Test & Measurement

NI's latest RF Analyser Introduces Data Streaming for RF and Communications Applications

30th August 2006
ES Admin
National Instruments has announced three new products that extend high-speed data acquisition and data streaming into RF and communications applications. With the new RF vector signal analyser and two new IF digitisers that include advanced FPGA-based signal processing, engineers can continuously stream high-bandwidth RF data across high-speed buses, such as PCI and PXI, directly to a PC for processing and analysis.
With PC processing and open software tools, engineers can create systems with unprecedented flexibility to address emerging standards or to prototype next-generation RF systems. RF streaming is ideal for a variety of applications such as software-defined radio, record and playback of spectral communication signals and real-time spectral monitoring.

The National Instruments PXI-5661 2.7 GHz RF vector signal analyser features 20 MHz of real-time signal or modulation bandwidth, frequency-selective burst triggering and onboard signal processing for streaming data to a PC at full bandwidth. The new analyser implements an onboard quadrature digital downconverter in an FPGA to significantly reduce the amount of data to transfer to the host PC so that high-bandwidth RF signals can directly transfer across the high-speed PXI backplane. After the data is on the host PC, engineers can manipulate it in open software tools to make custom measurements, or even to emulate emerging communications standards as a software-defined radio. The new module also includes a built-in burst trigger that engineers can use to trigger RF acquisitions based on a user-programmable power level and bandwidth.

NI 5142 communications digitisers are the IF components of the NI PXI-5661 analysers and are available separately in PXI or PCI for addressing a broad set of IF applications. NI 5142 digitisers feature dual 14-bit, 100 MS/s simultaneous-sampling channels with onboard signal processing. Onboard processing features include a 40 MHz programmable digital downconverter and general-purpose alias-protected decimation, which tracks with the sample rate to protect sample data from higher-frequency aliases. Engineers can combine the digital downconverter with third-party RF-to-IF downconverters for RF streaming applications.

“These new RF and IF products represent a shift in the way communications systems are designed and tested,” said Tim Dehne, NI Senior Vice President of Engineering. “By streaming RF or IF data across high-speed buses directly to a PC for processing, the challenge of developing a communications system now falls on software. Users can define their communications systems with open software, such as National Instruments LabVIEW.”

Using tools such as NI LabVIEW graphical development software, engineers can use the new RF and IF hardware to perform user-defined measurement and analysis. LabVIEW tools, such as the Modulation and Spectral Measurements toolkits as well as the new MathScript node, offer a powerful platform for building next generation test systems or building a complete software-defined radio for designing emerging standards. Engineers can also program the new hardware in many other programming environments such as National Instruments LabWindows/CVI for ANSI C development and Microsoft Visual Studio. The new modules complement a variety of NI modular instruments including arbitrary waveform generators and digital waveform generator/analysers to build a complete custom mixed-signal application.

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