Testing 5G: The Birth of a “Network on a Bench”

The promise of 5G communications holds opportunities for the industry to harness its power and transform lives. 5G devices and applications will leverage the new technology’s wider frequency range, higher connection speeds, and reduced latency. However, along with 5G’s dramatic advances comes greater complexity, more stringent requirements, and incomplete/unfinished standards.

Helping to bring 5G’s next-generation ideas to market faster is the job of instrumentation and testing leader, Keysight Technologies Inc. Its first-to-market UXM 5G Wireless Test Platform helped set 5G standards, resulted in significant efficiencies, and enabled the availability of the first industry certified 5G phones.

To realize the benefits of its first-to-market strategy, Keysight needed to work within an accelerated timeframe while tapping into an area of the radio spectrum that was new for the mobile industry. To meet the challenge, Keysight relied on a collaborative relationship with Analog Devices, Inc. (ADI), a longtime partner who possessed advanced communications technology, RF signal chain expertise, and deep domain knowledge.

As a major supplier to base station suppliers worldwide, ADI understood Keysight’s needs. “ADI had a full grasp of the whole picture—the connective tissue between testing and implementation, network infrastructure, and harnessing new 5G products,” said Kailash Narayanan, vice president and general manager of Keysight's wireless test business, Keysight Technologies. “Its experience in these three prime areas of 5G development served as a critical factor in our choice to create instrument-grade signal chains.”

Keysight At a Glance


Keysight Technologies Inc. helps its customers optimize networks and bring electronic products to market with offerings, including design simulation, prototype validation, manufacturing test, and optimization.


Powerful solutions for testing 5G equipment. Industries include communications, aerospace and defense, automotive electronics and safety communications, computers and semiconductors, energy, and industrial applications.


Be first-to-market with a high performance 5G network emulator to accelerate the commercialization of 5G user equipment/phones. Establish a strong presence early in the technology wave and gain market leader reference points across the wireless ecosystem.


A partner with deep domain knowledge, RF signal chain expertise, and the ability to deliver on product commitments to minimize design cycle and derisk time to market objectives.


Create the industry’s first 5G mobile communications tester for the development and acceptance test of mobile chipsets, phones, and other devices. Provide the most highly integrated and highest performance solution available along with support for previous-generation wireless technologies. Help the world realize the promise of 5G and accelerate its commercialization.

“Technology is changing at an exponential pace.
By partnering with Analog Devices, we helped our customers realize future innovations faster.”

Kailash Narayanan, VP and GM
Wireless Solutions, Keysight Technologies

Why Build a Wireless Test Platform?

The growth of the 5G communications industry could not proceed without the capability for testing 5G and the development of a test platform to assist R&D and validate prototype chipsets and phones. To understand why, let’s take an imaginary journey through “Anytown” while making a call.

As you drive to your destination, the phone in your pocket is communicating with many different cell towers, even if you are not on a call. It’s making measurements to assist the network in assessing cell quality for reliable handoff from cell to cell. This is complicated by the fact that different networks do not have uniform coverage of a radio (frequency) standard. There may be areas served by the 5G standard, others served by 4G LTE, and still others served by 3G or even 2G GSM. Eliminating dropped calls through handoffs within a specific radio standard and between standards is challenging for both the network and the user’s phone.

In order to perform in these complicated networks, a phone must not only be able to accurately transmit and receive signals but also make reliable measurements and execute complex signaling protocols covering multiple radio standards.

A “5G Network on a Bench”

Keysight’s design concept, the UXM 5G Wireless Test Platform, emulates an entire radio network and its associated issues. The UXM 5G was intended to be used in R&D prior to a phone going to production. It can emulate multiple cells to assess a phone’s ability to maintain connectivity, make measurements, achieve high data throughput in and between 5G, and handle legacy technologies such as 4G LTE and earlier ones as well. The UXM 5G can also set up the phone call, data rates, transmitted power, quality of performance, and sensitivity.

The Lack of Standards

Developing Keysight’s “Network on a Bench” was not going to be easy. Standards for 5G were evolving and not yet set by the industry, government, and regulatory agencies. But Keysight couldn’t wait. It needed to develop the test platform while helping to set the standards. Kailash Narayanan said, “We wanted to enable the market makers early in the 5G technology wave and capture market share. To do that successfully, we had to be first with a valuable solution.”

A First-to-Market Strategy

From its birth, 5G represented a growth opportunity to Keysight. To secure market share, Keysight needed an aggressive first-to-market strategy. That necessitated the development of the UXM 5G before standards were finalized. In addition to that challenge, 5G heightened demand on Keysight to develop a solution that measures performance accurately over vastly wider bandwidths and new frequency bands, including a little-explored and challenging new area for the mobile industry— millimeter waves.

Partnering for Advantage

Keysight needed a partner who could provide the full signal chain to help bring its concept to fruition quickly. “We had a 50-year business relationship with ADI and respected it. But with the addition of Hittite Microwave, and Linear Technology, the world leaders in RF and power respectively, it further cemented our desire to go to just one place for our needs,” said Kailash Narayana, Keysight Technologies. “Given our priority of being first-to-market, we wanted to use a few suppliers—ones who were reliable and could be trusted to deliver high performance components.”

Keysight counted on ADI as a supplier with the broadest range of technologies and components for the entire signal chain, from data converters to RF amplifiers, switches, synthesizers, and high performance power. ADI engineers and application resources also showed Keysight how to connect the components to achieve instrument-grade performance. “ADI provided us with advice regarding component selection to achieve the best performance, density, and power, which were critical design considerations for our next-generation 5G network emulator platform,” said Kailash. “And design reviews by ADI engineers were also crucial to ensure we were able to get the best performance and accelerate our time to market.”

Early Access to Advanced Technology

ADI provided Keysight with early information about its new high performance data converters and allowed Keysight early access to parts long before they were released, worked very closely with Keysight engineers, committed to early delivery, and followed through on the commitments. Kailash said, “ADI provided early access to its product roadmaps, which enabled us to design our next-generation product for testing 5G using the latest, yet-to-be-released ADI technology. As a result, we were first in the market with a 5G network emulation solution.”

Key Factors Provided by ADI to Keysight

  • Close technology partnership and excellent product support
  • Access to pre-release products with unique and differentiated features
  • Accelerated development of a new 5G network emulator platform for testing 5G
  • Facilitated open, early conversation and access to evolving standards and technology
  • Outstanding reference design solutions for early evaluation

Keysight’s UXM 5G Wireless Test Platform
Keysight’s UXM 5G Wireless Test Platform

A First-to-Market Success

The new UXM 5G Wireless Test Platform doubles the cell density of its predecessor to provide for a greater range of emulated test scenarios, double the number of RF ports, and two to three times the signal processing computation capabilities.

Today, as a new 5G mobile phone chipset or phone prototype is in R&D, customers turn to Keysight to validate that it works properly in both the lab and a variety of real-world environments. And when a customer’s 5G device is ready for certification and operator acceptance on the path to mass production, the UXM 5G assures it works, as there may be tens of millions of units at stake. The result: a bug-free, high quality product in the hands of people that need it—faster. Keysight offers solutions that operate at the highest levels of quality, reliability, and effectiveness.

UXM 5G: A Future Technology Enabler

Keysight helps leading technology companies unlock insights so they can progress from an idea to the marketplace, faster. From satellites to base stations to mobile devices, Keysight is there, ensuring the signal is clear, true, and reliable. “Keysight’s 5G test solutions are instrumental in accelerating commercial 5G development and rollout,” said Tony Schwarz, senior VP of engineering, Qualcomm Technologies.

In July 2019 Keysight was the first company to achieve industry validation of 5G RF test cases thus allowing the UXM 5G to be used for type approval of 5G mobile phones.

About Keysight

Keysight Technologies, Inc. helps enterprises, service providers, and governments accelerate innovation to connect and secure the world. Keysight's technology solutions optimize networks and bring electronic products to market faster and at a lower cost with offerings from design simulation to prototype validation, to manufacturing test, to optimization in networks and cloud environments. Customers span the worldwide communications ecosystem, aerospace and defense, automotive, energy, semiconductor, and general electronics end markets.