As 4G (LTE Advanced, LTE Advanced Pro along with LTE Classic) continues to penetrate and replace legacy networks, there seems to be an urgency to demonstrate a version of 5G at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang and an enhanced version at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. The mobile operators will be busy preparing for a roll-out of trial 5G networks, with a few even targeting some level of commercial deployment in 2017.
5G: an all-inclusive network
While the perception is that 5G is all about increasing speeds/data rates – and initially that may be the case – 5G’s mandate is to be a one-stop network for all the market segments, starting from very low-bandwidth and low-power IoT nodes to ultra-high definition immersive experiences. In order to meet these requirements, 5G uses a wide spectrum; from sub-GHz for IoT applications with long range requirements, between 1 and 6 GHz for broadband devices, and above 6 GHz/mmWave for extreme bandwidth over shorter ranges.
To keep it simple, the 5G standards bodies and community have categorised the use cases and applications such that they fit into one of the following three segments:
- Enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) for bandwidth-hungry applications such as high-definition telepresence, telemedicine and remote surgery
- Massive machine type communications (mMTC) for the fast-growing, high-volume, dense IoT nodes/applications such as smart metering, smart building, smart cities and asset tracking to name a few
- Ultra-reliable and low latency communications (URLLC) for mission-critical services such as autonomous vehicles, healthcare, industrial automation
As is expected, the requirements of these three segments vary by their function. Mobile broadband requires higher performance; IoT is all about the lowest power consumption and cost, while the KPIs for mission-critical services are low latency and security.
Let’s talk about some of the key metrics and features that make 5G a reality. These are:
- Carrier Aggregation and MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output): These two techniques enhance the bit-rates further in LTE Advanced and LTE Advanced Pro. In LTE Advanced, carrier aggregation increases the overall bit-rate by aggregating up to five component carriers of 20 MHz (i.e. a maximum of 100 MHz), while MIMO increases the bit-rate by transmission of two or more different data streams on two or more different antennas. Now, for 5G, a single component carrier can be 100 MHz or higher and with carrier aggregation, the overall capacity increases multi-fold. This, when combined with massive MIMO, is what delivers the 5G promise of multiple gigabits per second.
- Multi-RAT (Radio Access Technology): 5G will co-exist and interwork with the legacy technologies – 4G/LTE in licensed bands and Wi-Fi in unlicensed bands.
- Power consumption: While this is important across the segments, it is very critical for IoT segment such as NB-IoT that has the very stringent requirements for long battery life of more than 10 years, with 5-watt hour batteries or 2xAA batteries depending on the traffic and coverage needs in power-save mode (PSM).
- Latency: This is another feature that is mandatory across each segment. It is fundamental to mission-critical services such as autonomous vehicles, industrial automation and remote surgery where even a millisecond can make a significant difference. While the latencies in LTE were in the range of tens of millisecond ~ 50 msec., the 5G latency requirement is reduced to less than a millisecond, thus enabling these extreme use cases on a cellular network. Latency is also a key feature for other real-time applications such as voice, video calling and telepresence.
- Reliability and security: This is a key metric, as there’s no scope for any margin of error, particularly for the mission-critical use cases discussed above. These parameters are also important for the success of 5G as cellular networks are penetrating into market segments such as autonomous vehicles, industrial automation and remote surgery.
5G: No one-size-fits-all
There is no one-size-fits-all for these diverse 5G use cases but with its range of cores and features MIPS CPUs that are already shipping in millions of 4G LTE modems are very well geared to address the all-inclusive nature of 5G’s requirements:–
- MIPS for eMBB: With its support for simultaneous multi-threading technology a MIPS I-Class coherent multi-core is an ideal modem processor for 5G’s high speed enhanced mobile broadband. Carrier aggregation is a perfect candidate for MIPS multi-threading as each thread can be used to maintain the context of a component carrier. Go to our website to learn to find out more about MIPS multi-threading.
- MIPS for URLCC: Deterministic, low-latency and real-time high-priority interrupt handlers combined with MIPS data and instruction scratch pad RAM meets the ultra-low latency real-time requirements of mission-critical services. MIPS OmniShield and virtualization features support the security, reliability functionality requirements within 5G modems.
- MIPS for mMTC: MIPS M-Class cores offer all the features required for 5G’s massive-machine type communications, such as ultra-low power, small area, and integrated applications and modem processors. MIPS M-Class cores are also unique in providing full hardware virtualization in an MCU-class core, making them an ideal choice for securing mMTC nodes.
Is the ecosystem ready to take this big leap into 5G? We think so. Multiple mobile operators in the US and Asia, particularly in Seoul and Tokyo, the venues for upcoming Olympic Games, have been taking a step towards a phased 5G launch. Other ecosystem players – modem vendors, infrastructure vendors and others have announced the availability of their respective components.
Similarly, we are ready with our wide range of MIPS cores – a range ideally suited as modem CPUs for all classes of 5G products.