19 Jun 2014

National Instruments Lead User Program Drives 5G Wireless Communications Research

National Instruments is investing in supporting universities developing the 5G telecommunications technologies.

With 4G now being widely deployed new ideas and concepts for the new 5G system is starting to be developed.

There are some challenging requirements to meet. It is anticipated that latencies times of around 0.5ms may be required to enable it to support real time applications.

In addition to this system will need to support high data rates and have a very high data capacity. Video will be a major driver for this as people require to upload video to the cloud and share it via social media.

It will also be necessary for the system to support machine to machine, M2M, communications. Communication to these devices has very different requirements to those of the traditional handsets. Here huge numbers of low data rate connections are needed along with the ability to maintain very low battery consumption for long charge intervals.

To meet these varied needs a huge number of research projects are being undertaken and National Instruments is providing wide range of support which includes hardware, software and expertise.

There are several key areas that are being investigated by research organisations. These include:

  • Dense networks: Reducing the size of cells provides a much more overall effective use of the available spectrum. Techniques to ensure that small cells in the macro-network and deployed as femtocells can operate satisfactorily are required.

  • Millimetre-Wave technologies: Using frequencies much higher in the frequency spectrum opens up more spectrum and also provides the possibility of having much wide channel bandwidth – possibly 1 – 2 GHz. However this poses new challenges for handset development where maximum frequencies of around 2 GHz and bandwidths of 10 – 20 MHz are currently in use.

  • Massive MIMO: Although MIMO is being used in many applications from LTE to Wi-Fi, etc, the numbers of antennas is fairly limited. Using microwave frequencies opens up the possibility of using many tens of antennas on a single equipment becomes a real possibility because of the antenna sizes and spacings in terms of a wavelength.

  • Future PHY / MAC: This area presents many possibilities from the use of new modulation formats including GFDM, Generalised Frequency Division Multiplexing, as well as FBMC, Filter Bank Multi-Carrier, UFMC, Universal Filtered MultiCarrier and other schemes to the management of the multiple access schemes. All these need to be developed.

With a variety of technologies being developed in many areas, these all need to be brought to the levels where they can be evaluated for inclusion in the overall 5G standards. This requires them not only to be developed, but also thoroughly tested and evaluated.

Currently National Instruments is working with a number of organisations including Lund University (Massive MIMO), Texas University (Dense Networks); New York University (Dense Networks); European “Crowd” project (Heterogeneous Networks); University of Dresden (Future MAC / PHY); European 5GNOW project (future MAC / PHY); and the German “fast” project (low latency).

"As part of its RF Lead User Program, NI is collaborating with top researchers focused on 5G wireless communications research. We’re thrilled to work with industry leaders such as Lund University, NYU Wireless and TU Dresden on next-generation standards development,” said Dr Tim Hentschel, NI Director of Marketing for Wireless Infrastructure Test. “Our software-defined platform, based on LabVIEW system design software and PXI or USRP software defined radio (SDR) hardware, is ideal for researching and prototyping standards for 5G, helping researchers innovate faster and reduce the time from theory to results.”

All these initial research projects are key elements for defining the way forwards for 5G technology. There are still many technical challenges to overcome before the standards can be defined, but these developments will enable many of the foundations for the next generation of cellular telecommunications technology to be set in place.

By Ian Poole

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