Wireless standards are developing rapidly and keeping up with them is becoming a challenge for test equipment vendors. The 802.11n was introduced the industry to multiple input multiple output (MIMO), 3X3, and 4X4, while new .11n products bring new opportunities for test equipment vendors. The .11ac standard also introduced many new technologies such as multi-user MIMO, 8X8, and beam forming—all of which require better test equipment. The .11ad standard was introduced in 2012 and offers a high throughput of 60 GHz. It is also expected to spur innovation. The industry is now interested in WiGig, 802.11p (wireless access for vehicular environments), and 802.11af (TV White space) as well as 802.11ah, which is used for low-power applications.
Development and Adoption of New Standards
There are certain disruption points that appear as standards and then evolve—such as the adoption of new frequency bands and wider bandwidths. Each not only makes a major difference to Wi-Fi products but also differentiates the hardware parameters for test equipment that need to be used. For instance, the introduction of 802.11 ac (up to 160 megs of bandwidth) was an innovation that the T&M industry had not dealt with before. Thus, the testing industry must also innovate, coming up with new equipment to test improved standards and ensure better-quality products. Keysight Technologies, for instance, introduced the first 802.11 ad WiGiG test bed at the Mobile World Congress in 2016.
MU-MIMO is capable of leveraging multiple users as spatially distributed transmission resources. MIMO algorithms are developed to enhance MIMO systems when the number of users or connections is greater than one. Mu-MIMO has the ability of an access point to communicate simultaneously with up to 3 stations in the same channel and spatially divide the antenna beam. Thus, it is a beam forming and new technology; it allows for more parallelism and efficient usage of the air link. This technology is driving demand for more test equipment and offers opportunities to test equipment vendors.
There is an increase in demand for telematics test equipment. Telematics is just a small part of M2M and IoT and is expected to have a large impact on the way the industry develops and designs its solutions. For the last 10 years, the industry has been looking for the next fastest thing, the next protocol, and the next way to help operators deploy it while helping original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) build mobile devices and smartphones that can use it. As IoT develops, this will no longer just apply to phones or a single network model. DSRC offers several opportunities for test equipment vendors in the automotive industry. This includes short-range communications that are one-way or two-way and short-range to medium-range wireless communication channels, which have been specifically designed for automotive use, and a corresponding set of protocols and standards.
As more Wi-Fi-enabled devices enter the market, there is increased demand for test equipment. A number of factors can have a negative impact in high-density environments, such as allowing high-bandwidth traffic through, which would lower the quality of voice and other services. Furthermore, performance requirements, the existing RF environment, and the Wi-Fi capabilities of clients present a few additional challenges. Thus, once the Wi-Fi infrastructure equipment is installed, the design model has to be verified against the deployed environment. This process includes a physical trip to the deployment site to conduct RF testing and initial design validation. This is followed by on-site acceptance testing and initial design confirmation. As more smart devices are used indoors, the demand for RF and design validation testing is expected to increase.