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Flexible and efficient hardware/software platforms for 5G network elements and devices

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Geared up hardware and software platforms for 5G networks

To be worth researchers’ while, 5G technology must cope with a 1000-fold increase in mobile data traffic and a spider web of connected objects with different needs, capabilities and requirements for both software and hardware platforms. The FLEX5GWARE project has developed 11 technologies to make sure that these platforms can keep up.

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The development of 5G technology is notoriously complex. Unlike the transition from 3G to 4G, which mostly consisted in a speed upgrade, 5G is a full-blown revolution that has been keeping the world’s finest engineers busy since 2008. Its success depends on the reliability of its key building blocks, many of which have been demonstrated under the FLEX5GWARE project. The project covered the whole chain of technologies needed for the implementation of 5G platforms: radio frequency front ends and antennas, mixed-signal technologies, digital front-end and hardware (HW) / software (SW) functions split, as well as SW modules and functions. The objective was to pinpoint specific implementation and prototyping challenges for key HW/SW building blocks related to capacity, environmental footprint, scalability and modularity, and this was done thanks to a total of 11 proof-of-concept (PoC) implementations. ‘We’ve come up with many different HW/SW implementations to address a wide range of 5G challenges. Thanks to all the progress achieved in these PoCs and our contribution to theoretical work, we can now seriously consider the evolution from current mobile networks to 5G,’ says Michael Fäerber, coordinator of the project for Intel. The project’s demonstrated concepts include SIW antennas with integrated power amplifiers, on-chip frequency generation, a multi-chain MIMO transmitter, a full duplex FBMC transceiver, HW/SW function split for energy aware communications, and other equally important features of future 5G networks. A key enabler of future innovation Together, these PoCs represent a leap forward in state-of-the-art technology. They will enable the European industry to develop new products and services by the time 5G launches in 2020, thereby making it more competitive. Moreover, Färber claims that ‘The energy efficiency level achieved thanks to the project’s results can have a positive impact of energy cost, thus reducing OPEX, both in ICT and in other technology sectors.’ The project’s PoCs, along with five more developed in collaboration with other 5G PPP projects (Fantastic-5G, 5G-Crosshaul, 5G-Ex, Speed-5G, Coherent), were showcased at a two-day event taking place in Turin, Italy in June 2017. ‘The point was to show our achievements to a broader audience,’ Färber explains. ‘We introduced them to functional implementations ranging from RF circuitry and RF Chip designs to complex HW/SW integrated devices operating with novel optimization algorithms in term of power saving or resource allocation. Visitors could ask questions directly to the researchers and discuss details.’ Färber believes that research results emerging from FLEX5GWARE – which also considered challenging innovations such as full duplex transmission, power amplifier envelope tracking, multi-band PA implementations, and CMOS integrated chips for signal generation – will impact future technologies in mobile broadband, mmWave small cell technology and even servers for mobile edge computing and cloud solutions. ‘They have the potential to be a part of implementations in products entering the mass market in 2020 and onwards,’ he says. The project partners have filed several patents for a future commercial exploitation of the project’s results. ‘Now that the project is completed, many partners plan to exploit the research results, concepts, algorithms, technology modules and demonstrations widely in future implementations, whether these are components, mobile chip sets, algorithms, SW solutions, transceivers or even complete network elements,’ Färber explains. As for them, academic partners are planning to use their achievements as a platform for further research.


FLEX5GWARE, 5G, PoC, building blocks, technology, networks

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