Paper 11.1 INTERNATIONAL TEST CONFERENCE 1
978-1-4244-7207-9/10/$26.00 ©2010 IEEE
A High Density Small Size RF Test Module for High Throughput
Multiple Resource Testing
M. Kimishima1, S. Mizuno1, T. Seki1, H. Takeuti1, H. Nagami1, H. Shirasu1, Y. Haraguti1
J. Okayasu2, M. Nakanishi2
336-1, Ohwa, Meiwa-machi, Gunma, 370-0718, Japan
2ADVANTEST Laboratories Ltd
48-2, Kamiayashi, Aoba-ku, Sendai-shi, Miyagi, 989-3124, Japan
This paper describes a drastically downsized RF test
module with multiple resources and high throughput for
RF ATE systems. The major factor in downsizing is RF
circuit technology in the form of RF functional systems in
package (RF-SiPs), making it possible to construct RF
front-end without both RF cables and RF connectors.
Besides the above downsizing, high-speed RF switching
operations are also achieved. Consequently, installation of
multiple resources and higher throughput for RF testing
has been accomplished, resulting in reduced RF test costs.
The recent progress of radio frequency integrated circuits
(RF-ICs), especially CMOS-RF technology, is making
one-chip integration possible for various wireless
applications such as wireless LAN and Bluetooth as well
as cellular for 2G
(UMTS/WCDMA) , . Also, multiple-input multiple-
output (MIMO) topology is becoming one of the most
promising solutions for improving the spectral efficiency
of wireless systems . Indeed, LTE commercial service
using 2x2 MIMO will start within a couple of years, 4x4
MIMO following in the near future.
(GSM/EDGE) and 3G
In order to perform a complete RF test of one of the
abovementioned multiport devices, an RF test module for
an RF ATE system also should incorporate multiple
resources. In the past, RF test modules and measurement
instruments have been composed of many RF hybrid ICs
(RF-HBICs) that occupy a large space. Therefore, it has
been a very tough technical challenge to implement
multiple RF measurement resources in a compact size.
And moreover, despite the increasing port count of
devices, RF testing costs per chip need to be more reduced.
Therefore, the realization of higher RF test throughput for
each resource is also very important.
To overcome these technical challenges, we constructed an
RF front-end using newly developed RF functional
systems in package (RF-SiPs) instead of RF-HBICs, and
replacing YIG-tuned oscillators with RF synthesizer SiPs
using one-chip PLL-VCOs. In addition, high speed
switching MMICs using our accumulated GaAs high
electron mobility transistor (HEMT) technology have been
incorporated for switches as well as for step attenuators.
These technologies allow drastic downsizing of the module
and RF test time reduction. As a result, an RF test module
having full 4 channel resources with high throughput per
channel has been accomplished. The new RF test module
will make it possible to reduce the cost of test (COT) for
full RF function testing.
In this paper, we describe RF front-end construction as
well as core technologies for multiple resource installation
and higher throughput of the new RF test module. The
performance of the RF test module is summarized.
2. Requirement for Multiple Resources and
High Throughput of RF Test Module
2.1 Issues with the Conventional RF Test
An RF test module for an ATE system to test RF
transceiver ICs for cellular and WLAN systems should
serve the needs of several RF testing functions which
require modulated signal generation, modulated signal
analysis, and electricity measurement of the device under
test (DUT). In addition, requirements for more multiple
channel resources and higher throughput per channel are
increasing. Usually, conventional RF test modules are
composed of many RF-HBICs, which are widely used in
measurement instruments. An RF-HBIC is a high
frequency component with coaxial connectors and a large
metal case. RF-HBICs are connected with semi-rigid
cables. Therefore, the dimensions of a module composed
of RF-HBICs are large, and it is impossible to install
multiple resources in one module with a small size. In
addition, RF attenuators and frequency synthesizer HBICs
that use mechanical RF switches and YIG-tuned oscillators
have the disadvantage of slow settling time. The slow
settling time makes throughput worse. Figure 1 shows the
resource structure of our conventional RF test module. One
vector signal generator (VSG) for modulated signal
generation, one vector signal analyzer (VSA) for
modulated signal analysis, and four vector network
analyzers (VNA) are installed in the module. The
dimensions of the RF test module structured based on
Figure 1 are as large as 400mm x 480mm x 262mm. Also,
as the power divider/combiner unit involves large RF
power losses, performance of the RF test module is
Paper 11.1 INTERNATIONAL TEST CONFERENCE 2
For the above reasons, the realization of a small size RF
test module with complete 4 channel simultaneous
measurement and high throughput per channel is very
difficult when using RF-HBICs.
2.2 The New RF Test Module
In our new RF test module, to overcome the
abovementioned problems, RF HBICs are replaced with
RF-SiPs using LTCC substrates and the RF front-end is
drastically downsized. LTCC circuits offer a very
convenient solution for small and medium volume
applications , . In addition, the frequency synthesizer
can be integrated within one SiP by using our developed
one-chip PLL-VCOs instead of the HBIC of a YIG
oscillator. The RF synthesizer SiP contributes not only to
achieve small size but also to perform with a short
frequency settling time. An RF step attenuator and single
pole, four throw (SP4T) switch are integrated on one SiP
using our developed high-speed step attenuator MMICs
and SP4T switch MMIC, respectively. The high-speed
MMICs can improve the throughput of the RF test module,
as described in section 4.2.
Figure 1 Resource Structure of Conventional
RF Test Module
The new RF test module is constructed with three kinds of
function boards: a digital-IF (DIF) board, a frequency
synthesizer (SYN) board and an RF front-end (RF) board,
as shown in Figure 2(a). The new RF test module is also
equipped with 4 channels for each of the resources of
VSG, VSA and VNA. A 2-tone signal output function is
provided in the VSG. The resource construction is shown
in Figure 2(b). With the innovative RF-SiPs, an RF test
module that provides a 4-channel simultaneous full RF
function measurement can be realized with a volume of
480 mm x 400 mm x 72 mm. Furthermore, throughput per
channel is significantly improved as compared with our
conventional RF test module.
DIF Board : CH1
DIF Board : CH2
DIF Board : CH3
DIF Board : CH4
SYN Board : CH2
SYN Board : CH3
SYN Board : CH4
RF Board : CH1
RF Board : CH2
RF Board : CH3
RF Board : CH4
SYN Board : CH1
(a) Module Construction
(b) Resource Construction
Figure 2 Structure of New RF Test Module
3. Technical Topics of RF-SiP and RF
Conventional construction of an RF front-end for
measurement instruments that have metal housing package
RF-HBICs with RF-connectors and coaxial cables results
in excellent isolation and transmission characteristics. On
the other hand, with the new configuration in the form of
RF-SiPs and RF boards, there are several design
considerations for RF performance. In particular, problems
of isolation between inner circuits of the RF-SiPs, and
mismatch in ball grid array (BGA) connection between the
RF-SiPs and RF board are serious issues. An RF-SiP
structure that realizes good isolation and passive circuit
integration is depicted in Figure 3(a).
accomplished. The module is a full 4 channel VSA, VSG,
and VNA equipped 32-port RF test module with
dimensions of 480mm x 400mm x 72mm. This
corresponds to a reduced size of 1/15 compared with the
conventional module. Also, test throughput per channel
has been much improved. The new RF test module will
reduce COT for full RF function testing.
Table 2 Prototype Performance of RF Test Module
Paper 11.1 INTERNATIONAL TEST CONFERENCE
100MHz to 6GHz
+11dBm, 100MHz to 2.5GHz
+8dBm, 2.5GHz to 6GHz
3%(WCDMA), -10 to -40dBm
2%(802.11a), -10 to -40dBm
100MHz to 12GHz
+17 to -120dBm
400MHz to 12GHz
85dB, 400MHz to 1GHz
95dB, 1GHz to 3GHz
85dB, 3GHz to 6GHz
75dB, 6GHz to 12GHz
050 100150 200
Settling Time [usec]
Figure 28 Settling Time Performance
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for 60GHz wireless