What Approach a System Designer Must Take to Shift from 4G to 5G

What Approach a System Designer Must Take to Shift from 4G to 5G

By Enterprise Networking Mag | Wednesday, December 19, 2018

The 5G NR (new radio) is all set to hit the market, and it is going to present a considerable amount of challenges in front of systems designers transitioning from 4G to 5G. The new technology, 5G runs on different radio spectrum frequencies that connect many more devices, delivers ultra-fast speeds and minimizes delays.

5G NR substantially changes the physical layer of mobile communication that requires baseband modems to implement flexible algorithms. These changes bring high-speed, high-capacity, and low latency goals of 5G and also affect the design of the receivers in mobile devices and base stations. Since 5G requires higher millimeter wave to operate, it calls for drastic changes to the design of the radio front-end such as beamforming techniques, antenna arrays, and MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) to cope with high-frequency propagation losses.

The 5G system and design engineers require the latest methods to confirm the components work in tandem and eliminate the problems that lead to delays to project run-times and costly hardware failures. The standard equipment required for highly integrated 5G radio technology needs an antenna, RF, control logic, DSP (Digital Signal Processing), and software. Additionally, it requires working knowledge of the new standard specifications. 5G design engineers must avoid the separate workflow approach that is too siloed with different teams and different methodologies. Separate workflows in doing baseband, RF front end, and antenna design will cause issues further down the line.

FPGA Prototypes and Testbeds

The complexity of 5G is forcing development teams to look for Field-Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) prototypes and test beds to get their designs validated. Small groups with lack of FPGA development workflows and RTL and minimum experience with hardware implementation often find it difficult to implement these radio prototypes and testbeds without outside assistance.

Getting investment right first time

5G function can increase the cost of development. Designers must use the tools that enable the modeling and simulation to successfully transition from 4G to 5G and build an entirely new mobile network that works. Engineers can efficiently explore a wide range of functions vital for 5G to function. The software that provides 5G-compliant waveforms, end-to-end reference, and algorithms can help simplify the process of space exploration design, conformance testing, and design verification. 

With the new modeling software and its multi-domain simulation allows full-system verification of digital, antenna design, RF, and new massive MIMO antenna arrays. The conventional way of designing components was siloed but now they can be planned and simulated in unison leading to accurate results and small design cycles.

The latest model-based design techniques enable engineers with limited experience to take algorithms from concept to 5G testbeds. Later on to production-quality IP execution of future 5G application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs). This approach simplifies the process and eliminates handoffs between implementation teams and system design. The interfacing of the model to a range of commercially available RF test and SDR equipment enables cost-effective and flexible verification with live RF signals.

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