How users benefit from customised SoCs for optical & wireless communications networks
01 October 2021
Socionext_Custom_SoC_for optical & mobile communications networks
The market for optical networks and mobile communications such as 5G & 6G is continuously growing each year, with new enhanced applications & continued growth in user accounts. In addition, the services & data volumes for internet, social media, chat & online conferencing tools, as well as e-commerce, are constantly growing – especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic & global lockdowns.
This article was originally featured in the October 2021 issue of EPDT magazine [read the digital issue]. And sign up to receive your own copy each month.
Video streaming and virtual reality (VR) applications show the highest growth rate of all content categories, and as a result, ever higher data bandwidth, capacity, throughput and volumes are required to meet these demands. As Tomislav Drenski, Marketing Manager, Wireline at SoC (system-on-chip) firm, Socionext tells us here, in response to these trends, the company launched the world’s first 100G coherent transceiver ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit) in 2010. This has since been adapted and optimised for Optical Transport Networks (OTN) and includes IP (intellectual property) such as an analogue-to-digital converter (A/D converter), a Serializer/Deserializer (SerDes) and a custom digital signal processor (DSP)…
5G, or in the future 6G, are other potential applications for such optimised and highly specialised IP. By using the latest process technologies alongside dedicated circuit design and IC (integrated circuit) implementation, hard-to-achieve parameters such as power consumption, high data rate with very low latency runtime, high resolution/dynamic range and small chip size can all be met. As a result, innovative, state-of-the-art, highly flexible and cost-effective solutions can be implemented and produced.
Future application areas for 5G
For 5G base stations, such IP are well qualified for digital front end (DFE) or active antenna unit (AAU) applications.
For DFE, a novel, dedicated direct RF (radio frequency) architecture with multiband communication could be used. This requires fast, highly efficient A/D converter IP, with sufficiently large bandwidth to digitize the given frequency band, as well as a DSP. Compared to a traditional (heterodyne) solution, the direct RF solution does not require any mixer, amplifier or filter blocks. This simplifies the system drastically, by reducing the number of required components and the power consumption. In addition, the integrated DSP allows for intelligent compensation and optimisation techniques, and enables flexible bandwidth in a digitally selectable frequency band, which could revolutionise the mobile network solutions of today.
For the AAU, a large number of A/D converters can be integrated into an ASIC with low power consumption and size, which is a key requirement for the focusing (multiple-input & multiple-output or MIMO beamforming) of signals to mobile units and devices.
Socionext_optical communications networks_stock shot
Encountering foreseeable trends
As data traffic and the data rates in optical networks double approximately every 3 years, and for mobile networks even in 2 years, available technologies must follow this trend and find ever faster, more efficient and increasingly competitive solutions. This forces network operators, system providers, device manufacturers and chip producers to find new ideas and implement them rapidly to keep up with time-to-market demands. Socionext has responded to these trends and demands by producing innovative, high-performance, energy-efficient and flexible custom ASICs for 200G, 400G, 800G and Terabit applications, which are not only state-of-the-art for each generation, but are still industry leading solutions today.
Socionext relies on the latest and most sophisticated standard CMOS (complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor) process technologies, such as 28nm, 16nm down to 5nm, to guarantee high integration, superior performance capability and low power consumption, together with a small footprint.
Realising innovative ideas
By selecting the best, most suitable IP, advanced technologies and additional/individual optimisation according to customer requirements and specifications, first-class, high-quality and superior IC/ASIC solutions are created. These boast an unbeatable price/performance-ratio, compared to any system implementation using discrete components or assemblies. As a fabless company, Socionext offers yet another advantage of being able to freely select between semiconductor vendors with different manufacturing processes. Furthermore, CMOS technology is ideally suited for mass production, as it allows large and very complex mixed-signal designs.
Socionext owns patented and optimised circuit, layout and chip solutions that, with the industry know-how acquired over many years, enable the customer to successfully market a wide range of new applications, including areas that go far beyond optical or mobile network applications.
Custom SoCs (system-on-chips) with ultra-fast A/D converters will play an important role in the implementation of new high-end communications solutions. Thanks to Socionext’s investments in new technologies, the company is perfectly positioned to respond to the latest trends and meet all customer and market requirements and future expectations with customised ASIC offerings/products. Socionext strives to work with the customer at every step of the way – from the gathering of ideas through to defining preliminary specifications and on to the final product – to ensure that the best possible and competitive overall solution is achieved.
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