The case for integrated high-performance RAN processing
The pandemic has shown us how critical role connectivity plays in our lives. In a short time, video communication and network quality has become a key part of our daily lives. At Ericsson we innovate to help people stay connected. At the heart is the unique Ericsson Many-Core Architecture which powers our networks, enabling the industry’s most scalable and energy efficient RAN Compute portfolio, typically 2x more power efficient versus competition. Let’s explore the Ericsson Many-Core Architecture solution!
Great network performance is often taken for granted, but the on-going pandemic has shown how important it really is for our daily lives. In the June 2020 edition of Ericsson Mobility Report, 83 percent of surveyed network users admitted that ICT has helped them to cope with the lockdown. For many, the saving grace has been video for work conferencing, socializing and entertainment. Even before the current crisis, Ericsson estimated that over 60 percent of all network traffic was video-related. Hopefully, we will see the end of the pandemic soon, but it won’t be the end of growing demand for video.
We expect video content to make up over three-quarters of all network traffic by the end of 2025. Our research shows that, as video-centric apps become part of our everyday lives, people have come to expect top performance and, importantly, that they are willing to pay more for an optimal user experience. Here’s a look at how the innovative Ericsson Many-Core Architecture (EMCA) can help CSPs deliver the kind of network performance users expect, both today and tomorrow.
A growing need for RAN processing power
RAN processing power will become a critical resource as we move further into 5G. There are three key drivers that will place the greatest processing demands on our RAN:
Radios have become more advanced to cater to the increase in speeds and overall required network performance, progressing from two to four to eight transceivers including 5G Massive MIMO (64 transceivers and massive beamforming)
There has been a significant increase in bandwidth to address the capacity required for new use cases – from 20MHz on the low band for 4G, to 100MHz on the mid-band for 5G and 800MHz on the high band for 5G
The time transmission (TTI) requirement (that is, the critical loop in which the scheduler works and processing has to be carried out) has decreased from 1ms on the low band for 4G, to 0.5ms on the mid-band for 5G and 0.125ms on the high band for 5G. This is an enabler of several use cases in 5G. For instance, ultra-reliable low latency use cases for mission-critical applications and enhanced mobile broadband use cases, such as gaming.
Quality is a processing challenge
Delivering the top network performance of the future is a processing challenge. In order to ensure that everyone gets a great user experience, the RAN Compute hardware will need to be able to execute advanced algorithms for:
- many users and devices with…
- many quality of service levels in…
- many network slices in…
- many cells with…
- many resource blocks with…
- many MIMO layers and…
- many antenna branches
And all this processing needs to be completed without fail within down to 0.0001 seconds!
The EMCA engine
This is a massive processing challenge, requiring top computing performance, but also without sacrificing power efficiency. Ericsson has met this challenge head on by developing EMCA – a unique processing architecture that allows us to design solutions both for present and future computing needs.
Ericsson uses tailor-made Application Specific Integrated Circuits (ASIC), containing hundreds of specialized signal processors (DSPs) and accelerators, to implement the EMCA System on a Chip (SoC). SoC is an advanced ASIC with digital logic, mixed signal content, and processors.
Our software’s architecture is designed to fully leverage the capabilities our silicon provides, making EMCA a computing solution, rather than just a complex integrated circuit.
EMCA is the essential parallel processing power behind all of our Ericsson Radio System products and solutions. As a unified architecture, it is used to implement the same hardware and software in all of our networks (regardless of their capacity, size and form factor), ensuring optimal network performance and efficiency.
RAN Compute with EMCA
EMCA gives our products unparalleled performance, and allows for scalability across multiple generations of hardware and technologies. Ericsson’s RAN Compute portfolio runs on EMCA, which enables our products unparalleled energy efficiency, typically 2x more power efficient than competition. Furthermore, its building practice allows for linear scaling of both user- and control-plane capacity with fewer boards on site and as a result, fewer site visits. This could potentially result in 50% less site visits corresponding to costs savings of millions of dollars over the years.
Thanks to the EMCA architecture a flexible usage is enabled which allows the RAN Compute products to run a multitude of configurations across 2G/3G/4G/5G/IoT on a single board. And by the way, they are designed for new technologies as in the case of being 5G-ready.
EMCA also facilitates continuous innovation in RAN. EMCA can impact the transport network, for example, by making it more flexible and efficient. It can be applied anywhere within the RAN in the radio or baseband, minimizing transport costs as a result. Without this highly effective silicon processing hardware, none of our innovative software features could be made available – the invaluable solutions that serve to boost network performance.
To realize the full potential, it also houses extremely sophisticated software with several million lines of code – nearly four times as much as Mars Curiosity rover – to provide high performance wireless communication that constantly pushes the boundaries of efficient and secure use of spectrum.
Here are two such key innovative software features that EMCA enables:
Ericsson Uplink Booster: the unsung hero of 5G
The sharp rise in video conferencing has caused a 40 percent increase in uplink traffic. That’s why we have developed a 5G mid-band (sub 6GHz TDD) base station solution that boosts the uplink behind the scenes, becoming the unsung hero of 5G to cater for the needed capacity.
Known as the 5G Uplink Booster, it is implemented in the radio – on top of EMCA – to enable extensive coverage by securing a strong radio signal at the cell edge. It offers extreme receiver resolution and full interference rejection.
This ensures 10dB coverage gain in the mid-band, maximizing uplink MIMO performance through our zero-compromise architecture.
The improved uplink performance can boost user app coverage by an impressive 90 percent, and cell-edge uplink speeds can be increased by a factor of 10.
It is important to note here that the combined use of EMCA with Uplink Booster cannot be realised with Open RAN O-LLS interface. Ericsson has a functional split (Ericsson LLS) which is different from O-LLS. Ericsson LLS requires more processing in radio and this is powered by EMCA.
Ericsson Spectrum Sharing: the fastest way to 5G
Ericsson Spectrum Sharing (ESS) is a software that enables our partners to scale up 5G fast by introducing it throughout their LTE networks. What’s more, service providers can use the same radio, CPRI link and RAN Compute baseband to activate spectrum sharing, making it a highly cost-effective solution.
Reusing the same hardware and using low-band spectrum for 5G means networks can be built with fewer sites, which is positive from a sustainability perspective.
It also transforms the way 5G is introduced nationwide. And it can deliver cutting-edge connectivity to everyone, everywhere in the fastest possible way.
Staying ahead of the game
Innovation is in our DNA. At Ericsson, we believe in creating future-proof network technologies that meet not only today’s challenges but are also ready to take on tomorrows’. That’s why our networks have been ready for 5G since 2015 and is also the reason behind EMCA, the unified architecture used across the Ericsson Radio System portfolio.
In the world of connectivity, technology evolution happens fast. Our dedication to future-proof technologies ensures that radio products will continue to perform effectively for many years to come – extending the life cycle of network equipment of service providers and driving down their total cost of ownerships (TCO).
The long-term network quality we enable also makes sense from a business perspective. Market share rankings clearly indicate that network performance has a major impact on service providers’ market performance, and that network quality is key to lowering churn and increasing average revenue per user (ARPU). By making sure we stay a step ahead in our innovation, we also enable our customers to stay ahead of the market demands and differentiate against the competition.