Effect of wireless networking standards and MIMO technology on RF tests

Modular instrumentation set to displace traditional counterparts in a growing number of applications

The deployment of progressively more complex telecommunication techniques, including 802.11ac, together with the adoption of advanced multiple-input, multiple-output (MIMO) technologies will fuel the global radio frequency (RF) testing market.

wanNew analysis from Frost & Sullivan , Global RF Testing Market: Increasing Complexity of Products Translate into Growth Opportunities for Test Vendors, finds that the market earned revenues of €2.31 billion ($3.02b) in 2011 and estimates this to reach €3.21 billion ($4.20b) in 2016. The research covers traditional general purpose (GP) instrumentation, modular GP instrumentation, semiconductor automatic test equipment (ATE), and rental GP segments.

802.11ac is one of the key drivers for the RF test equipment market. With the 802.11ac standard, faster speed and higher data handling capacity through wider channels than the existing systems are achieved.

“The existing 802.11 protocol devices have managed to satisfy network requirements over the past decade,” notes Frost & Sullivan’s Measurement & Instrumentation Industry Analyst Prathima Bommakanti. “However, with the increasing consumption of digital data, mobile data traffic needs to be handled with more powerful wireless network infrastructure that would offer more capacity, reliability, and speed.”

Research indicates that with the 802.11ac standard, the usage of 8×8 MIMO to support 160 MHz bandwidth and that with LTE advanced, the usage of 8X8 MIMO to support 100 MHZ channel bandwidth, is becoming popular. The widening adoption of MIMO will, therefore, also boost market prospects.

While the overall market is poised to expand, modular RF test equipment is expected to compete with traditional GP and semiconductor ATE in a growing number of applications. This is due to its ease-of-use, scalability and ability to support lower test costs.

As competition intensifies, scalability is seen as one of the key parameters in selecting or short listing a test vendor. In addition, brand name plays an important role in winning RF test equipment deals. These factors pose a challenge to smaller vendors in an already competitive market.

“To leverage the market’s growth potential, companies need to develop a strong focus on customer relationship management, price-performance and product innovation,” concluded Bommakanti.

• See Webopedia’s Wireless Networking Standards Chart.

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