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Integrating 5G into the Wireless Infrastructure

April 6, 2021
We talk to Raza Khan, senior marketing manager at Semtech, about 5G fronthaul applications.

Reprinted with permission from Evaluation Engineering

The world is now wireless; however, that wireless life relies on a very complex infrastructure. Ensuring all of the different bandwidths, protocols, languages, operating systems, and solutions operate in a synchronous and mutually beneficial fashion is a critical aspect of that wireless infrastructure. You can have fairies on treadmills on the inside of your box, but the outside must be able to communicate and cooperate in the real world.

To aid the proper integrated development of our wireless infrastructure, organizations such as the O-RAN (Open Radio Access Networks) Alliance was formed in 2018 to define common interfaces between systems, aiming to reduce complexity and accelerate deployment of multi-vendor RANs (radio access networks). Fomenting development via independently driven combinations of hardware and software within the ecosystem allows for more competition and choice.

While we participate in the rollout of 5G, the need for tight synchronization remains. Vendors for OpenRAN networks need to be able to validate interoperability to ensure fundamental time transfer requirements are met in addition to monitoring and management functionality. This is acknowledged within the O-RAN Alliance, which continues to improve specifications and methodologies.

Semtech’s Solution

Recently, Semtech announced sampling of its GN2255 Tri-Edge CDR solution, a first-of-its-kind analog technology that will aid in the efficient, effective delivery of data via 5G wireless. The GN2255 delivers the cost-effectiveness, small footprint, low power, and performance demanded by 5G fronthaul applications, based on optical technology, empowering the connection between radio towers and telecom equipment. The IC combines Semtech’s proprietary analog Tri-Edge technology with enhanced laser driver compensation, to enable IEEE-compliant optical modules over industrial temperature ranges.

The GN2255 Tri-Edge IC is presented as the industry’s first analog IC solution enabling ultra-low latencyless than 1.5-W module powerand performance for up to 10-km reach for 50-Gb/s PAM4 SFP56 optical modules. Semtech’s Tri-Edge technology and proprietary DML compensation will enable use of high-volume, low-cost 25-Gb/s bandwidth optics to operate at 50-Gb/s PAM4. We spoke with Raza Khan, senior marketing manager at Semtech (Gennum Products), to discuss the new Tri-Edge 5G wireless product announcement.

EE: Obviously, there are a lot of moving parts in this, right? The application space, the fact that you're integrating hybrid technologies on-chip, it's interesting how there's convergence in the macro and convergence in the micro. You know what I'm saying?

Raza: I think the overall industry continues to demand improvements and innovations, including increasing the ability to manage power, so low power, reducing your latency, reducing the overall cost for not just from our side, but also our customers and their customers. And with this, the Tri-Edge Platform really enables that, and STD integration of the different aspects allows us to address those needs, particularly now in this 5G fronthaul space.

EE: The interesting thing is when people think about 5G, they think of the wireless aspect and they don't think about the massive amount of infrastructure behind the walls involved.

Raza: Generally, when we think about 5G, we think about the services 5G offers at the consumer level, even for us as individuals. And with the pandemic, we've noticed more often the need for video conferencing and people staying online more. But as you rightly pointed out, all of that front demand really adds the need to have a really strong infrastructure and continue to deploy all that to a very reliable medium.

That's where the Tri-Edge Platform really comes into play. We introduced the Tri-Edge Platform in data centers before; now we're leveraging that technology and bringing that over to enable the next round of these 5G fronthaul deployments. These links are generally from the power to the base stations, where our Trii-Edge Technology really enables the low-power performance, the operating temperature range, the low latency, and the low cost. Not just for us, but also our customers.

EE: Can you explain a little bit more how the optical technology is integrated on-chip, to clarify exactly where the benefits are coming from?

Raza: That's a very good question. As an IC company, Semtech doesn't make the optics; that is something our customers would choose. What we do is we integrate a lot of the functionality to drive particular optics at a better efficiency, so our customers can choose low-cost optics in high production. A lot of the costs for our customers actually come from the optics, so if we are enabling our customers to use lower-cost technology to integrate the functionality to drive those optics very efficiently, that's really the differentiator over here.

EE: Now, one of the things about those kinds of application solutions is that there are ripple effects in two directions. One, of course, is the ripple effects outward within the existing infrastructure, and the existing systems that are being developed. And the other ripple effect is that if it is enabling more cost-effective deployments, then that also means it's bringing the ability to make those deployments into the hands of more and more people.

Raza: Exactly. Sometimes I think of it like a chicken or the eggwhich came first? But I think in this manner is exactly to your point as well. I think the ability to drive larger transmission capacity in the infrastructure really allows our customers or the actual individuals to benefit from actual use-cases for 5G. So in one retrospect, that is the ripple effect. Having the ability now with Tri-Edge to be able to deploy some of these things really allows the 5G tool to expand forward and more and more use cases to be used for the actual users. And that's what we're seeing from our customer base and their customers. So we've been very lucky to be involved in the 5G and 4G space for a very long time. So we understand this ecosystem very well.

And from our understanding, people are very interested for us to be able to deploy the Tri-Edge Technology so they can have the ability in this infrastructure. And, of course, there's a lot of moving pieces. We only make the communications part of this transmission, but there's the base-station deployment innovation, the tower innovation; all of these moving pieces are ripple effects that combine and in the end allow the 5G use-cases to be a reality.

5G

EE: There's a saying about an improvement in any component in the chain raising the general chain to a degree. You can't ignore any part of the chain, and in this case, it's a serious subsystem. The fact is, if it's better, the rising tide raises all boats.

Raza: Exactly, innovation always drives every aspect of an industry. When we are talking about 5G, there's innovation happening at multiple points, and most importantly, it also puts the same importance on the IC companies. Because it's actually more important for the IC companies to develop such technologies, to be able to transmit these signals from point A to point B effectively.

EE: Actually, it's a two-pronged approach. This is one side of it, and the other is edge computing. One way to reduce latency is to reduce the amount of traffic transmitted, but what's also going to happen is we're going to have solutions that use as much computing on-board as possible. If you're going to have a situation like the old software creep, the more you increase the memory, the bigger the software gets, as it were.

Raza: Exactly. And we're just starting to see edge computing have more and more prevalence for the general public as well. Actually, I think it's going to be a good use-case in this 5G infrastructure in India, and I think the world is becoming more connected. So it's not just about data centers, or 5G edge computing, or artificial intelligence. It's coming to a point where all of this contributes and all are adding to the increase in bandwidth, as you rightly mentioned. And that bandwidth has to be transmitted in the networks effectively. So it's a very connected world that we live in.

We're very excited to bring up proven Tri-Edge Platform technology, and we're seeing very positive response from the entire marketnot just from our customers, but also from their customers. We are really looking forward to working with them, and enabling a new 5G deployment solution that really brings the benefits of 5G to our consumers.

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