Rapid Prototyping Is Critical to the Realization of 5G

As the world's researchers race to define 5G, it's clear that an increase in the spectral efficiency of a 4G network is not enough to deliver the step function in data rates, latency, and capacity needed for high-level 5G use cases.

So how do we begin to solve these complex challenges? The answer lies in prototypes and, more specifically, the kind of 5G prototypes that enable wireless researchers to test experimental ideas using real systems in real-world scenarios. When done right, these 5G prototypes can lay the foundation for rapidly increasing an organization's time-to-market schedule.

Setting a New Standard

Recognizing the large amount of speculation regarding 5G networks, the world's standardization bodies, including the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), have recently begun to transition concepts into reality. Not surprisingly, the vision painted in the International Mobile Telecommunications' goals for 2020 (IMT-2020), as well as by the Next generation Mobile Networks (NGMN) and the 3GPP, is expansive. 5G researchers now must build the framework that will redefine our very existence -- from automobiles and transportation systems to manufacturing, energy, healthcare monitoring, and more.

Software Is Key to 5G Research

 

As the wireless industry evolves from 4G toward 5G, researchers face many challenges as the goals and objectives for 5G technologies are unprecedented in scope. Additionally, traditional design methods have not evolved to address these challenges. Simulations fail to accurately model the technologies or the environment, and a new approach is needed. As a result, researchers are now adopting a streamlined path to design to prototype using Application Frameworks and integrated software design radios. Application Frameworks are software reference designs that offer a rich set of high performance FPGA communications focused digital signal processing blocks for developing real-time 5G wireless communication systems. These software libraries not only give researchers an advanced starting point but enable them to modify existing 4G technology and infuse them with new ideas to achieve the overarching 5G goals including multi-gigabit data throughput, network capacity, and low-latency. When combined with software defined radios, the Application Frameworks form a complete hardware and software prototyping platform that enables researchers to accelerate their prototyping efforts and achieve results quickly. Application Frameworks are available for high throughput wireless communication applications for MIMO (including Massive MIMO), LTE, and 802.11 prototyping, which is critical as the industry races to define 5G.

To do this, researchers are adopting new design approaches to help with the challenging task of defining, developing, and deploying 5G technologies within a random access network. Most acknowledge that conventional approaches to vetting 5G technologies take too long and incur significant costs. Therefore, building a prototype and a proof of concept earlier in the process enables faster commercialization. Noting the importance of research-enabling testbeds, National Science Foundation Program Director Thyaga Nandagopal, said, "A viable prototype is increasingly the critical element to determining success or failure of a particular concept."

Blazing a New Path Through Research

To expedite the time it takes to produce a working prototype, many researchers have adopted a platform-based design approach that embraces a unified design flow. It starts with

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