Reconfigurable intelligent surfaces (RIS)

RIS for 6G networks

Reconfigurable intelligent surfaces (RIS) have gained tangible interest in recent years in academia and the wireless industry, as they offer a whole variety of benefits for both modern millimeter wave and traditional sub-6 GHz wireless communication systems. The benefits range from significant radio coverage improvements to reduced energy consumption for the radio subsystem. RIS surfaces provide a potential solution for the challenging coverage issues through configurable reflection/refraction/scattering patterns in the millimeter wave range in particular. Impinging radio signals, for example from base stations, can thus be supported on their way to mobile devices and vice versa. Furthermore, they can be used to enhance the multipath radio propagation characteristics, which in turn lead to improved conditions for spatial multiplexing applications. Consequently, they support the increase in the overall network throughput. RIS can also intentionally create dead radio zones, for example to minimize interference or prevent eavesdropping by suspicious user equipment. Countless applications are therefore discussed for the deployment of RIS in radio networks.

Reconfigurable intelligent surfaces: research fields

The interest and efforts in the field of RIS technology are understandable – Rohde & Schwarz is part of this future and an active partner, for example in the Liquid Crystal Reconfigurable Intelligent Surfaces (6G-LICRIS) project. It supports research and standardization on 6G and collaborates with universities, research institutes and standardization bodies with the aim of providing the T&M means to evaluate reconfigurable surfaces for any application.

6G RIS: the testing challenges

Metamaterials that allow the manipulation of their electromagnetic reflection and refraction characteristics are key to RIS. Put simply, they provide a solution to the commonly valid expectation of specular reflections, i.e. they allow arbitrary angles of reflection. The same applies to refraction angles when using transparent metamaterials. Furthermore, shaping the reflected signal (in terms of beam width, for instance) is also possible, as is changing the polarization planes. Consequently, RIS can be tested over the air (OTA), evaluating the reflected signal for various figures of merit. This includes 3D scans of the reflected signal in an anechoic environment, commonly used for antenna measurements. Performance measurements evaluating the reflected signal quality (e.g. EVM) and the accuracy of directivity might also be of interest. When RIS is deployed in the cellular network, its impact on the multipath environment is of vital interest and can be evaluated using known methods of coverage measurement and channel sounding.

Reconfigurable intelligent surfaces: testing and measurement

All of the measurements required to evaluate the quality and performance of RIS modules are possible using anechoic environments known from today’s antenna measurement systems as well as standard RF test instruments including network and signal analysis. Signal generators are needed to illuminate the RIS being tested.

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6G reconfigurable intelligent surfaces (RIS) related news

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Webinar: RIS – shaping the radio channel for best connectivity

This webinar explains the technology behind RIS, discusses possible use cases and applications and examines what this means for testing.

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Video: 6G Reconfigurable Intelligent Surfaces (RIS)

This video introduces the topic and the test requirements of reconfigurable Intelligent Surfaces (RIS).

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Whitepaper: Reconfigurable intelligent surfaces (RIS)

Read this white paper now for an in-depth information on the principles of metamaterials, different RIS types and T&M requirements.

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Reconfigurable intelligent surfaces FAQs

What are reconfigurable intelligent surfaces (RIS)?

RIS is a novel technology that uses network nodes to utilize intelligent radio surfaces capable of adjusting their response to match the propagation environment’s conditions through control signaling. It is a reconfigurable intelligent surface designed to have properties which enable the dynamic control of electromagnetic waves on its planar structure. An RIS generally consists of a large number of low-cost, passive (and thus low-energy) elements, each of which reflects the incident signal with a certain phase shift to collaboratively achieve beamforming and suppress interference at one or more designated receivers. The building blocks of such an RIS are known as metamaterials. In contrast to materials with properties based on their atomic constituents, these are engineered structures designed to interact with electromagnetic radiation in a desired fashion and afford special properties. They usually comprise an array of structures smaller than the wavelength of interest.

How does RIS work?

Metamaterials are key to any RIS, as RIS are composed of numerous small metamaterials capable of dynamically altering their electrical or magnetic properties. Through precise control of these properties, the RIS can selectively manipulate the reflection, refraction and scattering of radio waves. By adjusting the phase shift and amplitude of the reflected waves, the RIS can fine-tune signal strength, direction and other parameters to facilitate optimal wireless communication. RIS essentially functions as an intelligent medium for shaping and directing radio waves according to specific requirements.

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