Take one look at the outside world in 2016 and you will see that everything is becoming connected; our inanimate objects are growing smarter while our electronic devices are gaining ever more computing power and connectivity. Mark Zuckerberg said at a recent event that “Mobile networks need to continue evolving, high bandwidth and low latency is what everybody needs”. The ramifications are varied, but one thing that regularly gets overlooked is the strain this extra amount of connection will place on the underlying network that supports all of the data being moved around the world.
Let’s take a look at the capabilities of previous mobile networks.
The growing need for a new generation of mobile network is being pushed by three major forcing functions.
5G will require ultra-low latency, in the realms of <1ms end to end. It’s an order of magnitude faster than the acceptable latency in 4G, which is in the order of 30-40ms.
According to British telecommunications company EE, over three quarters of the data we consume in the year 2030 is expected to be video content. This will put significant strains on the underlying network, as the monthly data demand will be around 2,200 petrabytes (1 million gigabytes) of data used every month, or the equivalent of 22 times the current rate. Multi-gigabit services will allow consumers to download digital content near instantaneously and ultra-low latency connections enable services such as virtual and augmented reality.
The reliability of our mobile networks will assume greater importance as we use them more often for control and safety functions, particularly for automotive use cases. When you look at automotive infotainment for example, passengers will expect the quality of their connection to remain constant regardless of the location and speed.
You can go into more depth on the topic of the challenges that stand in the way of implementing the networking technology in the white paper “The Route to 5G”.
Bringing this back closer to our own pockets, the new generation of mobile network will also have ramifications on the modem baseband processor in your mobile internet enabled device, be it a smartphone, wearable device, or even a car. The baseband is the chip in a device that connects to mobile networks to deliver that always-on connected experience. Those chips will also need to meet the standards required of the network, in order to deliver the improvements in connectivity, reliability and bandwidth that 5G brings.
As the industry requirements for 5G are being hashed out, we have gone a step further and taken a look at what a 5G-ready modem baseband processor could look like.
The new ARM® Cortex®-R8 processor is the latest from the family of ARM processors optimized for high performance, hard real-time applications. ARM has been the engine of the cellular modem since the very first GSM handsets back in the days of 2G, and the Cortex-R8 offers double the performance of its predecessor.
At the heart of the system is the CoreLink™ NIC-450 to deliver the extremely low latency 5G processing demands, providing an optimized path from CPU to memory. NIC-450 is a highly configurable interconnect for low power, low latency communication across the chip and can be tailored to suit particular system requirements, following successful use in billions of devices[AH1] . NIC has advanced Quality-of-Service (QoS) features to help meet some of the more stringent latency requirements in a real-time system such as the baseband system.
The CoreLink DMA-330 Direct Memory Access controller enables set-up and supervision of direct transfers of large blocks of data directly to or from a peripheral out of or into RAM. DMA-330 releases the micro-processor from using its own I/O instructions to move data in blocks. In this system, the effect of the DMA is to make data transfers to or from peripherals many times faster than the processor could achieve, allowing the processor to focus on other tasks. It negotiates with NIC-450 and gets allocated the appropriate bandwidth.
Single-channel CoreLink DMC-500 Dynamic Memory Controller is used for rapid access to DDR memory, up to 8.5GB/s per channel.
CoreLink interconnect and DMC have integrated QoS capabilities that enable predictable traffic prioritization, allowing for deterministic processing to take place when low latency masters require access to memory. This is important within the context of 5G as enhanced timeliness and reliability are a cornerstone of the network, and the baseband modem needs to be as capable.
In real-time systems like this, CoreSight™ debug and trace technology is invaluable as a tool to give designers a way of optimizing their SoC bring-up to reduce the risk in squeezing out the best performance from the chip.
All of ARM’s IP is designed, validated and optimized as a system to ensure it delivers predictable performance while conquering low power benchmarks. As device manufacturers look to every possible avenue to increase battery life, the system-context applied to ARM’s design process enables ever-increasing performance while reducing system power.
The race to become the first country or city that hosts a 5G network is heating up, with Tokyo among the frontrunners, aiming to have a network in place for the 2020 Olympic Games. The ARM Cortex-R8 processor is a strong step forward for the next generation of modem baseband systems that will support the new network. ARM’s system oriented approach to design will enable partners to realize connectivity that is fast and reliable.