5G connectivity is the next technological revolution. This pervasive, ultrafast computer network will connect billions of devices with data on-demand. It will drive economic expansion in many sectors, spawn new products and services, and transform lives as we know it.
Yet, before 5G can deliver on its promises and quality of service (QoS) metrics, wireless systems designers and engineers must overcome sizable challenges. Engineers need to solve the complexities across the spectrum: impeding device, network and data center design.
Design and development of 5G is a huge undertaking. The good news is that, complete virtual prototyping and simulation can substantially reduce the cost and accelerate the design process. A standard industry practice is to front-load simulation at each step of design and development. Wireless systems engineers rely heavily on simulation doing as much work in the front-end virtual world as possible. In fact, virtual design and verification is much quicker than building the real hardware/device.
It is also easier to change or refine a design as it continually improves. Engineers study designs at different levels of abstraction from component designs to system level. Having design and simulation tightly coupled, the integral parts of the product development process, from design to spec, allows the companies to have a reliable 5G products in market on time.
5G implications for IoT and smart connected products
5G will help for realizing the full potential of IoT. All around us, phones, tablets and other devices keep us connected 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 5G provides a better user experience and supports massive connectivity among people, between machines, and also between people and machines.
It supports low-latency transmissions and using remote healthcare and autonomous. Many of these functionalities require almost real-time access to data and make decision based on data. Hence, safety and reliability will become paramount like never before.
5G services require 5G networks with 1000 times larger capacity and 10 to 100 times faster data speeds. Handing the thousands of connected devices will require multiple radios to operate simultaneously.
5G is not just about connectivity, but also includes massive data processing. Data from device will be combined at the edge station or the base station. All information in the connected devices needs to be processed in a split second. Any delay in that may prove dangerous. For example, traffic management with self-control vehicles can collapse if the incoming data and outgoing instructions from the server are not real-time.
5G brings enormous benefits to IoT devices and require a major shift in product development.
Successfully leveraging digitalization
To be successful in the 5G era, devices must meet the newest and toughest reliability requirements. Digitizing the product design, development and V&V is the only way to meet the exponentially growing challenges. Virtual prototyping and simulation can substantially reduce the cost and accelerate the design process. Key 5G technologies are described in the following sections.
Advanced antennae: Beamforming
Antenna beamforming in 5G can improve the capacity and data rates for wireless applications. MIMO beamforming techniques exploit multipath propagation and spatial multiplexing between the base station and user equipment (UE) to increase data rates and service more subscribers.
Proper beam-forming and beam-steering optimize connectivity and decrease the risk of dropped connections. Antenna systems must be carefully designed and simulated for tight control over element-to-element phase, housing and installation effects, and for ensuring graceful degradation due to potential in-service element failures.
Carrier aggregation (CA)
Emerging 5G standards can increase the number of CA LTE bands used for single subscriber connection to raise the transmission bandwidth, leading to the increased RF front-end complexity and elevated interference potentials. A growing number of sensitive filters in both UE and base stations will separate the sub-carriers and signals.
Assessing electromagnetic coupling between bulk-acoustic-wave (BAW) resonators, filters and oscillators mounted side-by-side and end-to-end on RF subassemblies is critical to the success of these frontend designs.
Integrating various modules into the RF front-ends generates a lot of heat in an installed environment that will not accommodate active cooling methods. Base station antennas must exhaust excess heat for safe operation of the electronics inside without the unreasonable expense and weight of forced air or liquid cooling. Temperature-dependent properties of the electronic systems must be examined to minimize heat and ensure safe operating limits.
Edge computing and data processing will be processing real-time to near real-time responses to events and situations. This requires PCB designs handling high-speed data and signal. Signal Integrity and power integrity studies must be evaluated for full robustness including manufacturing variability and temperature variability for a successful operation at the edge.
In summary, 5G brings enormous opportunity to digitally connect the world. Bringing the digitization or virtualization in product development process will ensure that the IoT devices will function reliability.
- Shitalkumar Joshi
The author is the Head, Electronics Application Engineering, ANSYS