Anticipating And Addressing 5G Testing Challenges

What’s needed to measure device performance and reliability in next-gen wireless.


It’s no surprise that each new generation of ICs raises new sets of challenges in device testing. Changes in pin counts, data-transfer rates and interface protocols present different requirements. With the coming fifth generation (5G) of semiconductor technology, producers of automatic test equipment (ATE) must develop new test solutions with advanced capabilities on several fronts.

Perhaps most pressing is the need for single-platform test solutions that not only accommodate wider bandwidth ICs, but also deliver the versatility to support a variety of multi-band frequencies for 5G-NR (new radio). These may include 24 GHz, 28 GHz and 39 GHz for 5G millimeter-wave (mmWave) semiconductors as well as 57 GHz to 72 GHz frequencies for super-fast wireless gigabit (WiGig) devices. With the landscape for 5G devices still a bit fluid, cost-efficient test solutions must have the versatility to handle this wide range of device frequencies that will be used in a variety of communication applications.

Another key component in achieving a low cost of test is high productivity. To reach high throughput volumes, ATE systems must be capable of highly parallel, multi-site testing. Combining dozens of bi-directional mmWave ports and a high-speed radio-frequency (RF) interface can result in a 5G-capable test solution that matches the ultra-wideband performance of high-end bench instruments while pumping out much more throughput.

In the rapidly evolving semiconductor industry, designing solutions for today is designing for obsolescence. In the context of 5G testing, this means that ATE systems must have the extendibility to move beyond testing emerging devices and anticipate semiconductor technologies that are just over the horizon. They need to handle upcoming antenna-in-package devices while also being prepared to deal with future beamforming and over-the-air testing parameters.

To bring production-ready, cost-effective 5G testing to market, all of these capabilities must be integrated into a single-platform test solution. This will allow users to minimize their floorspace needs – and expenses – as well as get the most from their capital investments. Using a modular system architecture has proven to be the most efficient way to bring innovative processing technologies to market with the built-in flexibility to improve or add to the initial capabilities at some time in the future. The practical importance of this scalability cannot be overstated, especially in the pivotal outsourced semiconductor assembly and test (OSAT) sector.

With the advent of 5G ICs processing unprecedented volumes of data faster than ever in applications that are yet to be fully defined, the task of creating viable test solutions is daunting. But without the tools to measure device performance and reliability, the next generation of semiconductors will not reach its mass-market potential.

Rest assured. Forward-thinking equipment suppliers, like Advantest, are pioneering innovative ways to measure the new 5G world and everything in it.

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