“In the diverse architecture of mobile networks, small cells are often considered as solutions that meet some limited requirements, and are often seen as part of a homogeneous product. But even in the field of small cells, there are many differences in features, functionality, and architecture. While small cells are just base stations that cover a small radius, their capabilities may include support for different frequency bands, number of users, and power consumption levels.
Author: Wang Zhengfang, Vice President of Engineering, Bicoc Microelectronics (Hangzhou) Co., Ltd.
Since the opening of the first commercial telegraph line in 1844, the global telecommunications industry has been showing the world the most advanced technological and economic progress, involving technological innovation, emerging businesses, economies of scale, service quality, interconnection (standardization), etc. It is inseparable from the latest technology, and it is also inseparable from accurate business calculation and design. With the large-scale deployment of 5G in the early stage and the continuous increase in penetration rate, the technical and economic evaluation of 5G communication services will enter a new stage. At the same time, operators have begun to invite tenders for the introduction of 5G small cells. However, the major technical and economic changes are still being promoted. It’s those little chips.
Below, we will introduce how optimized and innovative chips can change the deployment and operation of 5G from seven aspects.
1. Diversity in RAN is not just more vendor choices…
For a variety of reasons, carriers want to see more mobile device vendors to choose from. This means that most industry discussions about Open RAN focus on one outcome: increasing vendor diversity. Our industry will benefit from a greater diversity of RAN suppliers, but it will take much more than just seeing more supplier names in the supply chain. The distributed RAN architecture supports multiple deployment methods, helping to provide the best user experience.
2. We are seeing an increase in diversity on many levels…
Network and business needs are becoming increasingly diverse. To use new spectrum resources, devices must be flexible enough to support an ever-increasing range of frequency bands, from sub-GHz all the way to millimeter wave (mmWave), licensed to unlicensed, shared to dedicated, often in different countries /regions are presented in different combinations. Network equipment must also support different generations of mobile networks from 2G all the way to 5G. To profit from the deployment of 5G networks, operators aim to provide services with different latency and throughput requirements for different application scenarios.
To meet the demands of these use cases, they are faced with increasingly diverse deployment environments and capacity requirements, with indoor, dense urban, transportation networks, and rural and suburban all exhibiting vastly different coverage and cost configurations. Finally, the way mobile networks are funded, deployed, owned and operated is changing. With the emergence and growth of neutral third-party models, managed network-as-a-service, and private networks in unlicensed shared and dedicated spectrum, equipment vendors must recognize the need to be able to support a range of deployment architectures.
3. The small base station itself is diverse…
In the diverse architecture of mobile networks, small cells are often considered as solutions that meet some limited requirements, and are often seen as part of a homogeneous product. But even in the field of small cells, there are many differences in features, functionality, and architecture. While small cells are just base stations that cover a small radius, their capabilities may include support for different frequency bands, number of users, and power consumption levels.
Architectural diversity is related to how small cells implement functional division for RAN processing, and the associated fronthaul and backhaul requirements. There are also various deployment/operation methods of small cells, such as private private networks, neutral third-party deployments, or operator-deployed networks. 3GPP will not go into sleep mode, there will only be more features and requirements on the roadmap. Therefore, small cell developers need to take all these variables into account.
4. Diverse environments require efficient responses
Operators and their suppliers need to be able to meet these different requirements cost-effectively and efficiently. Operators need a RAN that matches the environment so that it can adapt to the needs of the surrounding environment. This means obtaining solutions suitable for different network architectures, deployment situations and different application scenarios. This also means relying on various optimized systems to support these solutions. It is impossible for developers to design different, end-to-end solutions for each instance, and it is impossible to use only one solution for various diverse needs.
5. Flexible chip solutions can provide answers…
The feedback Picocom has received is that commercially available chips are needed to enable more diverse solutions that can be tailored by equipment vendors based on service and deployment requirements. Our raison d’etre is to design something that builds as many permutations as possible on a single chip and still achieves the best cost point and low cost you’d expect from an optimized SoC approach power consumption.
6. The chip + software design can meet the task requirements…
We can achieve diversification multipliers by applying good semiconductor economics. We support new vendors to participate and design products based on architectures with suitable interfaces, enabling flexible solutions. Supporting higher or lower PHY splits is an example: we use the same chip to support higher or lower splits, differentiated by specific software. This provides system developers with a common platform that is flexible to meet the different needs of the industry.
7. RAN diversity can be real…here’s how.
Achieving RAN vendor diversity is currently a strategic driver for mobile network operators (MNOs). However, it must be based on a silicon solution that enables vendors to deliver optimized solutions at the right cost point and power consumption level. By supporting distributed and open architectures, flexible silicon solutions can achieve the ultimate goal of vendor diversity.
Picocom has built and will continue to provide optimized and flexible silicon and software solutions that enable operators to meet their diverse network needs and take advantage of a more diverse vendor market.