Case Study: Nokia, NI partner to Rapidly Prototype 5G Proof-of-Concept System

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Nokia Networks is paving the way for next-generation wireless communications by working with National Instruments (NI) to investigate mobile access in the mmWave frequency spectrum.

As part of this broad collaboration, NI and Nokia Networks jointly developed one of the first mmWave communication links capable of streaming data at speeds exceeding 10 Gb/s—the fastest mobile access wireless system ever publicly demonstrated.

This extremely fast broadband speed aligns with industry expectations for 5G networks, essentially offering users up to 50X faster data rates than the most advanced WiFi networks and reduced latency.

Many parts of the world are still awaiting the rollout of 4G networks, but the telecom industry is already looking ahead to 5G cellular technology.

Even though 4G networks have introduced broadband capabilities to millions of mobile users worldwide, the potential of mobile broadband as a foundational technology for an ecosystem of mobile applications is largely just beginning.

In this 5G future, faster, more robust wireless networks mean downloading a full-length HD movie to a smartphone in seconds rather than minutes, and these ultra-fast networks are available anywhere at any time.

These 5G technologies reduce network latency to foster determinism and reliability—a challenge with 4G and prior networks—to enable self-driving cars to keep cities moving and help smart factories that transmit inventories and self-repair assembly lines to keep commerce flowing.

The cloud also serves as a foundational element for 5G networks by delivering fingertip access to a wealth of applications and data across time zones and regardless of location.

“5G mobile network speeds exceeding 10 Gb/s with extremely low latency are a driving force for massive mobile broadband and totally new applications in the future programmable world,” explains, Lauri Oksanen, Nokia Networks.

The Challenge:
Consumer adoption of 3G and 4G LTE standards outpaced all other technologies and grew to nearly 3 billion connections in less than 15 years. It is now projected that the number of connected devices will exceed 50 billion by 2020 and mobile data traffic will approach 197,000 PB (petabytes)—the data equivalent to over 10 billion Blu-ray movies.

The combination of high bandwidth data capacity, low latency, and an exponential number of connected devices has researchers investigating networks operating above 6 GHz as the frequency spectrum.

Until now, only frequencies below 6 GHz have been considered for mobile networks, mostly due to their favorable wide area coverage properties. While innovative techniques will be put into operation to make more efficient use of already allocated spectrum below 6 GHz, there will be a growing need to unlock new spectrum bands for 5G above 6 GHz.

The Solution:
To take on the mmWave challenge, Nokia Networks teamed with NI. NI delivers tools and technologies so multiple functional disciplines can collaborate cumulatively, rather than independently. We used NI software to facilitate a unified design flow through the development process, so the company could rapidly prototype its ideas for mmWave mobile access in a fraction of the time of conventional design approaches.

Innovation
Achieving 10 Gb/s data rates in the mmWave spectrum required us to rely on a design environment that closely integrates with NI software defined radio hardware to enable the rapid prototyping that was key to our success.

By using the scalable, unified path that connects algorithms to real-world signals offered by LabVIEW software and the top-flight performance of PXI hardware, we are making huge strides in wireless research

Technology
With a fully functional prototype in action, we are leading 5G research by building the first platform for 5G customers to test feasibility of cellular communications at mmWave frequencies and perform algorithm research using LabVIEW.

As we take this LabVIEW and PXI-based solution to field testing, the effort will produce the world’s first field-deployed 5G proof-of-concept system—all based on NI technology. Together, NI and Nokia Networks are reinventing the future of wireless communication and powering the fastest cell phone networks ever.