OVERVIEW GE MDS, LLC. wanted an accurate and high-performance RF testing solution REQUIREMENTS Versatile hardware for rigorous testing across a wide frequency range, ideally coupled with portability SOLUTION The AD-USB 4-channel RF attenuators, which offers premium features in a compact, cost-effective package RESULTS AdauraTech's RF attenuators delivered the precision, performance and portability MDS needed for testing and demonstration http://www.gegridsolutions.com/Communications/Wireless.htm Introduction Long renowned for its engineering expertise as well as the power and resilience of its industrial-grade products, GE's MDS has acquired a global reputation as a leading wireless communications provider. Its end-to-end portfolio encompasses both licensed and unlicensed narrow band communications platforms along with robust cellular solutions such as routers and gateways. The company subjects its hardware to incredibly rigorous testing procedures in order to ensure that it performs to the highest standards in field applications, which can range from supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) to enterprise-scale automation and monitoring. In many ways, MDS is a driving force behind the next-gen communications and IoT of the industrial sector. Putting Testing to the Test With so many organizations around the world relying on its equipment, expectations toward MDS are uncompromisingly high. This naturally calls for strenuous test scenarios that can go beyond basic regulatory compliance and anticipate a variety of challenging use cases prior to real-world deployment. That involves putting MDS hardware through exacting paces and acquiring accurate measurements throughout the process. But not all RF testing solutions have been up to the task. "With a lot of signal generators, as you step through the built-in step attenuators, you'll get pops in the signal level," explains Christopher Hughes, an RF engineer for MDS. "So, if you're trying to get measurements and your signal generator pops from, say, –25dBm up to 0dBm and then back down to –26dBm, it really messes up the numbers. Especially if you're looking at the hysteresis of an AGC circuit." These requirements aren't limited to lab environments. When MDS is demonstrating the capabilities of its hardened solutions in person, its mobile RF testing equipment has to be able to perform at the same level. "If we go to tradeshows or customer demos, we want to simulate what it looks like when channel fading over the air or just rapidly changing attenuation between the links. This shows the adaptive use of our radio between modems to optimize for channel conditions," says Hughes. The AdauraTech Solution The compact, USB-powered AD-USB four-channel attenuator from AdauraTech offers enhanced chain-to-chain isolation and smooth step attenuation across the 50MHz to 6GHz range, making it ideal for MDS' ultra-precise test setups regardless of the environment. Jeffrey Wilczewski, Firmware Architect for MDS, has used the serial interface on the versatile AD-USB attenuators to develop custom backends that automate and enhance both in-house testing and on-site customer demonstrations. "What's nice about it is that it's a simple way for us to add attenuation into a radio link and try to push the bounds of performance all the way from good to weak signal conditions in order to make sure our product performs," he says.