A View from the Top: A Virtual Prototyping Blog


Creating Revenue from Spectrum – Algorithms and Software are the key!

As for sure you have noticed, Synopsys has made some key investments into the System-Level space with the recent acquisitions of VaST Systems and CoWare. Going forward we will have more guest comments and views on this Blog from the other members of the System-Level team. To start it off, Johannes Stahl – a long term expert in the System-Level space – provides his “View From The Algorithm Top” on some recent developments in the next generation wireless space. Johannes joins Synopsys from CoWare. Welcome Johannes!

JohannesCreating Revenue from Spectrum – Algorithms and Software are the key

By Johannes Stahl

When a piece of land in your community gets rezoned to become a housing area this land becomes more expensive for developers as housing zones are still a scarce resource. Very similar wireless operators go out and acquire expensive spectrum to provide their services to you. They need to utilize this scarce resource it in the most effective way.

The whole war for standards in the wireless domain is about who controls the spectrum and in which way this enables controlling the entire eco system for delivering services to consumers. A well known example of top level control has always been the Chinese government, who has fostered local Chinese versions of communication standards. When WCDMA was adopted by the world, China would create the TD-SCMDA version of it and around that operators like China Mobile would be able to drive their supply chain providing solutions.

The history only seems to repeat itself with the upcoming LTE standard. The TD-LTE version of the standard, which uses a different way to allocate spectrum and time to the individual users compared to the general LTE standard (also known as FDD mode), is again being developed for the local Chinese market. But interestingly enough TD-LTE will now also apply for other countries as the spectrum allocation being offered by those governments is similar to the spectrum structure required for TD-LTE (in communications theory lingo this is spectrum called ‘unpaired’).

TD-LTE and LTE (FDD) standards require very similar physical layer processing requirements, so that even with a split into two versions the eco system will be quite capable of providing cost effective solutions based on scalability. Although the standards are very similar, they are definitely not identical. This poses two challenges for the developers of baseband solutions.

For both standards the performance characteristics of the physical layer, which is largely determined by one parameter – the system throughput – will require optimization of the detailed signal processing that is used to drive the specific spectrum allocation and hence the reconstruction of the received signal. This is by no means trivial and requires 1000s of long simulations with millions of test vectors. Better algorithms, better performance, more revenues for the operators. Time and effort well invested by the supply chain.

The implementation of chip sets that can span both standards (and maybe even WiMAX) is evenly challenging, as high data rates requires optimum signal processing architectures and at the same time switching between standards asks for software programmability. All of the above at the lowest power to satisfy you as a smart phone user. From a design perspective this means actually going back and forth between algorithm design, architecture design and software implementation in order to achieve the design goals.

If you are responsible for baseband products at a semiconductor or handset manufacturer you better off being equipped with integrated system-level design solutions to get your product into the LTE market with predictable success.

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