Feature Article

March 04, 2015

Cavium Introduces OCTEON Fusion-M at Mobile World Congress

Amidst Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2015’s flashy new smartphones, tablets and wearable devices, and all things IoT, M2M and 5G, it is hard to remember that without infrastructure transformation, none of this will happen any time soon.  In short, what can be called “plumbing” is critical, and so are the components that will serve as the foundation of systems to help create the future.   

A case in point is the announcement from Cavium, a provider of communications semiconductor products.  At MWC, the company introduced a family of highly-integrated, single-chip solutions that enable a new category of Macrocells and Smart Radio Heads, the OCTEON Fusion-M family. They include the single chip CNF75xx macrocell and the single chip CNF74xx for use in Smart Radio Heads.  

The reason for introducing an entire family is to support a wide range of deployment scenarios. And, as the company says they are: “Setting a new bar for cost, performance, power and footprint. The OCTEON Fusion-M family is a scalable architecture that ranges from the single chip CNF75xx macrocell to the single chip CNF74xx for use in Smart Radio Heads.”

Looking ahead to meet market dynamics

Cavium, like everyone in networking ecosystems, is trying help deal with the explosion of demand for data as well as the need for denser networks systems providers and their service provider customers.  After all, network operators are on the front lines, and one area of intense interest is how to make their Radio Access Networks (RANs) more efficient, scalable, agile and secure.  This is part of the broader efforts to transform networking infrastructures from end-to-end, which as MWC has shown, has lent a sense of urgency and interest in the virtualization of wireless networks through NFV and SDN technologies.

Cavium highlights this interest in making their announcement by pointing to analyst predictions that the overall wireless network infrastructure market encompassing macrocell RAN, HetNet, Small Cells and Cloud RAN will grow at an impressive rate of 45 percent CAGR over the coming years. To put the need for next generation plumbing in perspective, this growth translates into a market estimated at $104 Billion in annual spending by the end of 2020.

Cavium points to the fact that this generation of macrocell BTS are not architected to meet even relatively near-term future needs.  What these macro BTS do need is much higher silicon integration in order to deliver high performance at lower cost and power consumption.  And, on the Radio Head side of things, constraints abound as well. Again, Cavium feels integration, in this case the integration of Layer 1 functionality to enable seamless virtualization of the upper layers, is the answer, the context being the optimization of macrocell BTS deployments augmented with Cloud RAN for additional scalability and enterprise small cells for coverage and capacity.
 

A look under the hood of the OCTEON Fusion-M

It is worth noting the features of the two member of the OCTEON Fusion-M family.  The OCTEON Fusion-M CNF75xx feature highlights cited by Cavium include:

  • Highly integrated multi-protocol single chip 12 sector 24T24R MIMO with up to 16 cores running up to 2.0 GHz core frequency
  • Simultaneous LTE, LTE-A (FDD/TDD) , HPSA+, GSM operation
  • Supports user counts from 800 user picocell configuration to 3,600 macrocell mode simultaneous active users
  • The first commercially available 3GPP LTE Rel 11 capable (upgradable to Rel 12) SoCs
  • Highly configurable Wireless Baseband Module based on VLIW DSP cores, comprehensive PHY hardware accelerators, custom XBAR and PHY Shared memory
  • Integrated I/O capacity including CPRI/JESD204B,10GE, SGMII, SRIO v2.1, PCIe v3.0
  • Very high performance, low-latency path for passing COMP data between multiple OCTEON Fusion-M devices.

The OCTEON Fusion-M CNF74xx family of processors have been architected to allow implementation of any of the popular CRAN splits. According to Cavium, in addition to the CNF74xx Smart Radio Head working in conjunction with standard Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS), their ThunderX™ hardware is aimed squarely at fulfilling the needs for “all variants of Cloud RAN.”

Feature Highlights:

  • Highly integrated multi-protocol Smart Radio Head supporting 12 sector 24T24R MIMO with up to 8 cores running up to 2.0 GHz core frequency
  • Simultaneous LTE. LTE-A (FDD/TDD) , HPSA+, GSM operation
  • Allows any Cloud RAN configuration, including various MAC-PHY spits, RLC split and CPRI
  • In combination with the ThunderX COTS sever processor supports very high simultaneous active users in excess of 12,000
  • The first commercially available 3GPP LTE Rel 11 capable (upgradable to Rel 12) SoC
  • Fully configurable Wireless Baseband Module based on VLIW DSP cores, comprehensive PHY hardware accelerators, custom XBAR and PHY shared memory
  • Integrated I/O capacity including CPRI / JESD204B,10GE,SRIO v2.1
  • Very high performance, low-latency path for passing COMP data between multiple OCTEON Fusion-M devices.

Syed Ali, President and CEO of Cavium, commented that, “Operators require a portfolio of base stations that address their different needs: enterprise, urban, metro-cell, macrocell and CRAN. With the OCTEON FUSION-M and ThunderX, Cavium is unique in addressing all of those segments through a coherent portfolio of highly optimized solutions. Our new chips extend the eco-system in two radical directions: up to macrocell class and out to the radio node required in C-RANs.”

“With the introduction of the OCTEON Fusion-M family, Cavium has extended its presence in the wireless infrastructure market where it already has deployments from the core to the RAN,” said Jag Bolaria Principal Analyst at The Linley Group. “The OCTEON Fusion-M products enable more efficient macro base stations and advance an exciting new category of Smart Radio Heads for Cloud RAN.”  

Components may not get the headlines, especially at massive events like MWC. However, assuring the chips are not just on the table but are implemented to make the glide path to meet future requirements cost efficient and effective and ready for what comes beyond the short-term, is why understanding where components are going is “mission critical” for wireless ecosystems.
 


Edited by Dominick Sorrentino


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