Small cell testing

Small cell testing

Streamlining small cell infrastructure testing

What is a 5G small cell?

Small cells are radio access nodes that cover relatively small geographical areas. They can be deployed indoors, outdoors, in urban areas and even in remote locations with insufficient network coverage. In high-traffic areas with network congestion issues, more small cells can be added to provide additional bandwidth and increase network capacity. This practice is known as network densification.

Small cells can be categorized into femtocells, picocells and microcells. Femtocells have a range of up to ten meters, while picocells cover up to 200 meters, and microcells cover up to two kilometers. These different types also have different use cases: femtocells are ideal for homes or smaller offices; picocells are better for larger offices or bigger establishments like shopping centers; and microcells are best for high-traffic public spaces, such as streets and train stations, as well as densely populated buildings.

What is small cell technology?

For 5G networks, an infrastructure combining macro cells and small cells, known as disaggregated RAN, is essential to emerging applications, such as IoT and autonomous vehicles. They are also critical for enabling 5G services in offices, stadiums and other indoor locations where coverage is typically weak.

The main purpose of small cell technology is to improve network performance by offloading traffic from congested macro cell networks and providing better coverage and capacity in high-demand areas. By bringing the network closer to users, small cells help reduce interference, increase data rates and enhance overall user experience.

In order to meet the complex challenge of modern networks, small cell manufacturers require reliable, high-performance test equipment during their R&D and production processes.

Rohde & Schwarz provides comprehensive solutions that cover the complete 5G small cell testing cycle - from component characterization and design validation all the way to mass production.

Master your small cell testing challenges

There are numerous challenges associated with testing small cells, regardless of operating frequency range. Small cells use advanced technologies, such as beamforming and massive MIMO, to enhance network performance. Specialized equipment that can accurately capture and analyze complex radio signals is necessary to properly test these features.

Additionally, small cell networks must adhere to the latest standards, such as 3GPP specifications, to ensure effective network operation. This means that testing equipment must also be compatible with these standards to ensure accurate testing.

Testing small cells operating in the 5G NR FR2 frequency range face added challenges. Small cell testing for FR2 must be performed over the air (OTA) because conducted testing is practically impossible for mmWave frequencies, and these measurements are highly susceptible to thermal changes and other environmental factors. The issue is further complicated because small cell networks are deployed in various environments, and each environment comes with its own set of challenges, such as humidity and physical obstacles.

In some countries, FR1 small cells operate in the same frequency bands as other wireless technologies, such as Wi-Fi. This can result in signal interference, which affects network performance and makes it difficult to isolate and diagnose issues.

Discover the best small cell testing solution for you

High-performance solutions for the complete small cell test and operation cycle

Browse our portfolio and discover:

  • Signal generator and signal and spectrum analyzer combo to verify the proper implementation of digital pre-distortion (DPD) and enhance the linearity of the power amplifiers used in a small cell
  • Vector network analyzers (VNA) to characterize the antenna arrays of a small cell
  • High-performance oscilloscopes with multiple channels that enable phase coherent acquisition of small cell output streams for accurate demodulation and MIMO signal analysis
  • A wide portfolio of probe to complement the oscilloscopes when testing the signal and power integrity of a small cell in the early digital design phase
  • Multi-channel power supplies with built-in measurements to gauge power consumption of the modules (unit testing) as well as the small cell as a system
  • OTA test chambers that support thermal measurements to test, for example, the Antenna in Package (AiP) modules used in small cell across a wide range of temperatures, from -40oC to +85oC

Small cell testing in FR1 and FR2

5G NR supports operation in two frequency ranges: FR1 (below 7125 MHz) and FR2 or millimeterwave bands (between 24.25 and 52.6 GHz). The Rohde & Schwarz portfolio offers solutions for both.

Traditional FR1 cells can be tested with a cable, but FR2 small cells require OTA testing. This is also the case for FR1 small cells that use advanced technologies such as massive MIMO and beamforming. OTA testing comes with unique challenges, such as significant path loss, sensitivity to DUT alignment and the need for highly accurate setup calibration.

The R&S®PVT360A is a VSG/VSA single-box vector tester optimized for small cell testing in FR1. It has two independent signal generators and analyzers to enable fast parallelized measurements, as well as a frequency range of up to 8 GHz, flexible bandwidth configuration and an optional second TRX channel. Most importantly, it supports standard-complaint 5G NR signal generation and analysis in all FR1 frequency bands and comes with preconfigured test routines in line with 3GPP requirements.

For small cell testing in FR2, we offer the R&S®CMPQ compact solution, which is designed to make 5G FR2 OTA testing as reliable and efficient as testing in the FR1 range. The R&S®CMPQ is a three-part testing solution based on the R&S®CMP200 radio communication tester , R&S®CMPHEAD30 remote radio head (RRH) and R&S®CMQ200 shielding cube .

Benefits of our small cell testing solutions

The flexible and scalable architecture of the Rohde & Schwarz instrument portfolio allows for easy upgrades based on evolving standards. Our products are 3GPP-compliant and have been approved by providers of Open RAN (O-RAN) platforms.

Choose our solutions and enjoy:

  • A complete setup for the entire spectrum of small cell testing: component characterization, design verification and mass production
  • High-performance equipment that meet 5G NR requirements and are 3GPP-compliant
  • Flexible, scalable solutions that evolve to meet changing standards and expectations
  • Comprehensive testing solutions to verify 3GPP conformance
  • Complete cost control with our repair and calibration services

If you have any further questions, please contact us.

Products for small cell testing

R&S®PVT360A performance vector tester

Most comprehensive one-box test solution for non-signaling 5G NR FR1 and LTE small cell testing in the design verification test (DVT) stage or in manufacturing.

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R&S®CMP200 radio communication tester

Ideal solution for design verification test (DVT) stage and production of small cells supporting 5G NR FR2 frequency range.

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R&S®SMW200A vector signal generator

Addresses every need for design and development of a mobile network infrastructure equipment from component characterization and module testing to conformance testing of the finished product.

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The R&S®FSW is setting the bar high, providing excellent phase noise performance and is the signal and spectrum analyzer with the widest analysis bandwidth on the market.

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R&S®ATS1800C CATR based 5G NR mmWave test chamber

Compact and flexible CATR OTA chamber with best shielding effectiveness makes it ideal to verify mmWave FR2 network equipment such as small cells and repeaters.

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R&S®CMQ200 shielding cube

Fully integrated solution in combination with R&S CMP200 providing a small footprint; ideal for production of infrastructure equipment such as RFICs, small cells and repeaters.

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Small cell testing insights

Component and 5G NR base station testing in production

Video: Component and 5G NR base station testing in production

Learn more about innovative solutions tailored for base station, small cell and active component testing in production and characterization environments.

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FR2 small cell testing

Video: FR2 small cell testing - Enabling the full 5G device experience

Watch this video to learn more about how to develop and produce FR2 Small Cell devices.

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Webinar: Small cells – an essential paradigm shift for cellular networks

Register for this video to learn more about small cells and network densification, test requirements and challenges, how to solve them and one-box solution for 5G FR2 small cell production testing.

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App note: Small Cell Testing in FR2

Get insights into small cell testing aspects throughout the product life cycle with particular focus on production test solutions for FR2.

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