Why did you decide to create a new platform for T&M?
There's a lot of talk about hybrid in the industry and we recognised early on that there were some big changes in the pipeline to do with SDI, IP, uncompressed and compressed signals and we had a lot of our own end users asking for something specific for UHDTV. The need for compliance testing to SMPTE standards for 4K was not addressed by anything in the market specific to broadcast so we looked to provide this much needed facility for manufacturers developing both 4K and 8K products. IP is also important so that too needed the technology to support it to provide a single instrument for T&M. Out of all this came the Qx - a radical new platform.
How long has the Qx been in development?
The reality is we have been working on it for over 2.5 years, a relatively short term for such a leap in technology and there have been significant challenges. The biggest decision was early on when we had to decide the key silicon suppliers, those who would deliver class leading product to meet our tight timescales. In addition with so many new UHDTV formats supported by SMPTE meant there are now over a thousand standards - excluding 24 and 48 Gbps payloads. Of course there is also the requirement for the Qx to be IP compliant and even here you have new developments it seems monthly with variants such as 2022-5,6,7, ASPEN, VSF TR03, AES67, TICO, AIMs- all formats the Qx is able to support as development continues. So the true answer is it is constantly in development and upgrades to the core software will be on going for at least the next 3-5 years as requirements evolve.
Can you tell us a little about the hardware?
The Qx is built on cutting edge technology. In essence the Qx has uniquely 4 separate 12 Gbps capable multi-rate inputs and outputs supporting payloads up to 48Gbps. It has over 30 GHz (5th harmonic of the 6GHz fundamental for 12G-SDI) analogue bandwidth on its front end making it the most powerful solution for T&M both now and going forward. It has 2 x SFP+ cages each supporting 12 Gbps optical or coaxial SDI and supporting 10 Gbps Ethernet for IP developments as the technology becomes available beyond the 'bleeding-edge'. We definitely needed the Qx to support both SDI and IP - a true hybrid solution, so the CPU combines technologies from both FPGA and a processor to enable such a flexible solution. It also has a clever client/server capability which we will be developing, but more on that later in the year.
What are the Qx's USPs?
The main USP of the Qx is its toolset in support of compliance testing. If you're a manufacturer working with UHDTV signals, particularly up to 12Gbps, then in theory you can't release a product unless it has been compliance tested. The SMPTE standards require the signal to be analysed with reference to the physical layer and here we have a show stopper. The eye and jitter technology on the Qx is such that it can support rise time, fall time, overshoot, undershoot, timing and alignment jitter due to its RTE technology. RTE stands for Real-Time-Eye which provides instantaneous presentation of the eye pattern with its associated automatic SMPTE compliance measurements. You need the technology present in the Qx for testing PCB layout, SDI driver design and driver pre- emphasis settings - key requirements for test before and during manufacturing. This is linked to PCB FR4 types, layout, correct register settings in the chipsets and quality of assembly. All this will have an effect on performance. We believe the Qx is the only product available other than a very expensive high bandwidth scope that can do this. It's also the reason we have such a large order book - there are no other contenders within the price range of the Qx and our manufacturing customers all need to do compliance testing!