Semiconductor company Xilinx recently said it worked with Samsung Electronics on a 5G New Radio (NR) commercial deployment in South Korea. Xilinx and Samsung have been working together to develop and deploy 5G Massive MIMO and millimeter wave (mmWave) solutions using Xilinx’s UltraScale+ platform. The partners wouldn’t name the specific South Korean operator they are working worth.
David Brubaker, a product line manager at Xilinx, explained that massive MIMO devices support “lots of antennas.” For example, Xilinx has a massive MIMO device with 64 transmitters and 64 receivers. “The reason you do this is the network operator can get higher capacity in the same cell as opposed to a one-antenna cell,” said Brubaker.
Xilinx has innovated a way to bridge the digital and analog worlds, and this helps to greatly reduce the size of massive MIMO equipment. Brubaker said the company’s technology can digitize signals at very high frequencies and process the signals of multiple bands at once, inside the chip. This eliminates the need for some circuitry within the device, reducing the power and size of the device, while increasing its coverage.
“The digital teams historically needed one digital process,” he said. “And the high performance for wireless was done by different teams. Our 5G systems require massive MIMO, requiring a high level of integration with analog and digital together.”
Both Massive MIMO and mmWave radio units have emerged as a big part of 5G deployments.
Sprint has called Massive MIMO its “secret sauce” for 5G. But at a press conference at MWC 2019, Sprint CTO John Saw, Ph.D., joked that the name was unfortunate, given the fact that operators such as Sprint need to convince cities and counties to allow the installation of more radio equipment for 5G. “We should not call it ‘massive,’" he said. “We’ll need a better name when we go to the jurisdiction.”
Saw said Sprint’s Massive MIMO radios from Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung also support split-mode, enabling the company to offer LTE and 5G simultaneously. He said split-mode allows Sprint to use the same hardware and “kill two birds with one stone.”