Marvell, ADI Collaborate on Multi-Antenna Radio Units for 5G

Article By : Maurizio Di Paolo Emilio

ADI and Marvell will offer 4G/5G radio unit solutions to support high antenna profiles and multi-Gbps throughput for integrated and Open RAN...

A new technology collaboration between Analog Devices (ADI) and Marvell will offer 4G/5G radio unit solutions to support high antenna profiles and multi-gigabit-per-second throughput for both integrated and Open RAN deployments. The combination of Marvell’s baseband solutions with Analog Devices’ RF transceiver platform will be implemented in ASIC solutions for different deployments.

In an interview with EE Times, Joe Barry, vice president of the Wireless Communications Business Unit at ADI, and Raj Singh, executive vice president and general manager of Marvell’s Processor Business Group, highlighted that as 5G technology becomes more widely deployed, network operators are looking for higher capacity radio systems to meet customer demands.

The increased complexity of 5G radio units, due to both the intricacies of high-parallel transceiver techniques (massive MIMO; mMIMO) and the new requirements imposed by the use of millimeter-wave spectrum, poses significant challenges for radio network and RF system designers. Meeting the low power, size and cost requirements for 5G infrastructures will require the optimization of signal processing chains between RF and mixed-signal technology with new digital solutions for the baseband.

Block diagram.

5G for the next cities
ADI and Marvell highlighted how the upcoming mobile telecommunications industry is exploding in terms of radio unit capacity. The combination of high density and low latency will transform our cities of the future. With 5G, it will be possible to have hundreds of thousands of simultaneously active connections per square mile.

5G’s impact on smart cities will be dramatic. The low latency, high bandwidth protocol is capable of thousands of connections. In the future we can envisage traffic flow and patterns being automatically controlled, lighting and security improved, public transportation optimized for routes and demand,” said Singh.

“As users, we’ll first recognize 5G’s faster download times and better device connectivity,” said Barry. “But after 3GPP Rel 17 with its standards for ultra-reliable low latency connectivity (URLLC) matures, probably 5+ years from now, we’ll experience some of the most important benefits of 5G in everyday life. For example, traffic patterns and public transportation will improve, city services will be more consistent and responsive, infrastructure maintenance can be more proactive. The changes will be gradual and cross many segments. While the cumulative effect will be significant, we’ll only recognize it when we think back to when a streetlight would be dark for months.”

5G networks are now operational in several countries around the world. Current data and prospective studies foresee a progressive diffusion, thanks to the development opportunities in both the consumer and business markets, notwithstanding barriers that may hinder their adoption.

Joe Barry

MIMO radio unit
As with all technological evolutions, there is a need for significantly greater capacity, lower latency and greater reliability in 5G. Adding to these requirements is a very real need for the lowest possible power and in this, ADI and Marvell are working to meet the stringent requirements of 5G that will see the advent of new smart cities.

The 5G massive MIMO radio unit (RU) solutions will incorporate ADI’s next-generation transceiver technology, including a programmable digital front-end. Marvell is contributing support for its baseband silicon, which offers beamforming and an L1 software supporting O-RAN 7.2 division.

The new O-RAN compliant mMIMO systems require a significant amount of L1 digital processing in the O-RU. Traditional approaches using FPGA technology result in large, bulky, high-cost design. By using optimized silicon solutions, the cost, power and size of the O-RU can be optimized. With the introduction of the optimized O-RU Octeon Fusion 95xx silicon platform, we are able to replace a number of expensive, power-hungry FPGAs with optimized task-specific silicon. This allows for significantly sleeker design which is easier and less expensive to install. Additionally, since the unit consumes less power there is a much better TCO (total cost of ownership),” said Singh.

ADI emphasized how together with Marvell, it is possible to take a step forward and help the industry move to 32T32R radio units. “The design scope of a 32T32R mMIMO system requires 16x complete signal chains of a 2T2R, including antennas, PAs, and filters. ADI’s transceivers were designed with these high antenna counts O-RUs in mind. Using advanced Zero IF architecture, ADI transceivers integrate or eliminate many components from a standard RF converter signal chain. This makes for a simpler overall design, reducing size, weight, power and costs,” said Barry.

He continued, “We see the transceiver as the nexus of the network and the core of the O-RU. From this vantage, we continue to push the edge of what’s possible, both in analog and digital, to improve overall platform performance. Where we see a lot of innovation is in system efficiency, intelligence, and adaptiveness, delivering a more power-efficient, nimble O-RU with higher spectral performance.”

Raj Singh

Barry commented, “in anticipation of these hurdles, ADI’s core technologies deliver solutions that cover all 5G bands from 600MHz to 49 GHz with bandwidth capabilities to match. We support the core of the O-RU with advanced integrated power solutions and high-performance synchronization clocks. These are important peripheral devices that together help meet or exceed system requirements.”

All radio protocol transitions carry with them both challenges and benefits,” said Singh. “5G as a technology is very exciting but also very new. Many new techniques have been developed (and carry on being developed) to allow efficient use of scarce spectrum and ensure maximum performance. As a leading supplier of digital silicon for 5G, Marvell is uniquely positioned to enable both established companies and new entrants in this market to achieve their potential,” said Singh. 5G technology is not only for applications in smart cities but also in the purely industrial field, contributing to the extension of broadband coverage and the reduction of the digital divide,” he added.

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