Keysight Unwraps EDA Tool Suite for Boosting RF and 5G Design Productivity

September 30, 2023 by Duane Benson

The Keysight EDA 2024 tool suite promises to provide end-to-end design, modeling. and simulation with “shift left” workflow tools designed to increase productivity in the RF/5G world.

Keysight is well known for its line of high end test and measurement devices, however, the company is less well known as an EDA software company. In a move that may change that perception, Keysight this week added to their software product line a new suite of EDA, test and simulations software tools.

The company’s just announced Keysight EDA 2024 suite is targeted at the development of RF, Microwave and 5G applications. Keysight emphasizes integrated end to end design with its EDA tools. The suite combines device modeling, circuit design, EM simulation, layout capabilities along with system-level modeling.


Multi-EM pattern simulated with Keysight PathWave EDA software.

Multi-EM pattern simulated with Keysight PathWave EDA software. Image used courtesy of Keysight


PathWave Advanced Design System (ADS) integrates circuit design with simulation and is at the core of the new suite. It integrates template based design guidance, extensive libraries and automatic sync with layout. It is designed to integrate with simulation software and team-based workflow tools.


Shifting Left in the Development Process

One of the highlights of the new suite is the emphasis on improving productivity through “shift left” design. In developing the suite, Keysight placed high emphasis on workflow and module to module integration. The result is the ability to move certain parts of the design cycle to the left in the project management process flow.

Conceptualizing the development project management process from the left to right isn’t universal, but in the tech world, it is common enough that we can discuss it as though it were. And that’s where the idea of “shifting left” comes in. Most of us start our timeline documentation on the left side of the page, paper, white board, etc. The traditional model follows a process along the lines of the diagram below.


The concept of “shifting left” entails moving the validation phase to earlier in the design process.

The concept of “shifting left” entails moving the validation phase to earlier in the design process. Image created by author


Shifting left means to move the testing and validation earlier, or “to the left” in the design process. The idea takes some cues from Agile development while retaining much of the structure of a waterfall management system.

Moving testing and validation earlier allows for a modular approach to complex system design which can increase productivity, decrease time to market and improve system reliability. 

Subsections of the design can be modeled, simulated and tested earlier in the process. This allows multiple validated design components to be brought together. Then the overall system can be tested with assurance that the subsections have been individually validated.


EDA Tools Designed for RF and 5G Development

One of the key tools that allows streamlining the design process is called the RF System Explorer. The tool allows the designer to spotlight RF design sections and run simulation and analysis earlier in the workflow (shift left) so that pre-validated modules can be brought together during the system integration phase of the design process.


RF System Explorer combines tools for advanced RF capabilities.

RF System Explorer combines tools for advanced RF capabilities. Image used courtesy of Keysight. (Click image to enlarge)


Two additional tools, the Digital Pre-Distortion (DPD) Explorer and DPD Designer are used to optimize power amplifier design across multiple physical layer (PHY) abstractions. Broadband applications that utilize GaN Doherty topology, such as 5G FR2, WLAN and DVB-S2X require much tighter tolerances and accommodation of strict signal response requirements. The Keysight suite is optimized for these strenuous applications.

The SystemVue module includes a 5G New Radio (NR) simulation library with 1024 QAM modulation for 3GPP Release 17 and an associated MCS table. SystemVue is equipped to model satellite links, including the effects of Doppler Shift and trajectory visualization. When linked with module Keysight Signal Studio, the suite can simulate DVB-S2X satellite television broadcast systems. It also includes phased array visualization and simulation capabilities.


Python-Based API Framework for Tool-to-Tool Automation

Along with the suite, Keysight is introducing a new Python API. Python is, today, one of the most well-known and versatile languages. It’s easy to learn, easy to use and broadly compatible, making it an ideal API language choice. The Python API system allows EDA users to connect to third party tools or create custom workflows within the suite. Interoperability is critical in today’s enterprise design environments, as is cooperative workgroup activity and IP management.

In February 2023, Keysight acquired Cliosoft and its portfolio of revision-control, data and IP management software, which are also integrated in the new suite.


IP Management System (formerly Cliosoft Hub) integrated for more efficient team interaction.

IP Management System (formerly Cliosoft Hub) integrated for more efficient team interaction. Image used courtesy of Keysight. (Click image to enlarge)


It’s a 5G and RF Future

5G has been in the field for a few years now. However, it has yet to deliver its full potential. The advanced capabilities of tools such as the new Keysight 2024 Suite will be required for critical infrastructure designs.

The proliferation of small satellites and other high-speed signal applications only adds to the industry’s critical design needs. The Keysight promise is to bring that capability to the EDA market along with improvements in designer throughput.

Along with the tool set, Keysight offers instructional coursework to not only help you learn the tools, but also to improve your overall design skill set.

The company has a product launch event for Keysight EDA 2024 scheduled for October 10.