase expensive complex equipment with more features and performance than they need. The continuous sweep ability is advantageous compared to benchtop instruments that require mixers to reach frequencies above 43 GHz. The result is the ability to see more harmonics and have greater measurement certainty.

Manufacturing Floor

For engineers who need to design manufacturing test systems for product functionality tests in production, the Spectrum Master MS2760A ultraportable instruments are easily scaled to high-volume production environments. This makes them better suited for wafer or consumer electronics tests. Their ultraportable design also simplifies testing larger products, such as those associated with aerospace and satellite applications, as the MS2760A can be simply moved around those products from transmitter to transmitter.

Figure 2: The ultraportable design of the MS2760A makes it well suited for the field

Field Benefits

Its ultraportable design and high performance also make the Spectrum Master MS2760A well suited for field test engineers or technicians who install, maintain, and/or repair antenna systems (Figure 2). Unlike other field solutions that are more expensive and much bigger, the MS2760A models can fit into a technician’s pocket. Because it has a USB design, technicians can use a laptop/tablet to power the MS2760A and complete any other computer tasks in the field. Coupled with its ability to sweep from 9 kHz up to 110 GHz, the MS2760A minimizes the equipment necessary in the field. Its lower price is also beneficial because with thousands of technicians and millions of antennas, the MS2760A will scale much easier than other handheld spectrum analyzers.

Summary

Advanced designs operating in the mmWave bands need test solutions that meet the new challenges. By incorporating innovative, patented NLTL technology, Anritsu has developed the new Spectrum Master MS2760A ultraportable spectrum analyzers that provide the price, performance and size benefits necessary to verify products for emerging applications.

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