Powering the Radio Access Network

Mobile telephony as we now know it has been with us since the early 1980s, and the infrastructure of cellular networks has evolved and changed significantly since the original analogue AMPS systems were first introduced. Although architectures have evolved there is still a clear separation between the mobile core and the Radio Access Network or RAN. As the technologies moved from analogue to digital, we added mobile data and stepped up through 2G and 2.5G to today’s 3G networks with 4G just around the corner. The RAN is undoubtedly the most significant part of any mobile network and the RNC (Radio Network Controller) and soon to be eNodeB bears the brunt of the workload. This is borne out as one looks at 2009 RAN equipment revenues which were in excess of $38 billion. Continued growth is forecast over the next 5 years with mobile infrastructure revenues expected to be in the region of $42 billion by 2014 (Dell’Oro Group).

The RNC is the backbone of the current 3G UTRAN, (UMTS Terrestrial Radio Access Network), providing control functionalities for one or more Node Bs and is responsible for a large part of the management of the radio resource. The growth in broadband data traffic is a major driver. 3G can currently support data rates of approx. 40Mbps, however the road is paved towards rates of 100-300Mbps with new LTE (Long Term Evolution) networks. These new networks will be all-IP and must be structured to support increased data capacities with significantly reduced latency. The new approach replaces the RNC with a single composite base station – the eNodeB.

Looking to the future the eNodeB will be the prevalent workhorse in the new LTE RAN as it takes on responsibility for: radio resource management, radio bearer control, radio admission control, connection mobility control, and the dynamic allocation of both uplink and downlink resources. One key difference in this new architecture will be the ability for a large volume of calls to be routed to devices directly within the same or adjacent cells. Increased security, compression and encryption of data streams adds to the task list for the eNodeB. These more highly complex base stations will require new generations of flexible and powerful processors.

Designed to address just such embedded and access network challenges the new AMC-4201 from Advantech provides for the needs of high-performance, combined, control and dataplane processing. Based on Freescale’s QorIQ P4080 multicore processor and using the AMC (Advanced Mezzanine Card) format the AMC-4201 provides significant flexibility and can be used as part of a larger bespoke design or incorporated into a MicroTCA based eNodeB platform.  With the QorIQ having evolved from the highly successful PowerQUICC architecture, which has been used extensively within wireless infrastructure, the AMC-4201 is tailor made for eNodeBs and other LTE applications.

Paul Stevens – Telecom Sector Marketing Director

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