Technology and Test Solutions for 5G

Next-Gen Communications

As carriers worldwide prepare for 5G communications, chip suppliers and test equipment vendors are evolving their products to meet the challenges of the 5G era.

By Jeff Child, Editor-in-Chief

The technologies that are enabling 5G communications are creating new challenges for embedded system developers. Faster mobile broadband data rates, massive amounts of machine-to-machine network interfacing and daunting low latency constraints all add to the complexity of 5G system design. Feeding those needs, chip vendors over the past 12 months have been releasing building blocks like modem chips and wideband mixers supporting 5G. And test equipment vendors are keeping pace with test gear designed to work with 5G technology.

With standards expected to reach finalization around 2020, 5G isn’t here yet, But efforts worldwide are laying the groundwork to deploy it. For its part, the Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) released a report in October 2017 entitled “Evolution from LTE to 5G.” According to the report, there is a frenzy of testing of 5G technology and concepts worldwide. The GSA has identified 103 operators in 49 countries that are investing in 5G technology in the form of demos, lab trials or field tests that are either under way or planned. Operators are sharing their intentions in terms of launch timetables for 5G, or prestandards 5G. The earliest launch dates currently planned are by operators in Italy and the US. Those early launches are necessarily limited in scope to either specific applications, or in limited geographic areas where they will function as extended commercial trials. Figure 1 shows the countries and the current planned dates for the earliest 5G launches in those countries.

FIGURE 1
Here is a map of pre-standards and standards-based 5G network plans announced. It shows the countries and current planned dates for the earliest 5G launches in those countries. (Source: Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA)).

THE BIG PLAYERS

Intel and Qualcomm have been the big players to watch for 5G enabling technologies. In October 2017, Qualcomm Technologies, a subsidiary of Qualcomm, hit a significant milestone successfully achieving a 5G data connection on a 5G modem chipset for mobile devices. The Qualcomm Snapdragon X50 5G modem chipset achieved speeds and a data connection in the 28 GHz mmWave radio frequency band. The solution is expected to accelerate the delivery of 5G new radio (5G NR) enabled mobile devices to consumers. Along with the chip set demo Qualcomm Technologies previewed its first 5G smartphone reference design for the testing and optimization of 5G technology within the power and form-factor constraints of a smartphone.

The 5G data connection demonstration showed the chip set achieving Gigabit/s download speeds, using several 100 MHz 5G carriers and demonstrated a data connection in the 28 GHz millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum. In addition to the Snapdragon X50 5G modem chipset, the demonstration also used the SDR051 mmWave RF transceiver IC. The demonstration made use of Keysight Technologies’ new 5G Protocol R&D Toolset and UXM 5G Wireless Test Platform. Qualcomm Technologies was the first company to announce a 5G modem chipset in 2016. The Snapdragon X50 5G NR modem family is expected to support commercial launches of 5G smartphones and networks in the first half of 2019. …

Read the full article in the January 330 issue of Circuit Cellar

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Two Campuses, Two Problems, Two Solutions

In some ways, Salish Kootenai College (SKC)  based in Pablo, MT, and Penn State Erie, The Behrend College in Erie, PA, couldn’t be more different

SKC, whose main campus is on the Flathead Reservation, is open to all students but primarily serves Native Americans of the Bitterroot Salish, Kootenai, and Pend d’Orellies tribes. It has an enrollment of approximately 1,400. Penn State Erie has roughly 4,300.

But one thing the schools have in common is enterprising employees and students who recognized a problem on their campuses and came up with technical solutions. Al Anderson, IT director at the SKC, and Chris Coulston, head of the Computer Science and Software Engineering department at Penn State Erie, and his team have written articles about their “campus solutions” to be published in upcoming issues of Circuit Cellar.

In the summer of 2012, Anderson and the IT department he supervises direct-wired the SKC dorms and student housing units with fiber and outdoor CAT-5 cable to provide students better  Ethernet service.

The system is designed around the Raspberry Pi device. The Raspberry Pi queries the TMP102 temperature sensor. The Raspberry Pi is queried via the SNMP protocol.

The system is designed around the Raspberry Pi device. The Raspberry Pi queries the TMP102 temperature sensor. The Raspberry Pi is queried via the SNMP protocol.

“Prior to this, students accessed the Internet via a wireless network that provided very poor service.” Anderson says. “We wired 25 housing units, each with a small unmanaged Ethernet switch. These switches are daisy chained in several different paths back to a central switch.”

To maintain the best service, the IT department needed to monitor the system’s links from Intermapper, a simple network management protocol (SNMP) software. Also, the department had to monitor the temperature inside the utility boxes, because their exposure to the sun could cause the switches to get too hot.

This is the final installation of the Raspberry Pi. The clear acrylic case can be seen along with the TMP102 glued below the air hole drilled into the case. A ribbon cable was modified to connect the various pins of the TMP102 to the Raspberry Pi.

This is the final installation of the Raspberry Pi in the SKC system. The clear acrylic case can be seen along with the TMP102 glued below the air hole drilled into the case. A ribbon cable was modified to connect the various pins of the TMP102 to the Raspberry Pi.

“We decided to build our own monitoring system using a Raspberry Pi to gather temperature data and monitor the network,” Anderson says. “We installed a Debian Linux distro on the Raspberry Pi, added an I2C Texas Instruments TMP102 temperature sensor…, wrote a small Python program to get the temperature via I2C and convert it to Fahrenheit, installed SNMP server software on the Raspberry Pi, added a custom SNMP rule to display the temperature from the script, and finally wrote a custom SNMP MIB to access the temperature information as a string and integer.”

Anderson, 49, who has a BS in Computer Science, did all this even as he earned his MS in Computer Science, Networking, and Telecommunications through the Johns Hopkins University Engineering Professionals program.

Anderson’s article covers the SNMP server installation; I2C TMP102 temperature integration; Python temperature monitoring script; SNMP extension rule; and accessing the SNMP Extension via a custom MIB.

“It has worked flawlessly, and made it through the hot summer fine,” Anderson said recently. “We designed it with robustness in mind.”

Meanwhile, Chris Coulston, head of the Computer Science and Software Engineering department at Penn State Erie, and his team noticed that the shuttle bus

The mobile unit to be installed in the bus. bus

The mobile unit to be installed in the bus.

introduced as his school expanded had low ridership. Part of cause was the unpredictable timing of the bus, which has seven regular stops but also picks up students who flag it down.

“In order to address the issues of low ridership, a team of engineering students and faculty constructed an automated vehicle locator (AVL), an application to track the campus shuttle and to provide accurate estimates when the shuttle will arrive at each stop,” Coulston says.

The system’s three main hardware components are a user’s smartphone; a base station on campus; and a mobile tracker that stays on the traveling bus.

The base station consists of an XTend 900 MHz wireless modem connected to a Raspberry Pi, Coulston says. The Pi runs a web server to handle requests from the user’s smart phones. The mobile tracker consists of a GPS receiver, a Microchip Technology PIC 18F26K22 and an XTend 900 MHz wireless modem.

Coulston and his team completed a functional prototype by the time classes started in August. As a result, a student can call up a bus locater web page on his smartphone. The browser can load a map of the campus via the Google Maps JavaScript API, and JavaScript code overlays the bus and bus stops. You can see the bus locater page between 7:40 a.m. to 7 p.m. EST Monday through Friday.

“The system works remarkably well, providing reliable, accurate information about our campus bus,” Coulston says. “Best of all, it does this autonomously, with very little supervision on our part.  It has worked so well, we have received additional funding to add another base station to campus to cover an extended route coming next year.”

The base station for the mobile tracker is a sandwich of Raspberry Pi, interface board, and wireless modem.

The base station for the mobile tracker is a sandwich of Raspberry Pi, interface board, and wireless modem.

And while the system has helped Penn State Erie students make it to class on time, what does Coulston and his team’s article about it offer Circuit Cellar readers?

“This article should appeal to readers because it’s a web-enabled embedded application,” Coulston says. “We plan on providing users with enough information so that they can create their own embedded web applications.”

Look for the article in an upcoming issue. In the meantime, if you have a DIY wireless project you’d like to share with Circuit Cellar, please e-mail editor@circuitcellar.com.