Agilent Develops Chipset for High-Bandwidth, Real-Time Oscilloscopes

Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE:A) announced breakthrough functionality in next-generation, high-bandwidth oscilloscopes with the successful turn-on of a front-end chipset that uses indium phosphide (InP) technology. The new chipset will enable the company to deliver oscilloscopes in the first half of 2010 that offer true analog bandwidths greater than 16 GHz.

Engineers working with high-speed serial data links such as USB, SATA or PCI Express® use oscilloscopes to measure jitter and other parameters to ensure compliance to industry standards for interoperability. In the next few years, as data rates extend beyond 8.5 Gb/s, engineers will need oscilloscopes with true analog bandwidths greater than 16 GHz. In addition, the upcoming IEEE 803.2ba 40/100G standard will drive the need for high-quality, real-time signal analysis capabilities to 16 GHz and beyond.

Other vendors claim they can achieve higher bandwidths using bandwidth-enhancing techniques such as digital signal processing (DSP) and frequency domain interleaving (sometimes referred to as digital bandwidth interleaving or DBI). However, the additional noise and jitter generated with these techniques can interfere significantly with an oscilloscope’s measurement accuracy and impact its frequency response.

Silicon process technologies commonly used today are unable to achieve true analog bandwidths above 16 GHz. Other vendors are using silicon technologies with transistor switching frequencies in the 100-GHz range. This frequency limit presents significant barriers to delivering higher true analog bandwidths. Agilent’s investment in the InP process extends the capabilities of the company’s well-established InGaP HBT (heterojunction bipolar transistor) IC technology, enabling high-frequency capability with transistor switching frequencies up to 200 GHz. InP technology offers the same capability without sacrificing the reliability and manufacturability associated with Agilent instrumentation.

The InP process technology also has superior material properties compared with Agilent’s prior-generation gallium arsenide (GaAs) process. InP technology provides higher saturated and peak electron velocities, higher thermal conductivity, lower surface recombination velocity, and higher breakdown electric field. These benefits mean true analog bandwidths can be pushed to new limits.

In addition, InP technology provides the following measurement benefits compared with other technologies available today:

  • Significantly flatter response at high frequencies
  • Higher measurement accuracy because of the low-noise, nonconductive substrate
  • Higher reliability due to lower power consumption

Agilent implemented an in-house fabrication facility to gain ultimate control of precision in the InP process. “Our expertise in microwave semiconductor technology has proven key in tuning this breakthrough Indium phosphide process to deliver leading specifications for real-time oscilloscopes,” said Bob Witte, vice-president of Agilent’s Technology Leadership Organization.

Customers already are seeing the benefit of Agilent’s InP process in the J-BERT N4903B high-performance serial BERT, which offers complete jitter tolerance testing, and in the N4916B de-emphasis signal converter. InP technology has delivered pulse fidelity to rise times faster than 20 ps and offers headroom for tomorrow’s needs.

“Our first oscilloscope family offering this new high-speed chipset will start at 16 GHz bandwidth,” said Jay Alexander, vice president and general manager of Agilent’s oscilloscope organization. “We expect to introduce this high-bandwidth family in the first half of 2010. These new products will complement our existing lineup of oscilloscopes and ensure that we can meet upcoming customer needs in a timely manner.”

Agilent currently offers high-performance Infiniium 90000 Series oscilloscopes with bandwidths up to 13 GHz. More information on Agilent oscilloscopes is available at www.agilent.com/find/scopes.

About Agilent Technologies
Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A) is the world’s premier measurement company and a technology leader in communications, electronics, life sciences and chemical analysis. The company’s 17,000 employees serve customers in more than 110 countries. Agilent had net revenues of $4.5 billion in fiscal 2009.

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