Intel® Solutions for the Next Generation Multi-Radio Basestation

The continued evolution of wireless and internet technologies, new applications and the worldwide growth of wireless subscribers has driven the emergence of several diverse networking standards, for example GSM, EDGE, CDMA2000, WCDMA, 802.11 and IEEE 802.16 (WiMAX). Each of these standards has, in turn, increased the need for greater throughput, performance, and flexibility in the next generation of basestations.

Wireless standards are continuing to evolve, and even the best solution for 2006 will have to adapt for 2008. This dynamic environment creates a significant challenge for basestation providers and service providers—how to go to market with multiple radio solutions while minimizing development costs and time-to-market (TTM), and maximizing the return on investment (ROI) on hardware and software engineering.

Next Generation Multi-Radio Basestation Design Requirements
Service providers can realize many benefits by deploying flexible and upgradeable equipment. This enables them to support multiple types of traffic on the Radio Access Network (RAN), thereby reducing additional hardware investments and providing a way to upgrade their network to support emerging radio technologies through software-defined radio solutions. TEMs can respond by maximizing reuse of a common chassis, subsystem components, and software code whenever possible to lower development costs and TTM, and by implementing software-defined radio upgrade solutions.

Solution 1: Software Radio Basestation based on Intel® Architecture Processors
A new approach to building the RAN is by using Intel® Architecture (IA) processors, whereby the entire basestation function, including the signal processing for the air interface, can be written as a portable application-level program running on industry standard servers. This approach eliminates the need for dedicated DSP, FPGAs or any other specialized processors, allows wireless carriers to run multiple standards on one platform simultaneously, and enables the delivery of multi-mode wireless infrastructure so that wireless carriers can cost-effectively migrate to new standards and secure new revenue opportunities while reducing capital expenditures and operational costs.

Using IA processors for infrastructure signal processing also has many advantages when overall system design and cost are taken into account. Design and implementation of alarming, remote management and diagnostic tools are a large portion of the cost of traditional basestations. By using industry-standard, carrier-grade processing platforms such as NEBS-compliant servers or AdvancedTCA®-based servers, many of these functions are built-in and accessible through open interfaces such as SNMP, enabling low-cost development of operations, administration and management systems as well as rapid deployment of new upgrades. Taking advantage of the higher speed and capacity of IA processors results in lower space requirements, versus using dedicated hardware.

Case Study: Vanu Anywave Basestation
In following Moore’s Law, carriers can benefit from improved performance and therefore reduced cost of infrastructure equipment each year. This case study demonstrates how a basestation can be developed using a dual-core Intel processor and basestation software from Vanu, an Affiliate Member of the Intel® Communications Alliance (intel.com/go/ica).

The Vanu Anywave® Basestation is a software radio basestation that enables carriers to more cost-effectively operate and upgrade their networks. This product supports multiple wireless standards and services by implementing the base transceiver station (BTS) and basestation controller (BSC) entirely in software. It runs on industry-standard hardware, including a dual-core, dual processor AdvancedTCA-compliant blade from Intel, to deliver more robust processing capability, greater flexibility and more scalable wireless networks. The Anywave Basestation can be remotely managed and monitored, and runs entirely on general purpose processors, providing a reduced footprint. It has the ability to run multiple standards on a single hardware platform and is scalable, allowing carriers to bring new services to market quickly.

Solution 2: Network Processor-Based Basestation Design
Network processors offer basestation developers another flexible re-programmable software-defined solution that can be reused in multiple components of the basestation architecture. The basestation architecture can be mapped onto four primary functional modules: radio frequency module, control module, baseband module and transport module.

The control, baseband, and transport modules all utilize evolving multi-protocol standards, and a network processor’s software-defined architecture allows developers in some cases to reuse one network processor architecture for processing functions in all three modules. Developers can flexibly implement new protocol standards via software in each of the three modules as they evolve. This decreases system-level chip count and bill of materials (BOM) costs by consolidating multiple functions into one processor. It also decreases TTM by reducing multi-vendor development complexity, and supports development cost savings by reusing a common platform investment across multiple subsystems in different basestation product families.

In addition to supporting multiple transport and baseband processing standards, network processors often offer a rich set of integrated features such as control plane processing and crypto acceleration. Features of the Intel IXP2350 network processor, like integrated security engines and control plane processors, can save BOM costs on a basestation module design and reduce design environment complexity.

Summary: Intel®-Based Solutions for the Multi-Radio Basestation
Intel processors are an ideal architecture solution for designing transport, Layer 2 Baseband MAC HS, and control plane functions into next-generation basestations.

Modular communications platforms, based on single board computers and packet processing blades from Intel, offer a higher level of integration, which can be implemented into basestation designs or other RAN network elements. This can free up R&D resources to focus on other high value-add parts of the next-generation basestation design.

This article is excerpted from application notes, provided by Intel’s Modular Communications Products Division. It may be read in its entirety by visiting: intel.com/design/intarch/applnots/307450.htm