Metrology for ultrafast electronics and high-speed communications

Short Name: Ultrafast, Project Number: IND16
Increasing frequencies used by communications technologies: Enabling the efficient use of higher frequencies for communications

The steady increase in the operating frequency and data rates of communication systems is dependent upon signal processing electronics and test equipment that can measure at ever-faster speeds. This requires reliable ultrafast measurement equipment, such as sampling oscilloscopes and pulse generators, to characterise and validate ultrafast electronics and high-speed communications technologies during their development, production and implementation, as well as software tools to manage and assess the high volumes of data generated.


This project addressed key challenges in accurate ultrafast measurements: techniques for measuring continuous and pulsed high-frequency signals; management of data quality in very large volume data sets; investigating the properties of channels and antenna at potential new communications frequencies; and methods for calibrating vector signal generators and analysers. The project developed:

  • Waveform metrology for ultrafast detectors comprising a broadband voltage pulse standard with 500 MHz frequency spacing and frequency components exceeding 500 GHz, and an asynchronous electro-optic sampling technique to measure electrical pulse generators.
  • A software tool for uncertainty propagation that can be applied to large data sets. This enables uncertainty propagation between time and frequency domains and is available from the project website.
  • Tools and processes for propagation measurements and channel and antenna characterisation. Measurements from 50 GHz to 325 GHz were performed in various scenarios relevant for future THz communication systems and the feasibility of implementing a 300 GHz communication system was investigated.
  • Capabilities to measure digital signal properties, including a universal calibration method for vector signal analyzers and vector signal generators, and a simple software tool for demodulating basic digitally-modulated signals.

The project partners shared the new tools and techniques with other NMIs, manufacturers of measurement and test equipment, and commercial calibration laboratories to facilitate their adoption in the development of faster ICT technologies. The software packages are in use at a number of European companies, as well as NMIs worldwide. The partners also contributed to a new standard on the calculation of waveform parameter uncertainties (IEC TC 85, WG22), expected to be published in late 2016. The standard is applicable to all industries that generate, transmit, detect, receive, measure and/or analyse step- and impulse-like waveforms. 

  • EMRP Industry theme impact case studies
Project website
Other Participants
Agilent Technologies UK Limited (United Kingdom)