Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


Flex5Gware Report Summary

Project ID: 671563
Funded under: H2020-EU.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Flex5Gware (Flexible and efficient hardware/software platforms for 5G network elements and devices)

Reporting period: 2015-07-01 to 2016-06-30

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Among the challenges that 5G mobile networks will face, the support of an anticipated 1000 fold mobile traffic increase over the next decade and the efficient handling of many different classes of traffic and services, representing quite diverse use cases, are the two most remarkable ones. In response to these challenges, the mobile industry must deliver an economically and energetically sustainable capacity and performance growth strategy; one that offers a superior user experience at lower cost than existing wireless systems.
To achieve these two ambitious goals a plethora of technological aspects need to be addressed. Among all these aspects, the Flex5Gware project is addressing the improvement of the performance and the reduction of the energy footprint of the HW and SW platforms, on top of which all communication-related functionalities are implemented and executed. It is also worth highlighting that performance improvements require progress not only in quantifiable/quantitative terms (e.g., operated bandwidth or simultaneous computational power enhancement and energy consumption reduction), but also in terms of other important non-functional aspects like scalability, modularity, and reconfigurability, which is also one of the key aspects addressed in Flex5Gware. This is due to the fact that macrocellular network capacity cannot continue to increase infinitely. Rather, increasing capacity to keep pace with future demands requires networks that are flatter, more distributed and of heterogeneous nature, and, in general, more scalable and flexible in order to match the cost (resource and energy consumption) with the faced demand.
The technological progress that is being derived from this project in the development of the 5G mobile networks, especially that related to improvements on the HW and SW platforms, has a direct benefit to the European society associated to the improvement in the quality of service, increased number of applications and services and reduced cost of the future mobile network. For example, access to a wide range of applications and services, including a novel range of services of societal value like M2M applications, that support the citizens’ social wellbeing and social engagement, offer more efficient utility networks (energy, gas and water), traffic systems, health systems, the support of the elderly, as well as the further adoption of ICT services. Moreover, the improvements in energy efficiency of 5G platforms pointed out above can reduce carbon dioxide emissions and have a positive impact on climate change. Thanks to the cost efficiency of its HW and SW platforms, the expected ubiquitous coverage of 5G networks will provide similar opportunities for economical and societal progress to diverse areas ranging from densely populated areas to remote rural areas. Finally, the emergence of the 5G mobile networks will contribute to create new job posts and new companies in the communication networks domain and even to a bigger extent in secondary domains related to the application of ICT.
In order to address the problem presented at the beginning and achieve the important societal benefits listed above, the Flex5Gware consortium has defined the following overall high-level objective: to deliver highly reconfigurable HW platforms together with HW-agnostic SW platforms targeting both network elements and user devices taking into account increased capacity, reduced energy footprint, as well as scalability and modularity, to enable a smooth transition from 4G mobile wireless systems to 5G. Accordingly, Flex5Gware is performing research to pin point specific implementation challenges for key HW/SW building blocks and consider the ability of these functions to co-operate and provide versatile, flexible, reconfigurable, efficient operations for HW/SW platforms.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

The project started with a six-month phase that encompassed the definition of the scenarios, use cases and the general requirements to be fulfilled by future 5G communication platforms. Already existing efforts in this field as well as synergies that were built with other 5G PPP projects were very useful so as to address a holistic system perspective and ensure the acceptance of Flex5Gware results. In this phase, the contributions of the industrial partners of Flex5Gware, was essential to align the project scenarios and use cases to the real commercial needs of mobile network operators.
In parallel to this first phase, given the wide scope of the research topics addressed in Flex5Gware, the derived general requirements were particularized for each one of the four technology areas being addressed in Flex5Gware related to HW and SW platforms: RF front-ends and antennas, mixed-signal technologies, digital front-ends, and SW modules and functions. Accordingly, specific design principles, requirements, and guidelines for the development of the enabling technologies were obtained.
With these more specific requirements and design guidelines at hand, after the first six months, the project work flow continued with the start of the development of the different technologies in the four areas listed above. This stage is currently ongoing and it consists of research activities based on theoretical analysis for concept creation, simulation and experimental evaluation of the different proposed technologies, and, finally a performance assessment validated in a lab environment.
In parallel to this second phase, eleven Flex5Gware technology proofs-of-concept (PoC) are being developed based on the technology developments described in the previous paragraph. Four of these proofs-of-concept will be directly obtained as a result of a single developed technology (stand-alone PoC) while the other seven are requiring additional integration effort as they will be composed of a plurality of developed technologies (integrated PoC). The eleven Flex5Gware PoCs cover the whole value chain of 5G platforms: starting from the antenna, RF modules and mixed signal stages and going up to digital HW and SW aspects.
In terms of main results at the end of this first year, besides producing the deliverable that contains the complete description of all Flex5Gware PoCs in terms of technology to be used, test object lists, and mapping to 5G use cases, Flex5Gware had, has and will have outstanding achievements in its PoCs. Particularly, already five preliminary PoC developments were showcased at EuCNC 2016 in Athens demonstrating HW/SW enablers for 5G. Improvements in terms of reduced cost and footprint for the analogue hardware and increased flexibility and reduced energy techniques based on context awareness were shown at the Flex5Gware booth. For example, one of the showcased PoCs was the full duplex transceiver. This technology provides gains in the user data rate of up to 50 % and in aggregated data rates (in a multiuser setting) of up to 21 % compared to settings in which full duplex is not available. Moreover, the main advantage of the work carried out in Flex5Gware with respect to prior art is that the proposed full duplex architecture is based on a conventional multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) hardware architecture, which implies that no significant changes in the hardware will be required to endow MIMO transceivers with full duplex capabilities. A block diagram of the full duplex transceiver architecture is depicted in the attached figure 1.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

As it has already been described above, Flex5Gware innovations target both user devices and network elements. A very important aspect related to 5G devices is that they are expected to integrate and interact with a multiplicity of sensors (e.g., those related to location and positioning, environmental conditions, image processing etc.). In this context, Flex5Gware researchers participated into an indoor localization competition organized by Microsoft (see attached figure 2 for a picture of the event), where an average error of 3.17 m was achieved in a very challenging environment for radio propagation with metal structures and two floors. This kind of indoor positioning solutions in 5G platforms will provide additional context awareness to the communication network, allowing improvements in the efficiency of existing services and in the allocation of network resources, and help provide better user-centric and personalized services.
A similar heterogeneous situation to that of 5G devices is also valid for 5G network elements. Since cost and flexibility of deployment will be key factors, a shift toward SW-based implementations and virtualization technologies will be required. In this SW domain, Flex5Gware researchers have proposed a context-aware, cognitive and dynamic HW/SW partitioning algorithm for 5G network elements. This algorithm exploits knowledge (e.g. prediction of a hotspot) derived by network and sensor measurements and decides upon the HW or SW execution of functions in order to fulfill and maintain the application goals. The algorithm leads to high flexibility, performance and energy efficiency.
In the HW domain of network elements, Flex5Gware research focuses on incorporating solutions for increased operating bandwidth, multiband functionalities and key component implementation for mmWave transceivers, which will enable the efficient utilization of spectral resources at frequencies below 6 GHz and also at mmWave ranges. In particular, Flex5Gware researchers have proposed an architecture design for the transceiver of medium range base stations that supports three radio bands, together with a design of a multiband high-power amplifier with an output power of 53 dBm (see attached figure 3 for the layout of a 7 mm x 1 mm power bar chip for the multiband high power amplifier). The presented three-band transceiver solution considers radio bands defined for mobile communications and one band which is in discussion to become available during the next years (2.7 - 2.9 GHz).
Another important aspect related to the HW domain in network elements for mmWave ranges is the on-chip frequency generation via a local oscillator (LO), which is a key part of all high performance transceivers. The quality of the LO signal provides fundamental limitations to the achievable data rates and receiver selectivity. In the Flex5Gware project, 60 GHz voltage-controlled oscillators (VCO) have been designed, fabricated and measured to evaluate their performance (see attached figure 4 with a picture of the 60 GHz VCO. In particular, the fabricated VCO shows superior performance with respect to the state of the art in terms of power consumption (3.15 mW), phase noise (-116.5 dBc/Hz) and device footprint (0.016 mm2).
Other relevant hardware improvements for network elements that are being researched in Flex5Gware are active envelope tracking and PA pre-distortion for wideband power amplifiers, and the addition of new features and capabilities that are not yet in operational use, such as implementations of massive MIMO technologies.
All this progress achieved beyond the state-of-the-art will enable the evolution from current mobile networks to 5G. 5G networks will open new markets and opportunities to network operators, developers of communication subsystems, device designers and providers, system integrators, ICT solution providers and user terminal developers. In particular, regarding the socio-economic impact, Flex5Gware is giving the European industry the opportunity to go into new markets and increase its revenue by reaching a larger number of customers (and M2M subscriptions). For industries this is a great opportunity that would be difficult to achieve with an individual approach and without this collaborative project. In addition, the knowledge acquired so far and the developed technologies will contribute to allow the European industries to create new product lines targeting 2020. This fact will contribute to the industries growth and will additionally improve their competitiveness and increase their added value. Moreover, the advances and outcomes achieved so far are increasing the SotA technology level of Flex5Gware partners. Reaching a higher SotA level will open the door to achieve more competitive companies with a higher potential. Finally, the energy efficiency achieved by the project’s solutions obtained so far can have a positive impact of energy cost, thus reducing OPEX, both in ICT and in other technology sectors.
From all that has been said above Flex5Gware’s research and innovation activities will have positive effects with respect to the creation of know-how, the anchorage of a skilled work force, the strengthening of the competitiveness and of growth of companies, as well as the creation of jobs not only in ICT but also in other technology areas (e.g. energy, water, gas, transport, health, etc.). In addition, new business opportunities for SMEs to increase their growth by developing new products and services are expected to appear within the context of the Flex5Gware activities and Flex5Gware also introduces an excellent business opportunity for the European mobile operators, due to the new and improved services that they will be able to offer to their customers.

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Record Number: 192862 / Last updated on: 2016-12-15