Arctic Semiconductor is aiming towards enabling expansion of 5G/4G macro base stations by introducing transceiver chipsets that consume minimal power. These chipsets not only lower power usage but also implement sophisticated algorithms to enhance the efficiency of power amplifiers, leading to energy savings. Energy consumption is a major challenge in mobile network development as it represents a significant operating cost, and with growing concerns over climate change and sustainability, energy conservation has become increasingly crucial.
best-in-class RF chipsets
Telecommunications and IT together, known as ICT consume 5-9% percent of the world’s electricity supply. In the meantime, energy consumption constitutes between 20 – 40% of network operating costs and with the shift to 5G, energy consumption associated with mobile network operation is expected to more than double by 2030 (Datacenter Forum). This is due to the increase in data traffic (up to 1,000 times more) and the infrastructure to cope with it in the 5G era. The 5G network is predicted to have the capability to connect one million devices per square kilometer, a tenfold increase compared to 4G technology. This potential increase in energy consumption is coming from a high number of base stations as well as an increase in the amount of energy consumed by each base station. The 3gpp specifications for 5G require support for higher bandwidths, higher output signal power, higher data rates, a greater number of antennas, and more signal processing requirements. Collectively, this leads to hardware designs that are more complex and enlarged in terms of components. This not only raises the operating expenses of telecom operators but also imposes a burden on the environment.
The challenge for manufacturers and developers is to reduce energy consumption in hardware design while meeting the advanced requirements of 3gpp standards. Advances in technology, process nodes, algorithms, and efficient RF solutions are helping equipment makers offer practical solutions for radio access network deployment, especially in macro base stations with an output signal power of 80W to 320W.
Arctic Semiconductor offers low-power RF transceivers with a digital interface that is compatible with popular modem offerings and is targeted at macro base stations. These top-notch RF chipsets allow for cost-effective solutions, as they reduce power consumption at the component level and offer advanced features such as digital sample processing and digital pre-distortion of power amplifiers all in one chipset. With multi-band capabilities and exceptional signal quality, Arctic’s products enable solution providers to deploy radio equipment at scale and achieve desired performance.
What is a Macro Base Station?
Macro base stations are tall towers ranging from 50 to 200 feet in height, placed in strategic locations to provide maximum coverage in a certain area. They are equipped with large towers and antennas that transmit and receive radio signals to and from wireless devices. In the US, there are over 417K cell sites as of 2020.
5G base stations have advanced active antenna systems with multiple antennas in MIMO configurations, resulting in higher transmission and reception capacity, faster data transfer speeds, and improved RF power delivery. Base stations with fewer than 16 antennas are considered macro base stations, while those with 16 channels or more are massive MIMO base stations.
Energy consumption constitutes between 20 – 40% of network Opex
Legacy macro base stations aim to provide broad coverage at low cost, usually with four antennas for FDD mode and eight antennas for TDD mode. The output power ranges from 80W to 320W, with each channel reaching 40W to 80W, requiring RF chips with high integration, low power consumption, reliability, and a decent noise figure.
How is Arctic changing the game?
Macro base stations often consume significant power due to high signal power on each antenna path. The power amplifier, which is nonlinear, contributes to this high-power consumption. Nonlinearity leads to problems such as spectral regrowth, adjacent-channel interference (ACLR), and in-band distortion, which decrease EVM performance. To improve EVM and ACLR, the power amplifier must operate at a point that reduces saturation, but this leads to low efficiency (typically below 10%) and waste of over 90% of the DC power as heat. Improving power amplifier efficiency can significantly cut electricity and cooling costs for mobile network operators. However, the inherent nonlinearity needs to be digitally fixed prior to the transmission of signal. This means complex algorithms and digital implementation of hardware is required to reverse the effects of the power amplifier and improve EVM and ACLR of the signal.
Digital pre-distortion (DPD) works in the digital baseband domain, providing simpler implementation compared to feedforward linearization which operates in the RF domain. It enables cost-effective nonlinear PAs to operate with reduced distortion and increased power efficiency, at higher output powers and within their nonlinear regions.
Arctic Semiconductor has a unique and innovative approach to incorporating DPD into the digital baseband processor, which linearizes high-power, energy-efficient power amplifiers for 5G applications. The transceiver chipset consumes 70% less power than comparable components, and the DPD implementation is highly optimized through the use of machine learning techniques to characterize popular power amplifiers in the market and adapt the formula to minimize hardware power consumption. This results in improved performance with more than -50dBc ACLR and better than 2% EVM for high power PA, while consuming minimal power for the DPD operation.
Arctic’s SnowWings, also offers a multi-channel and fully integrated solution with 4 transmitters and 4 receivers as well as digital channelizers both as part of the transmitter and receiver path. This enables OEMs and ODMs to lower their implementation cost and develop solutions that are more competitive in terms of cost, performance, and power.