As Wideband Code Division Multiple Access (W-CDMA) deployments continue to expand worldwide, Texas Instruments Incorporated (TI) [NYSE: TXN] is now looking beyond 3G – to Long Term Evolution (LTE). An initiative of the Third Generation Partnership Program (3GPP), LTE encompasses higher data rates and flexibility in frequency allocations needed to support IP-based applications set to deploy between 2008 and 2012. In order to accelerate original equipment manufacturers’ (OEMs) time to market with LTE technology, TI has created a development ecosystem, combining its wireless infrastructure optimized digital signal processors (DSP), software libraries and ATCA/AMC cards from leading systems developers Mercury Computer Systems and Silicon Turnkey Express (STx).
LTE, and the evolution of mobile communications systems, goes beyond the current GSM/EDGE and W-CDMA HSPA air interfaces. Current 3G networks support a mixture of voice and data traffic over the same circuit-switched network. Operating at peak performance, these networks can deliver speeds of 14.4 Mbps downlink or 5.76 Mbps uplink. Packet-based LTE is designed to offer peak speeds of 100 Mbps downlink and 50 Mbps uplink, making streaming media and true interactivity a viable reality on the handset.
“This is a tumultuous time for service providers as they strive to meet consumers growing demand for high bandwidth applications,” said Godfrey Chua, research manager for IDC’s wireless and mobile infrastructure service. “Although the LTE standard is not yet finalized, carriers’ work must begin now to test and evaluate its potential. TI’s LTE development ecosystem is the right approach and comes at the right time as it provides carriers and equipment manufacturers with sufficient lead time to meet potential deployment goals falling in the 2009/2010 timeframe.”
Although the LTE standard has not yet been finalized, service providers are planning for its trial today. TI’s development ecosystem provides OEM’s a preview into how their systems can support the LTE air interface. Leveraging the TMS320TCI6482 and TMS320TCI6487 DSPs, TI has created a series of designs leveraging system-level benchmarks. These benchmarks illustrate various system architectures to support existing 3G standards, WiMAX and LTE. The software library capitalizes on TI’s existing WiMAX Wave 2 compliant library, with a host of LTE-specific algorithms. Combined, this hardware/software package provides a starting point for LTE development and enables faster and easier development of prototype systems.
Base station manufacturers are also eager to evaluate the new standard. TI has partnered with system developers MCS and STx to offer ATCA/AMC-based development platforms that can dramatically reduce the OEMs time to market. These platforms allow developers to quickly assemble a hardware test platform, mirroring a typical system including DSPs, a general purpose processor (GPP), and field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs). Using an advanced mezzanine card (AMC) approach, separate cards with these devices can be easily connected and development can start before any final hardware decisions are made. Both the TCI6482 and TCI6487 baseband processors are available on AMC development cards.
“The broadband-class data rates of LTE will require tremendous performance in a wireless infrastructure framework to support the new customer applications enabled by these networks,” said Dr. Arnon Friedmann, software product manager for TI’s communications infrastructure group. “The early development ecosystem, will help carriers and OEMs formulate the most cost-effective path towards LTE.”
One such ecosystem partner is AXIS Network Technology, a UK-based wireless technology business focused on the development of multichannel OFDM digital radio and RF solutions for next generation MIMO and AAS wireless systems. AXIS is leveraging its current WiMAX platform for new LTE developments, leveraging TI’s analog devices in key modulator and DPD functions.
As an active participant in the development of the LTE standard, TI can quickly adapt and modify the software library to match any changes or new developments. In addition, since LTE is an orthogonal frequency division modulation (OFDM) based system, TI is able to leverage more than 20 years of experience in both digital subscriber line (DSL) and previous OFDM-based wireless developments. This system expertise, coupled with the company’s leadership position in wireless infrastructure, enables TI to be an active partner with customers and service providers as the industry moves toward the next step in mobile communications.
The DSPs and benchmark configurations for LTE are available today. The third party development platforms are also available today. The first release of the LTE software package will be available at the end of second quarter 2007. It will be updated throughout the year as the standard moves toward ratification.