NYU Wireless teamed with the Center for Advanced Technology in Telecommunications (CATT) to build a wireless emulator for 5G systems. The emulator recreates both the wireless channel and the phased-array antennas. It can be used for transmitter and receiver devices so researchers can understand how 5G will perform in different environments and weather conditions.
According to a blog post from NYU Wireless, researchers used commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware from National Instruments coupled with emulator software that is based upon reference designs available to the academic researchers. By using COTS, the researchers said they can lower the cost and complexity of the testing.
Specifically, researchers tested the transmitter and receiver devices by connected them using cables to the channel emulator. One signal vector was connected for each antenna element. However, because early 5G systems are being developed using millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum, that means that the number of antennas elements to test are significantly higher than similar testing that was conducted for 4G.
NYU Wireless researchers said they solved this issue by having the wireless emulator recreate the wireless channel and have the transmit and receive devices share their beamforming vectors with the emulator at the same time. This allowed the researchers to experiment with different phased-array antenna designs.
Wireless emulators have been used in the past to test WiFi, 3G, and 4G systems. Emulators help companies test their gear by reproducing different scenarios in the lab before they deploy the equipment in a live trial. Using am emulator is considered a key step in the commercialization process.
5G mmWave Trials
Service providers such as AT&T and Verizon are in the midst of conducting numerous 5G trials using mmWave spectrum. AT&T has said its 5G tests included checking the propagation of mmWave spectrum, and how things like foliage and weather will impact connectivity.