5G Waveform Candidates

How Rohde & Schwarz test and measurement solutions can be used to generate and analyze 5G waveform candidates.

Orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM) is the access scheme that is used in today’s LTE/LTE-Advanced networks. Two separate waveforms are utilized to gain access to the network: OFDM access (OFDMA) in the downlink and single carrier frequency division multiple access (SC-FDMA) in the uplink. Both waveforms benefit from OFDM being a multicarrier transmission technique, but also share its disadvantages such as high sensitivity to frequency and clock offsets, a high peak-to-average power ratio (PAPR) and less spectrum agility.

The sensitivity to frequency and clock offsets makes it necessary to periodically embed synchronization signals and reference signals into the overall signal and requires the device and network to synchronize before communications (exchange of data) can take place. The limited spectrum agility in LTE depends on the transition between consecutive OFDM symbols. The discontinuity (phase transition) between two OFDM symbols during signal generation causes spectral spikes in the frequency domain. This results in high out-of-band emissions and therefore a guard band is typically defined to prevent interference between neighboring channels. OFDM-based signals such as LTE also use a long symbol duration plus a cyclic prefix to avoid intersymbol interference (ISI) due to the expected delay spread of the radio channel.

Power spectrum of a 20 MHz LTE downlink signal with spectral spikes caused by the OFDM signal generation process

The limitations of OFDM-based waveforms were identified as research topics for future 5G waveforms. One aspect is the requirement for much shorter latency to enable new services and applications like autonomous driving that demands an ultra-low latency and a highly resilient communication link. Another approach is to make the cyclic prefix optional and work with shorter symbol durations. All this has led to several candidate waveforms, such as

  • Generalized frequency division multiplex (GFDM)
  • Filter bank multicarrier (FBMC)
  • Universal filtered multicarrier (UFMC)
  • Filtered OFDM (f-OFDM)

The performance of these waveform candidates is currently being analyzed and evaluated. At the same time new multiple access schemes are also being researched, including sparse code multiple access (SCMA), non-orthogonal multiple access (NOMA) and resource spread multiple access (RSMA).

However, at this point it has not been decided if any of these waveform candidates or multiple access schemes will be utilized in a future 5G system. It is up to the standardization committees to submit their proposal to the IMT-2020 group within the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). They will decide if the proposal is accepted as a technology for a 5G mobile communications system that can use the frequency bands identified by the ITU at the World Radio Conferences (WRC). It is expected that this will take place between now and November 2019.

Test solution for 5G waveform signal generation

R&S®SMW-K114 5G waveform candidates option for R&S®SMW200A vector signal generator.

The R&S®SMW200A vector signal generator from Rohde & Schwarz is ideal for generating 5G candidate waveforms such as GFDM, FBMC, UFMC and f-OFDM. The flexible graphical user interface (GUI) allows simple and easy changing of waveform parameterization, selection of different pulse shaping filters, filter length and stopband attenuation, and features windowing functionality. Different modulation schemes can be applied. PN sequences can be used to execute hardware-in-the-loop experiments i.e. for component testing (e.g. filter, power amplifier) and verification of 5G mmWave reference designs.

Test solution for 5G waveform signal analysis

Power spectrum and constellation diagram of a demodulated UFMC signal with R&S®FS-K196 option.

The R&S®FS-K196 5G air interface candidates option is an OFDM analysis software that provides the required functionality to analyze e.g. GFDM or UFMC-based waveforms. The software offers error vector magnitude (EVM) measurements per subcarrier and symbol, constellation diagram, group delay measurement and much more. The R&S®FS-K196 is the right tool for measuring the signal quality of the newly defined 5G waveforms to investigate their performance capabilities.

Products for 5G waveform candidates

  • R&S®SMW200A Vector Signal Generator
    • Full parameterization of 5G waveform candidates GFDM, UFMC, FBMC, f-OFDM
    • 2 GHz signal bandwidth with external wideband ARB generator using built-in 2 GHz I/Q modulator
    • 160 MHz instantaneous bandwidth, up to 528 MHz using the R&S®AFQ100B I/Q generator via analog I/Q inputs
  • R&S®FSW Signal and Spectrum Analyzer
    • Standalone instrument with frequency support from 2 Hz to 85 GHz (R&S®FSW85)
    • 500 MHz built-in signal analysis bandwidth
    • 2 GHz signal analysis capabilities in combination with the R&S®RTO1044 oscilloscope
  • R&S®FS-K196 5G Air Interface Candidates
    • Analysis capabilities for GFDM, UFMC and f-OFDM

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