The race to 5G commercialization has many forms – faster broadband, mobility, and IoT – and it’s compelling RF, microwave, and millimeter-wave engineers to take a smarter approach to microwave design and test. Here’s what we expect to see and hear a lot about at European Microwave Week (EuMW) 2018.
5G technology will be a driving force behind much-anticipated applications such as ubiquitous broadband, autonomous vehicles, and smart factory automation. But making those applications a reality makes testing 5G a critical step. To ensure 5G devices and networks work well, three architectural requirements must be in place.
The Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) at the University of Warwick, recognizing the monumental impact that 5G is and will continue to have on wireless communications, has recently announced an upgrade to their lab to include 5G mmWave technology. This upgrade has been possible because of a WMG Centre HVM Catapult award and equipment collaboration from NI.
The WMG will be using our mmWave Transceiver System to expand their research from the traditional sub 6 GHz frequencies into the new mmWave spectrum and unlock significantly wider blocks of contiguous bandwidth. More bandwidth means higher data throughputs, which is already beginning to lead to a variety of new applications. For WMG, their specific interest is researching how mmWave communications can enable connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs).
Enabling the future of automotive
CAVs will require 5G technology to be truly successful. Existing LTE systems are lacking for several reasons, most importantly high latency and lack of data throughput. Since Vehicle to Vehicle (V2V) communication needs to be fast in order to be meaningful, latencies above the 1 ms stated goal of 5G will not give the vehicle enough time to react.
Large bandwidths are necessary to send and receive the massive amounts of data potentially sent between sensors, the cloud, and other vehicles. Why the cloud? If all processing and sensor hardware lives on the vehicle itself, updates become extremely difficult. (Vehicles aren’t upgraded every 2 years like a cell phone.) But, if they can upload and download data from the cloud, this issue could be resolved. The processed data could then be downloaded by any connected vehicle, reducing the need to upgrade hardware inside the vehicle itself.
Dr Erik Kampert, Dr Matthew Higgins, Dr Jakobus Groenewald receive the 5G mmWave platform inside WMGs 3xD Simulator.
WMG’s Connected and Autonomous Vehicles research team are already working with a range of industrial partners on connectivity, verification and validation, and the understanding and optimization of user/customer interaction with driverless technology. This new facility will further enhance WMG’s vison to be the United Kingdom’s “go-to” CAV development platform providing unrivalled research and testing that will accelerate product introduction, infrastructure design and implementation.
We’re eager to see how the WMG takes on these challenges and innovates new solutions!
The National Science Foundation (NSF), along with an industry consortium of 28 networking companies and associations that includes NI, announced the first two Platforms for Advanced Wireless Research (PAWR) initiative awards.
A lot happened in the world of 5G this year. Stay on top of the standard updates and get our director of RF and wireless research, James Kimery’s perspective on the incredible changes the wireless industry saw in 2017:
The 3GPP agreed to accelerate the 5G deliverables by up to six months. A complete Non-Stand Alone (NSA) architecture is expected to be finalized by March of 2018 with the SA version using a 5G core network coming six months later.
Not yet, but the foundation is being laid today. Semiconductors, software, infrastructure, data centers, edge computing, and of course test and measurement must rise up to realize the vast potential that 5G promises.
When the 3GPP announced the beginning of 5G development back in 2015, the group proposed many performance objectives pertaining to all aspects of the network. Eventually the 3GPP distilled the various metrics down to three distinct use cases:
enhanced mobile broad band (eMBB),
Ultra Reliable Low Latency Communications (URLLC), and
Massive Machine Type Communications (mMTC).
There has been much written and published on the eMBB use case and even the mMTC to a lesser extent with the anticipation of smarter devices and pervasive IoT. Although the URLLC use case has garnered less attention, it may in fact prove more impactful than either of the former use cases.
The pivotal term in URLLC is “low latency”. In some ways ultra reliable and low latency represent two separate and potentially orthogonal goals.
While physical layer researchers differ on the exact definition of latency, it's generally referred to as the round trip time from when a transport block contained in a slot is sent from a base station (BTS) and the user equipment (UE) responds to the initial transmission of the transport block. This is a narrow view, but makes it controllable from a research perspective at the foundational level of the standard.
All variables that impact latency in this definition can be controlled by the physical layer designers. With the pending finalization of 3GPP Release 15, the initial 5G NSA Phase 1 release, the 3GPP contributors addressed latency at the physical layer with several optimizations, which I’ll outline below.
First, the flexible numerology scheme allows for slots in a subframe (1ms) to be defined as uplink, downlink or some combination of the two. Second, the time duration of the slot is flexible and depends on the sub carrier spacing (SCS). The 3GPP specifies several SCS options dependent on spectrum and bandwidth. Each slot represents 14 OFDM symbols and each subframe can scale in time as noted by the table below:
For the URLLC case, the shorter slot durations are important. The 3GPP has also defined “mini-slots” that further reduce the timing to 2, 4, or 7 symbols and would cause the timing in the table above to scale linearly.
Finally, the 3GPP also defined the “self contained” subframe case. In this mode, transmit and receive from the UE side occurs wholly within a single subframe. Self contained subframes include the HARQ which in theory makes a significant reduction in latency possible. The HARQ timing generally increases access time depending on the quality of the link and can increase latency significantly.
Network researchers note that the physical layer and improvements in the full stack, ie the RAN, are only part of the latency equation. The data bits must be sent and received from a UE, however if the sending device is located on the other side of the world, minimal latency targets will be difficult to realize. Physics dictates the travel based on distance, and even the fastest networks must address this challenge.
Researchers refer to this type of latency as end-to-end or E2E. E2E low latency is not possible without modification to the core network and potential inclusion of network slicing and/or Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) nodes. By separating the control and user planes in the standard, the 3GPP opened the door for new network topologies to enable network slicing. More to the point, a distributed network control methodology where the network can direct a packet using the shortest path to a computational node to efficiently reduce the E2E latency is needed.
The 3GPP has laid a solid foundation for realizing lower latency in 5G networks. While the improvements in the physical layer will be realized for the eMBB and mMTC use cases, the potential for URLLC remains. However, URLLC and true low latency applications may have to wait for further definition of the upper layers in the 5G Core Network scheduled for release in December of 2018.
This blog originally appeared in Microwave Journal as part of the5G and Beyondseries.
Wireless engineers face a big challenge today. They must prototype next-generation wireless communications systems and increasingly connected devices in a more competitive and fast-changing communications industry.
European Microwave Week (EuMW) 2017, a six-day event in Nuremberg, will focus on the future of microwave technology globally and give us a better look at how this challenge is impacting the industry today and changing the way engineers work.
Look for the following topics at EuMW 2017:
5G prototyping: the progress we have made
5G continues to capture headlines as wireless companies everywhere take on the challenge of building a 5G wireless network. NI’s engagement with industry leaders in 5G prototyping has resulted in MIMO systems with world record-breaking spectrum efficiency, including one of the world’s fastest mmWave channel sounders.
NI at EuMW:We’ll demonstrate a real-time, 28 GHz, over-the-air prototype aligned with the Verizon 5G specification. We’ll also showcase an academic partnership enabling research on ultra-reliable, low-latency wireless communications for mobile video recording and broadcasting. Follow @NIglobal for updates during the show.
Sensor fusion test: a key part of the race towards autonomous vehicles
As automakers race to produce autonomous vehicles, sensors like cameras, lidar, GNSS, and radar are making automotive test much more complex. Due to the speed at which this industry trend is evolving, shows like EuMW help us keep up with the progress towards making sensor fusion test faster and safer. This is critical for automotive suppliers to remain competitive as we move toward more connected autonomous cars.
NI at EuMW:We’ll demonstrate an advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) test solution, developed in collaboration with Germany’s ADAS IIT consortium, for short- and long-range radar at 76–81 GHz. The solution is based on the industry-standard PXI modular instrumentation platform. Using PXI’s timing, triggering, and synchronisation capability, along with instruments from DC to RF and bus interfaces like CAN, this system provides an ideal solution for testing sensor fusion. Follow @NIglobal for updates during the show.
Also, in the MicroApps theatre, NI distinguished engineer Paul Khanna will discuss high-performance test techniques for automotive radar sensors at 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, 11 October.
Software: the solution for faster and smarter microwave design and test innovation
As wireless capability is integrated into a dramatically growing number of devices, manufacturers increasingly need to test larger volumes of connected devices. This makes it even more important to efficiently design, deploy, and maintain automated wireless test systems. Productive development software is key to achieving the goal of efficiently creating test systems.
NI at EuMW:At NIWeek 2017, we announced LabVIEW NXG 1.0, the next generation of LabVIEW systems engineering software. LabVIEW NXG accelerates automated test system development and deployment with these essential features: guided, instrument-specific examples; test and function reuse; engineering data exploration; ability to build scalable libraries; and remote result viewing.