T&M case study: Advancing 5G telecommunications research using software-defined radio techniques
01 March 2021
The Wireless Communications Research Laboratory at Istanbul Technical University (ITÜ) conducts research projects on many different signal processing topics, including fading channels, multicarrier communications systems, modulation techniques such as orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM), and advanced wireless communications security issues.
The full version of this case study was originally featured in the March 2021 issue of EPDT magazine [read the digital issue]. Sign up to receive your own copy each month.
Projects may cover theoretical aspects of wireless communication systems, practical test and measurement, or a mixture of the two. In this case study, ITÜ wireless researchers, Gunes Karabulut Kurt & Selahattin Gokceli tell us more about the testbed they built using NI’s software-defined radio (SDR) platform to advance the lab’s 5G telecommunications research.
In most cases, a research project takes place using a common, reliable platform to share expertise and foster collaboration easily. Over time, the research laboratory has opted to use a variety of open-source tools and mathematical modelling languages to simulate and prototype software-defined radio (SDR) projects.
One recent project focused on investigating a communication waveform technique used for 5G. With the considerable increase in mobile device adoption, particularly as 5G deployment gains traction, the communication waveform used is increasingly important. The waveform technique needs to provide acceptable levels of quality, even when the synchronisation requirements are less strict. This requirement is particularly the case where communications density is high and limited resources need sharing across a high volume of users.
A popular waveform technique that suits many different types of application is OFDM. Unfortunately, OFDM has a reasonably tight synchronisation requirement, has high spectral side lobes which make it exhibit inefficient
spectral properties, and has a high cyclic prefix overhead. These limitations make OFDM unsuitable for use in 5G, so some new waveform techniques, one of which is universal filtered multicarrier (UFMC), have been identified as a likely alternative. Compared to OFDM, UFMC has a simpler synchronisation architecture and is easier to predict in dense network scenarios. As such, UFMC has now emerged as a leading waveform candidate for use in 5G.
iTÜ’s UFMC vs. OFDM project
The UFMC project would compare and contrast UFMC against OFDM. It would require several critical technical test environments, including I/Q imbalance, dealing with synchronisation issues, and peak-to-average power ratio (PAPR). Rather than selecting the standard set of open-source tools, the research team highlighted the need for a more flexible and reliable platform on which to conduct the tests. The decision resulted in selecting a platform from software-centric, computer-based T&M company, NI. Of particular note were the depth and breadth of the NI ecosystem and the
comprehensive training that was available. By selecting NI’s platform, the research team saw the ability to achieve faster results and increase levels of productivity.
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