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Product validation of Software Defined Radio Chip for RRH that supports multiple frequency channels and ranges from Sub-6GHz to millimetre waves (mmWave)

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Siklu (Product validation of Software Defined Radio Chip for RRH that supports multiple frequency channels and ranges from Sub-6GHz to millimetre waves (mmWave))

Reporting period: 2019-12-01 to 2020-05-31

In order to meet the demanding needs of the high 5G capabilities, massive indoor deployment is needed for cellular coverage. This is achieved through Remote Radio Heads (RRH) working at multiple frequency bands – a key component of the 5G infrastructure market. With the ongoing transition to V-RAN (cloud) based network architecture, there is a strong need for new flexible, optimized and cost-effective solutions that will enable the eco-system with sustainable business cases and ROI.
To meet this need, Siklu is developing a Software Defined Radio (SDR) Chip for RRH that supports multiple frequency channels and ranges from Sub-6GHz to millimetre waves (mmWave). This highly integrated chip replaces more than 10 existing chips, cuts cost by 80%, and provides future flexibility and scalability, disrupting price and performance for indoor and outdoor RRH at any combination of mmWave, sub 6GHz frequencies and channel bandwidths. This game changer chip is based on Siklu’s unique, patent pending architecture.
Siklu will utilize the 5G SDR chip for RRH for its internal portfolio of products, as well as sell the chipset, reference design and firmware / software to ODM / OEM building variety of indoor / outdoor products and solutions. The 5G SDR RRH will be developed in close alignment with lead customers and partners, who will be the first customers for a rapid volume ramp-up. Participation in o-RAN and other eco-system forums will help to accelerate the adoption and deployment of this technology.
Next-generation RAN may greatly benefit from virtualization technology to reduce equipment costs, improve throughput and latency and provide better cellular coverage. Virtualization technology is based on splitting the traditional RAN architecture and replacing the traditional BTS with just its radio front end while the rest of the BTS functionality is pushed into the network infrastructure and lends itself to a virtualized implementation.
The connection between the split BTS parts is called ‘fronthaul’, and the radio front end split from the BTS is called Remote Radio Head (RRH) and is a key enabler to RAN virtualization and the subject of this feasibility study.
The main market for RRH technology is expected to be in fiber rich countries which can support the broadband fronthaul connection required by the RRH and which Siklu assumes will be early adaptors of the advanced cellular virtualization technologies. The RRH solution explored by Siklu in this feasibility study is a radio frequency integrated circuit (RFIC) which integrates both traditional sub-6GHz radio bands and the newly introduced mmWave bands in frequencies around 24-29GHz. The proposed solution high level of integration enables an RRH-on-chip targeting the most advanced 5G technology, while maintaining low-cost and low operation power consumption.
During this project, Siklu completed an analysis of both the technological feasibility and economic viability of 5G SDR RRH product, based on extensive market validation process, in order to assess all technical and business aspects and conclude the final requirements and specs of this disruptive technology / product with a viable business opportunity, including a strong EU perspective.
The conclusion of the feasibility study is that Siklu proposed solution is accepted as valuable and the timing seems to be right. The key enabler to the project materialization would be the ability to secure the funding to implement the RFIC chip.
During this project, Siklu validated that its proposed RRH solution fits the market needs. Siklu has determined that the O-RAN organization is the leading entity in standardizing the RRH architecture and has joined it as a member to closely track standardization.
The O-RAN compliant RRH architecture has been presented to key potential customers, along with the unique benefits it can provide as compared to other solution architectures. The RRH solution specification and dimensioning have been verified with both cellular network operators and cellular equipment providers and adapted to their feedback. Some flexibilities were introduced in the architecture to support better the current market needs focusing on sub-6GHZ operation while maintaining suitability to fit future market needs as mmWave operation is expected to be widely deployed.
The discussion with the network operators have revealed that while they are eager to deploy VRAN technology and deploy RRH solution, they are still facing some barriers, the main of which is the lack of sufficient fiber infrastructure, which is a key element in supporting the fronthaul connection required by the RRH.
The level of integration of the RRH as a silicon based RFIC and its implication on BoM of a final RRH product has been quantified. The outcome was compared with offerings from incumbent suppliers of comparable products offering SDR and RF SoC. The outcome of this analysis is promising, and Siklu’s solution seems to offer a major cost advantage over existing alternative solutions examined, in terms of performance, flexibility and cost.
Further to the market side study, an evaluation of the costs and efforts required to develop, verify and maintain a the RRH product has been conducted. These efforts and costs include the development process itself, licensing of IP cores for 3rd party vendors, SW coding, plugfest and interoperability testing required to ensure standard compliance and chip production related investments.
In this RRH feasibility study Siklu has explored a unique RF architecture which enables support of radio chains, both in the sub-6GHz spectrum of 0.7-6GHz and in the mmWave spectrum of 24-29.5GHz. The radio architecture, based on double-conversion with the IF frequency always being in the mmWave spectrum, enables both the seamless integration of those two frequency ranges, as well as serving the 0.7-6GHz frequency band with a double conversion radio. The traditional approach to the design of the 0.7-6GHz radios uses a single conversion architecture, as it is not possible to place an IF frequency within the radio operation band. By placing the IF frequency in the mmWave spectrum (i.e. high over the sub-6GHz operating band) the double conversion radio architecture becomes feasible with all its well-known advantages.
Within the course of this project, Siklu has finalized the design of the radio architecture, determined the RF chains specifications and mapped the major risks associated with implementation.