Integrating 5G Into the Wireless Infrastructure
11 August 2021 / by Evaluation Engineering
Semtech’s Tri-Edge™ GN2255 is the industry’s first analog IC solution enabling ultra-low latency, less than 1.5W module power, and performance for up to 10km reach for 50Gbps PAM4 SFP56 optical modules. Based on the proven Tri-Edge CDR platform qualified in data center applications, the new solution delivers the cost effectiveness, small footprint, low power, ultra-low latency, and performance demanded by 5G front haul applications. The new Tri-Edge GN2255 enables 50Gbps PAM4 links that will double the bandwidth of currently deployed 25Gbps NRZ front haul links. Semtech’s introduction of the Tri-Edge 5G wireless IC will help support new 5G applications, including edge computing, enhanced mobile broadband and device streaming, and fixed wireless access (i.e., home Internet). Learn more about the product announcement here.
Earlier this year, Evaluation Engineering (EE) spoke with Raza Khan, senior marketing manager in Semtech’s Signal Integrity Products Group to discuss industry trends and the new Tri-Edge 5G wireless product.
EE: Obviously, there are a lot of moving parts in this, right? The application space, the fact that you're integrating hybrid technologies on Chip, it's interesting how convergence in the macro and convergence in the micro, you know what I'm saying?
Raza: I think the overall industry continues to demand improvements and innovations, including increasing the ability to manage power, so low power, reducing your latency, reducing the overall cost for not just from our side, but also our customers and their customers. The Tri-Edge Platform really enables that and this integration of the different aspects allows us to address those needs, particularly now in this 5G front haul space.
EE: The interesting thing is when people think about 5G, they think of the wireless aspect and they don't think about the massive amount of infrastructure behind the walls involved.
Raza: Generally, when we think about 5G, we think about the services 5G offers at the consumer level, even for us as individuals and with the pandemic, we've noticed more often the need for video conferencing and people staying online more. But as you rightly pointed out, all of that front demand really adds the need to have a really strong infrastructure and the ability to deploy that through a very reliable medium.
That's where this Tri-Edge Platform really comes in play. We introduced the Tri-Edge Platform in data centers before, now we're leveraging that technology and bringing that over to enable the next round of these 5G front haul deployments. These links are generally from the tower to the base stations, where our Tri-Edge Technology really enables the low-power, high performance, the operating temperature range, ultra-low latency, and the low cost. Not just for us, but also our customers.
EE: Can you explain a little bit more how the optical technology is integrated on-chip, to clarify exactly where the benefits are coming from?
Raza: That's a very good question. As an IC company, Semtech doesn't make the optics, that is something our customers would choose. What we do is we integrate a lot of the functionality to drive particular optics at a better efficiency, so our customers can choose low-cost optics in high production. A lot of the costs for our customers actually come from the optics, so if we are enabling our customers to use lower-cost technology and integrating the functionality to drive those optics very efficiently in our ICs, that's really the differentiator over here.
EE: Now, one of the things about those kinds of application solutions is that there are ripple effects in two directions. One of course are the ripple effects outward within the existing infrastructure, and the existing systems that are being developed. And the other ripple effect is that if it is enabling more cost-effective deployments, then that also means that it's bringing the ability to make those deployments into the hands of more and more people.
Raza: Exactly. Sometimes I think of it like a chicken or the egg, which came first. But in this manner exactly to your point as well. The ability to drive larger transmission capacity in the infrastructure really allows our customers or the actual individuals to benefit from actual use cases for 5G. So in one retrospect, that is the ripple effect. So having the ability now with the Tri-Edge platform to be able to deploy some of these things really allows the 5G space to expand forward and more and more use cases to be realized for the actual users. And that's what we're seeing from our customer base and their customers. So we've been very lucky to be involved in the 5G and the 4G wireless space for a very long time. So we understand this ecosystem very well.
And from our understanding, people are very interested for us to be able to deploy Tri-Edge technology so they can have the ability in this infrastructure. And of course, there's a lot of moving pieces. We only make the communications part of this transmission, but there's the base station deployment innovation, the tower innovation, all of these moving pieces are ripple effects that combine, and in the end allow, the 5G use-cases to be a reality.
EE: There's a saying about an improvement in any component in the chain raising the general chain to a degree. You can't ignore any part of the chain, and in this case, it's a serious subsystem. The fact is, if it's better, the rising tide raises all boats.
Raza: Exactly. Innovation always drives every aspect of an industry. When we are talking about 5G, there's innovation happening at multiple points, and most importantly, it also puts the same importance on the IC companies. Because it's actually more important for the IC companies to develop such technologies, to be able to transmit these signals from point A to point B effectively.
EE: Actually it's a two-pronged approach. This is one side of it, and the other is Edge Computing. One way to reduce latency is to reduce the amount of traffic transmitted, but what's also going to happen is we're going to have solutions that use as much computing on-board as possible. If you're going to have a situation like the old software creep, that the more you increase the memory, the bigger the software gets, as it were.
Raza: Exactly. And we're just starting to see Edge computing make more and more prevalence for the general public as well. Actually, I think it's going to be a good use-case in this 5G infrastructure in general, and I think the world is becoming more connected. So it's not just about data centers, or 5G Edge computing, or artificial intelligence; it's coming to a point where all of this contributes, and all of these are adding to the increase in bandwidth, as you rightly mentioned, that bandwidth has to be transmitted in the networks effectively. So it's a very connected world that we live in.
Read the full article on Evaluation Engineering, and learn more about Tri-Edge on our website.
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