Wednesday, July 20, 2011

DesignArt Networks releases LTE small cell base station reference designs

DesignArt Networks has released the single-chip DAN3000 evaluation kit, which doubles as a
reference design for all-in-one base stations and gigabit+ mobile backhaul for any spectrum.

DesignArt Networks, headquartered in Israel,  is a 5-year old company that specializes in "base station on a chip" SoCs (systems on a chip) for wireless infrastructure. The company first introduced the DAN 2400 for WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) base stations in 2008, and followed with announcement of the 2nd generation DAN 3000 series for LTE (Long-Term Evolution) in 2010.

Joachim Hallwachs, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development at DesignArt Networks, says that the company's processors integrate special-purpose DSPs (digital signal processors) that provide a generic platform which designers can use to build any baseband product for a 3G or 4G RAN (radio-access network). While competitors are announcing base station SoCs in a variety of configurations for small to medium and large cells, Hallwachs says that DesignArt's DAN 3000 does not require any change in architecture for heterogeneous networks - the cost, power and performance are sufficient for any application.DesignArt uses the same 22-core SoC architecture, and modifies just the "speeds and feeds" by integrating different I/Os that are required for macro, micro or pico cells. Software is also 100% reusable, so that customers can use the same development environment regardless of application.

DesignArt's SoC platform integrates the RF-DFE with DSP, hardware acceleration and RISC cores
to support design of multimode software-defined radio base stations for heterogeneous networks.

DesignArt develops their 22-core SoCs by combining 6 of their own proprietary DSP designs with 12 of Tensilica's customizable LX3 DPUs (Dataplane Processor Units), and a quad-core ARM controller for base station applications. The company is fabricating the chips in a 40nm TSMC process. Hallwachs claims that DesignArt is the only company to have integrated the RF-DFE (radio frequency digital front end) for remote radio heads on their base station SoC. This significantly lowers system power dissipation, he says, by enabling designers to squeeze more performance from the PA (power amplifier). DesignArt is focused on power dissipation at both the system and chip level. The use of only 6 DSP cores running at only 600 MHz, augmented by extensive hardware acceleration, lowers power consumption compared to competitors architectures according to DesignArt.

By providing a complete hardware and production-grade software solution, Hallwachs says that DesignArt is like a combination of TI and mimoOn, with a focus on the PHY (physical layer). Customers can purchase the software as a reference design to modify for their own use with no warranty, or license the software as a complete certified end-to-end product. For the MAC (media access control) layer, the company partners with companies like Aricent, or their tier-1 customers often develop their own solutions.

DesignArt has now released reference evaluation kits for the DAN3000, in two different versions. The first version, for the DAN3400 & 3300, supports LTE-advanced PHYs with features for carrier aggregation, 4X4 MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) antennas, and self-backhaul.Early customer tests have achieved 1.2Gbps LTE data rates from the 600 MHz DSPs, while consuming less than 8 watts of power in a 4-sector macro base station on a chip configuration.  The small cell DAN3400 has been tested to support 256 users of HSPA and LTE concurrently, while also running the self-backhaul on the same chip. Hallwachs says that the company will have two Tier-1 customers completing trials in Q3 and Q4 of this year, the 4-Sector macro base station and a 2-carrier picocell application, both in 20 MHz LTE.

The second evaluation kit, based on the DAN3200, provides a variety of RF front ends and a UMB (Unified Mobile Backhaul) software pack for gigabit+ wireless backhaul applications. DesignArt’s small cell backhaul solution combines two low-cost options in a single-SoC development platform, a multi-hop NLOS (non- line of sight) backhaul in sub-6GHz spectrum and short-range LOS (line of sight) backhaul in unlicensed millimeter wave spectrum (E-band). 

With 4G operators moving to heterogenous networks that will require filling in coverage with smaller cells, the integration of backhaul on the same chip with the RAN provides significant cost savings. It also helps to resolve the major issue that has limited more extensive deployment of femto cells.  DesignArt Networks claims to have solved the small cell backhaul problem, which Hallwachs hints will be demonstrated by a "very large" U.S. operator in Q3.

Related articles:
Will 4G wireless networks move basestations to the cloud?
Texas Instruments adds basestation SoCs for small cells
Mindspeed: 5G networks will be enabled by software-defined cognitive radios

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