A View from the Top: A Virtual Prototyping Blog


Long Term Evolution Wireless – Get Ready for 1Gbit/s!

While some of you in the US may be scrambling to get your old Mickey Mouse antenna replaced for the switch over to HD-Digital TV, a group of companies owning a huge amount of spectrum is preparing to get you going with HD content on your mobile devices. The wireless operators around the world, the AT&Ts, Vodafones and Docomos, are working on putting the final touches on a new standard called LTE (Long Term Evolution), which will provide 100Mbit/s peak performance providing access to the internet at warp speed, even while travelling at 200 miles/hour in the Shinkansen train. Along with that goal for the standard, the base station providers and cell phone manufacturers have to reinvent their platforms. Simple scaling of the previous architectures does not work.
Where does this new standard put the biggest pressure? It’s the semiconductor companies in the wireless space. They are redoing their architectures to deliver the scalability and much higher speeds as compared to the previous generation (HSPA), which is deployed in the market today. Even if you are not into wireless design, by taking a look at the required 5-10x performance delta gives you an idea of the design challenge (Peak data rate 100Mbps vs. 14 Mbps today, latency 5 ms vs. 50 ms today, broadcast data rate improvement 8x)
What does it mean for the design? Most design teams would be tempted to design a lot more optimized signal processing hardware, but by the time they would be done with that, the standard will be moving towards LTE-Advanced (1Gbit/s peak rate). Also, the flexibility of the operation of LTE does not lend itself to fixed architecture. So, what should you expect to happen in these leading-edge design teams? They will use processors wherever possible. Standard cores, customizable cores and dedicated cores will be used to differentiate their architecture in terms of power and performance. This is multi-design at its finest and, of course, with a huge amount of design challenges for the performance optimization of the architecture and the software.
Is this all worth it for the semiconductor industry? Well, the operators certainly believe so. According to ABI Research’s senior analyst Nadine Manjaro, “ABI Research believes that NTT will also deploy LTE in Japan in 2009. We forecast that by 2013 operators will spend over $8.6 billion on LTE base station infrastructure alone. For operators that have already deployed 3G networks, LTE will be a key CAPEX driver over the next five years.”
Interested in the most challenging designs around the world? Then quickly learn about LTE!

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