Options for simulating wideband signals

October 18, 2011 //By John S. Hansen
Options for simulating wideband signals
John S. Hansen of Agilent Technologies investigates some of the options for simulating wideband signals.

The need to take baseband signals and modulate them onto higher frequency carriers is fundamental for both the design and evaluation of communication and radar systems.  The bandwidths of these signals have become much wider to accommodate advanced system capabilities such as higher data rates, resistance to interference or jamming, and greater range and velocity resolution.

Of course, one of the cardinal rules of test engineering is that the stimulus and measuring equipment must have performance significantly better than the device or system under test.  This is particularly true of RF measurements due to the rigorous requirements imposed for the systems to work optimally and to accurately simulate the operational environment.

Currently available arbitrary waveform generators (AWGs) can achieve a very large bandwidth but how do we go about modulating and then upconverting these wideband signals to their operational carrier frequencies?  There are three alternatives we will consider.  The first is the more classical analog IQ (in-phase and quadrature) modulation where the modulator is a hardware component of the test equipment (see figure 1).  The second and third involve digital IQ modulation where the modulation is realized mathematically.

Figure 1 - Analog IQ modulation after the AWG within the RF signal generator

There are a number of alternatives for creating the IQ baseband waveform files.  MATLAB, Visual Basic and other programming tools are the most general purpose but there are many specialized tools available.  For instance, Agilent Signal Studio products provide a means of creating very detailed waveforms for specific communications and radar technologies.

For analog IQ modulation, an AWG generates I and Q signals on separate channels that are fed into an IQ modulator, which is often part of a vector signal generator.  An advantage of the analog approach is the fact that the bandwidth of the baseband signal required at the output of the AWG is only half of the bandwidth that can be achieved for the RF

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