Digital Front-End IP on Intel FPGA enables 5G green radio

Technology News |
By Jean-Pierre Joosting

Digital Enhancement Limited has announced the commercial launch of Intel FPGA-based Digital Front-End (DFE) IP, which provides high-performance and high efficiency 5G radio across scalable multiple Intel FPGA families.

With the continuous evolution of 5G and WiFi, RAN communication elements such as Remote Radio Units (RRU), repeaters and routers have increased requirements on radio performance and system level power efficiency. From Massive-MIMO Macrocell to Small Cell, the DFE technologies including DPD (Digital Pre-Distortion) and CFR (Crest Factor Reduction) have been well recognized as the key enabling and differentiating elements to satisfying demanding use cases crossing different frequency bands, bandwidths, under different PA types and output power combinations.

“Digital Enhancement is a start-up company focusing on building the world’s leading agile DFE technology, breaking the limitations of traditional DFE solutions that are bandwidth constrained, require tight coupling of hardware and with limited choices of power amplifiers. Our in-depth collaboration with Intel in the past year provides a joint commercial DFE over FPGA for 5G base station mass production. This not only fully validates the fast and lightweight implementation of Digital Enhancement’s DFE, but also its high-performance linearization and cost effectiveness. Customers can also easily evaluate the overall RF system performance based on different DPD models and PAs with our developed DETP, a powerful testing platform with 3GPP signal generator, DFE and analysis functions built-in,” said Ziming Wang, Founder and CEO of Digital Enhancement. 

The DFE IP “Hummingbird” series supports 3G/4G/5G communications, covering all types of PA techniques, and can effectively reduce the Long-term Memory Effect on GaN amplifiers. With Hummingbird IP, only minimum FPGA resource at a relative low sampling rate is required to deliver the necessary performance to linearize high power amplifiers for base station equipment under the use case of 4T4R and 200 MHz signal bandwidth. While delivering a high linear performance, such as one that’s better than -50 dBc ACLR and less than 2.5 percent EVM on a PA of more than 40 percent efficiency, the overall cost of the digital and RF systems in RRUs can be also significantly reduced.

“PA non-linearity has been the most challenging problem in RU design for more than three decades. With the need of the RU to now support higher bandwidths (e.g. in excess of 200 MHz) in multi-band configurations at lower thermal budget, it’s critical to employ best-in-class DPD technology on a flexible and scalable hardware portfolio as the solution to address a wide variety of different radio use cases. Intel’s FPGA family, including Agilex, Stratix, and Arria, have been designed for such efficient and flexible DFE implementations, particularly with the industry’s best performance per watt Intel Agilex FPGA family. The combination of DPD technology from our partner Digital Enhancement running on Intel FPGAs would offer one of the best choices to our customers for radio design,” said Mike Fitton, General Manager, Network Business Division of Intel’s Programable Solution Group.

Next, Digital Enhancement will continue to scale up its collaboration with 5G base stations and O-RAN vendors worldwide, and to expand the application of miniaturized DFE in the WiFi and mobile device markets.


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