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

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - Flex5Gware (Flexible and efficient hardware/software platforms for 5G network elements and devices)

Reporting period: 2016-07-01 to 2017-06-30

To achieve an economically and energetically sustainable capacity and performance growth strategy for 5G networks a plethora of technological aspects need to be addressed. Among all these aspects, the Flex5Gware project has addressed the improvement of the performance and the reduction of the energy footprint of the HW and SW platforms. It is also worth highlighting that performance improvements require progress not only in quantifiable/quantitative terms, but also in terms of other important non-functional aspects like scalability, modularity, and reconfigurability, which were also some of the key aspects addressed in Flex5Gware.
The technological progress in the development of the 5G mobile networks that has been derived from this project is especially a progress related to improvements on the HW and SW platforms. This has a direct benefit to the European society linked to the improvements in the quality of service, increased number of applications and services, and reduced cost of the future mobile networks. For example, 5G will facilitate a cost-effective access to a wide range of applications and services that support the citizens’ social wellbeing and social engagement. 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 regions ranging from densely populated areas to remote rural ones. Finally, the emergence of the 5G mobile networks will contribute to create new job posts and new companies in the communication networks domain.
To achieve its goal, Flex5Gware performed research to pin point specific implementation and prototyping challenges for key HW/SW building blocks in the form of eleven proofs-of-concept (PoC). In addition, the project partners addressed the ability of these PoCs to provide versatile, flexible, reconfigurable, efficient operations for 5G HW/SW platforms. Accordingly, most of the performance improvement achieved by Flex5Gware in terms of increased capacity, reduced energy footprint, as well as scalability and modularity stems from experimental results extracted directly from the Flex5Gware PoCs. Clearly, this is a significant step towards the validation of the practical viability of 5G HW/SW platforms in comparison to other approaches where performance fulfilment is obtained primarily via simulations or analytical results.
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. Then, the derived general requirements were particularized for each one of the four technology areas being addressed in Flex5Gware: RF front-ends and antennas, mixed-signal technologies, digital front-ends, and SW modules and functions. After the first six months and until the end of the project, the core activity of Flex5Gware took place as the eleven proofs-of-concept (PoC) were prototyped based on the technology developments carried out in each one of the four technology areas.
In terms of main results achieved at the end of the action, Flex5Gware had outstanding achievements in all its PoCs. In particular, (i) an increase in the HW versatility and reconfigurability was achieved mainly via building blocks than enable multiband operation for bands below 6 GHz and the ability to work at mmWave bands; (ii) HW-agnostic, flexible and cost-effective building blocks for SW platforms were designed and developed thanks to a SW architecture that supports changing the communication operation parameters across multiple devices in real-time, based on the estimated context and (iii) building blocks of 5G communication platforms showcased an increase in the overall achievable capacity and/or a reduction in the overall energy consumed with respect to prior art.
As a short summary of the dissemination activities carried out, the outcomes of Flex5Gware have been published in 15 contributions to standardization bodies, 24 contributions in book chapters, journals, and whitepapers, 38 papers in conference/workshop proceedings and participation in 5 exhibition events (Fig. 1). It is also worth pointing out that important dissemination activities of the Flex5Gware project were also channeled through the participation in joint 5G PPP-organized/supported activities. Finally, regarding the exploitation plans of Flex5Gware results, for large industry partners and SMEs, their main contributions are directly aligned with internal R&D strategies and the outcomes are going to be used in future generation of products. For academic partners (research centres and universities), the project outcomes will pave the way for their future research, based on prototyping of research ideas in a credible, industry driven proof of concept.
As it has been explained in the previous sections, the main achievement of Flex5Gware has been to provide different Proofs-of-Concept (PoC) for the key building blocks that 5G HW/SW platforms will be composed of. Even if progress beyond the state of the art has been achieved in all PoCs, the following are highlighted due to the participation of large industry players:
• On-chip frequency generation at mmWave (Fig. 2). The main benefits of this PoC are cost, size, and power reduction while using state of the art CMOS technology allowing for high-level system integration.
• Multi-band transmitter (Fig. 3). The developed multiband transmit-chain allows reducing the hardware complexity by decreasing the number of implemented transceivers.
• Multi-chain MIMO transmitter (Fig. 4). This PoC has the ability to generate an RF signal for a multi-chain transmitter in a single component together with an amplification method that is suitable for antenna arrays.
• Full duplex FBMC transceiver (Fig. 5). The solution proposed in this PoC allows the increase of cell capacity since one resource block is used at the same time for uplink and downlink, without stringent power consumption requirements on the UE side.
• Flexible, scalable and reconfigurable small cell platform (Fig. 6). This PoC can be used to enable the possibility of multiple operators sharing the same physical resource while still guaranteeing segregation.
• Flexible resource allocation in CRAN/vRAN platform (Fig. 7). This PoC featured inter-cell interference reduction and user-throughput increase via intelligent resource allocation strategies.
All the progress in these PoCs 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 all stakeholders. 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 and will additionally improve their competitiveness and increase their added value.
On chip frequency generation at mmWave PoC
Full duplex FBMC transceiver PoC
Flexible resource allocation in CRAN/vRAN platform PoC
Flexible, scalable, and reconfigurable small cell platform PoC
Group picture at the Flex5Gware booth in the 2nd Global 5G Event
Multi-chain MIMO transmitter PoC
Multi-band transmitter PoC