5G: Testing the Future Impact


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The 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, proved to be a successful real-life demo of the performance, reliability, and use cases of 5G. Intel, in collaboration with South Korean telecoms provider KT Corp., delivered a broad-scale 5G network to the Olympic Games that provided spectators the opportunity to immerse themselves in the event through live 360-degree video streaming, virtual reality, and augmented reality (VR/AR). The company also set up multiple ultra-high definition cameras, connected via 5G, to show athletes’ views from various angles as they performed incredible stunts and performances. The event also served as a real-life testbed as to how different devices interoperate with the new technology.

Following this successful demonstration of 5G, Japan, meanwhile, is also planning to showcase 5G innovations throughout the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics. According to Persistence Market Research, this will add to the forecast growth of the 5G market, on top of the enhanced internet coverage, increased adoption of mobile broadband, and growing machine-to-machine communications.

Jacky_Yeung_IMI.JPG“It’s a new network architecture, an extension of 4G technology,” says Jacky Yeung, regional operation head of China for EMS firm Integrated Micro-Electronics Inc., in a recent interview. “5G is much faster than 4G or 3G. It also can apply to wider application areas apart from mobile communications, such as AR/VR applications, industrial automation, smart homes, autonomous vehicles, and intelligent logistics. This new technology certainly will bring new opportunity, promote significant change in various industries, and create new business structures.”

Industry analyst firm Occams Business Research Consulting expects the global 5G network infrastructure market to register a 70% CAGR from 2016 to 2023 and reach up to $28 billion by the end of the forecast period. North America is the leading market for 5G network infrastructure technology and is a strong player of the R&D in 5G, with key market players including Verizon and AT&T having plans for establishing 5G networks. The two companies have successfully completed trials to ensure deployment of 5G by 2023, according to Occams Business Research Consulting.

Gartner-Chart1-SMT-May2018.jpg

In fact, a recent global survey by Gartner found that 75% of end-user organizations would be willing to pay more for 5G, especially those in the telecom industry (Figure 1).

Testing 5G

Despite these bullish projections, however, the impending arrival of 5G is not without its entourage of challenges that will require a different approach in the electronics manufacturing process. One that is already impacting the electronics manufacturers and assemblers is the testing of the devices.

In our discussion with Stig Källman, component engineer, PCB, at Ericsson, he mentioned that the testing of the devices is challenging because they cannot connect a cable to the antenna. Therefore, signal testing must be done over-the-air.

The advent of millimeter-wave in mainstream electronics means that manufacturers, in some cases, are insisting that these radios be tested in the manufacturing process, according to Roger Nichols, 5G program manager at test and measurement provider Keysight Technologies Inc. “But these measurements must be made not only within chambers that are shielded, but also anechoic, and, in some cases, temperature-controlled. All these technologies are not new to the industry, but what is new is the aspect of applying them all to a relatively high-volume manufacturing process. This adds the complexity of making an accurate measurement, quickly, over-the-air (no galvanic connections), and moving the device-under-test (DUT) in and out of the chamber in an efficient manner. This also implies a robust repetitive controlled environment with minimal down-time and the flexibility to change the DUT form-factor.”

The same is being said by Mathieu Kury, business development manager of EMS provider Asteelflash USA Corp., in another interview. He notes that the challenge they are currently seeing with existing devices is mostly around functional testing targeted towards mass production. While it’s relatively easy to test one device at a time, it’s another story to test hundreds of them at once. He said these aspects must be taken into consideration at the design stage through a thorough design for testability (DFT) analysis targeted towards mass production. “To do so, it will require not only to be supported by design firms, but more importantly, by a manufacturing/assembly company integrating these DFT principles into their operations and processes,” adds Kury.

To read the full version of this article, which appeared in the May 2018 issue of SMT007 Magazine, click here.

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