The solution for delivering today’s escalating broadband mobile network traffic is to deploy many more basestations, closer to the user. To accomplish this, the Long-Term Evolution (LTE) standard includes the concept of the multiradio-access-technology heterogeneous network (multi-RAT HetNet), which combines big, traditional basestations with small cells. HetNets will reduce carriers’ reliance on large, macro basestations wherever they need coverage, and will enable mobile operators and end customers alike to increase capacity where needed.
In order for the model to work from an economic standpoint, these small cells must be inexpensive; thus they require dual-mode, multicore system-on-chip integration.
We have seen this evolution before—first in computers, with the shift from big mainframes to PCs, and later in broadband communications, with the trend to push intelligence to the edge. With the move to small cells, the industry will once again use standardized reference designs and SoCs to drive the economics of high volume. The latest dual-mode, ARM-based baseband processing SoCs let operators support both 3G and LTE in a single unit, dramatically improving their business case by delivering twice the benefit at half the traditional per-node opex and capex costs. These devices also enable operators to improve existing 3G network quality, while providing more capacity for their subscriber base without the need for additional investments.
In addition to helping fuel LTE network deployment, multicore ARM-based SoCs will drive solutions for the connected home, including small cell solutions that boost residential cellular coverage, as well as a new generation of content-aware gateways and networking products for premium service delivery. For the latter platforms, the latest SoCs feature integrated wire-speed deep packet inspection (DPI) to give service providers a content processing framework for policy and copyright enforcement, home networking diagnostics, subscriber differentiation, quality-of-experience enhancements, traffic monitoring, targeted marketing and antivirus detection, among other uses.
Additionally, we anticipate that small cell technology will merge in the home with the wireline hubs, routers and gateways already being used to provision security, home automation, energy management and other services. These programmable platforms will allow the concept of software-defined networking (SDN) to be extended to gateways and low-cost routers in the home.
About the author
Douglas Pulley is chief technology officer for wireless and customer premises equipment at Mindspeed Technologies Inc.