Samsung to leverage Xilinx compute platform for 5G beamforming

Samsung Networks
The first Versal ACAP devices have been shipped to early access customers and are expected to be generally available around Q4 2020. (Samsung)

Samsung will tap chipmaker Xilinx’s adaptive compute acceleration platform (ACAP) for 5G deployments, leveraging increased compute density and low power consumption for improved beamforming.

Xilinx said its multicore heterogenous Versal ACAP performs real-time low-latency signal processing needed for 5G beamforming that boost 5G network capacity.

Beamforming works by allowing multiple data streams to transmit simultaneously to multiple users using the same spectrum, according to Xilinx. Still, the company said it’s challenging for traditional field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) to efficiently address the significant compute density, and high-speed connectivity on-chip and off-chip requirements, while meeting thermal and system footprint constraints.  

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“The really important thing that we enable in this marketplace is not only do we provide a portfolio of devices to address different form factors of radios, but we also provide adaptability to future-proof some of these systems,” Xilinx’s Harpinder Matharu, senior director, Technical Marketing for Communications Business, told FierceWireless.

Matharu noted that as 5G deployments continue and evolve, there’s a continuous demand for higher compute density within equipment vendor’s network devices.

For the second and third wave of 5G rollouts, the chipmaker is using its Versal ACAP to address this need by also keeping the power supply low and accommodating any additional features or enhancements that might come from equipment changes or as standards evolve to support new functions.

At the same time compute requirements increase with things like Massive MIMO, the footprint also must come down, Matharu explained. The Versal platform offers compute density that’s almost twice that of a 6nm traditional FPGA. Matharu said that’s possible because of Xilinx’s adaptable intelligent engine, comprised of a tiled array of vector processors.

“The combination of this new building block with enhanced memory in Versal, plus the connectivity both on-chip and off-chip, addresses the next-generation beamforming requirements,” he added.

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The partnership with Samsung is aimed at enabling more efficient beamforming, which happens in the vendor’s radio of its Massive MIMO unit, according to Matharu. In South Korea, Samsung has deployed equipment to support 32T32R antenna elements, but is also testing in other markets with equipment that needs to scale to support 64T64R elements, he added.

From that standpoint, Xilinx worked to create a platform for OEMs that want to be able to address requirements of multiple operator customers across different geographies, without having to change the set of rules they need to build their equipment. In addition to high compute density, the Versal ACAPs offers advanced connectivity and the ability to be reprogrammed and reconfigured even after deployment, according to Xilinx.

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“Versal ACAPs will provide Samsung with the superior signal processing performance and adaptability needed to deliver an exceptional 5G experience to its customers now and into the future,” said Liam Madden, executive vice president and general manager, Wired and Wireless Group, at Xilinx, in a statement.

A release said Samsung will use the platform for “worldwide 5G commercial deployments,” though Matharu didn’t provide specifics.

Samsung’s Jaeho Jeon, executive vice president and head of R&D, Networks business, in a statement said: “Samsung has been working closely with Xilinx, paving the way for enhancing our 5G technical leadership and opening up a new era in 5G. Taking a step further by applying Xilinx’s new advanced platform to our solutions, we expect to increase 5G performance and accelerate our leadership position in the global market.”

The first Versal ACAP devices have been shipped to early access customers and are expected to be generally available around Q4 2020.

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