5G Channel Sounding

The need for higher bandwidth and thus higher data rates for 5G makes it necessary to adopt significantly higher carrier frequencies compared with today’s cellular network implementations below 6 GHz.

The spectrum discussed in various research projects actually ranges from 6 GHz to more than 60 GHz. The entire industry needs to learn how signals in emerging high-frequency bands with very wide bandwidths propagate through the radio channel. Channel sounding is a process that allows a radio channel to be characterized by decomposing the radio propagation path into its individual multipath components. This information is essential for developing robust modulation schemes to transmit data over the channel.

Currently, quite a few channel measurement studies address specific frequency bands and specific environments, but the industry is far from being able to define channel models at frequencies well above 6 GHz. Therefore mobile network operators, research institutes, universities and other industry players are conducting extensive channel measurement campaigns in order to define channel models for standardization bodies like 3GPP.

Channel characteristics at higher frequencies are expected to clearly differentiate from the characteristics at traditional frequencies up to 6 GHz:

  • The path loss is significantly higher so that highly directional beamforming will be required in the mm-wave domain.
  • Oxygen and water absorption (e.g. rain or humidity loss) needs to be taken into account for specific bands below 70 GHz and above 100 GHz and above a range of 200 m.
  • The time selectivity of radio channels is much faster so that TDD technologies are preferable.
  • The attenuation of most obstacles is stronger, e.g. even foliage loss, but reflections too.
  • Line-of-sight (LOS) conditions cannot always be ensured therefore non-line-of-sight (NLOS) communications is essential (and possible).

The Rohde & Schwarz test solution for channel sounding is based on the pulse compression method. The R&S®SMW200A vector signal generator transmits a frequency band limited signal into a channel. The R&S®FSW signal and spectrum analyzer receives and processes the signal from the channel and forwards the resulting I/Q data to the data analysis software. The software autocorrelates the received I/Q data with the originally transmitted signal.

The transmitted frequency band limited signal is based on a special pseudo-noise (PN) sequence with a maximum length (m-sequence). This results in a direct sequence spread spectrum (DSSS) signal, which provides an additional processing gain. The dynamic range of the measurement setup increases significantly, which is also beneficial for the autocorrelation function. This method can only be used when both the generator (transmitter) and the analyzer (receiver) provide the needed bandwidth capability. Both the R&S®SMW200A and the R&S®FSW offer up to 2 GHz bandwidth, allowing an excellent time resolution of echoes of up to 0.5 ns.

The channel sounding test solution from Rohde & Schwarz enables direct measurement of the channel impulse response (CIR) in the time domain. Using discrete instruments allows fast CIR measurement over the full bandwidth, which is much faster than a test setup based on a network analyzer. The R&S®SMW200A and the R&S®FSW offer very high reference frequency stability, hence power delay profile measurements can be performed without the need for synchronization, making this test solution ideal for outdoor channel measurements over longer range.

The channel sounding measurement setup from Rohde & Schwarz provides a unique dynamic range due to the R&S®FSW analyzer’s high receiver sensitivity and built-in low-noise power amplifier, and to the processing gain of the direct sequence spread spectrum (DSSS) channel sounding method.

Rohde & Schwarz successfully demonstrated this channel sounding solution in cooperation with the Fraunhofer HHI at the NGMN Industry Conference & Exhibition.

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