Thursday, 09 December 2021 11:57

Picocom introduces the industry’s first 5G NR small cell system on chip designed for Open RAN

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Picocom, the 5G Open RAN baseband semiconductor and software specialist, announced the introduction of its PC802 SoC (system on chip). The company’s flexible, low power device empowers the innovation of a new breed of 5G NR open small cell products.

The PC802 is the world’s first 4G/5G device dedicated to developing small cells with integrated support for Open RAN standards. It supports disaggregated 5G small cell platforms, including indoor residential, enterprise and industrial networks, neutral host networks and outdoor networks.

“I am honoured to announce the PC802, the culmination of three years’ work and a milestone achievement for the company by the whole Picocom Team,” said Picocom president Peter Claydon. “We will deliver product to our lead customers before the end of the year.”

Picocom says the PC802 is a purpose-designed PHY SoC for 5G NR/LTE small cell disaggregated and integrated RAN architectures, that includes support for 4G. The SoC includes support for industry-leading Open RAN specifications, and interfaces with a layer 2/3 stack via the SCF FAPI interface over PCIe. The PC802 supports seamless interfacing to Radio Units (O-RU) via the O-RAN Open Fronthaul (eCPRI) interface or directly to RFICs with a standardised JESD204B high-speed serial interface.

“The big vendors design their own chips optimised for performance, power and cost. A disruptive Open RAN ecosystem needs innovative chips to compete with this, so it’s good to see Picocom coming to market with optimised, flexible silicon,” stated Rethink Research founder and research director Caroline Gabriel.

“We believe we’ve hit the ‘sweet spot’ in addressing the need for optimised silicon to power Open RAN. We are delighted with the pre-launch interest in PC802 and the positive feedback we’ve received on its specification. For successful deployments, it’s clear that Open RAN needs optimised silicon, and PC802 SoC delivers. We expect to see PC802 in end-products commencing field trials during 2022,” added Picocom VP marketing Oliver Davies.

The PC802 SoC is optimised for disaggregated small cells. It employs the FAPI protocol (defined by the Small Cell Forum) to communicate with and provide physical layer services to the MAC. It has an integrated O-RAN Alliance Open Fronthaul interface (based on eCPRI) to connect and communicate with Open RAN (remote) radio units (RUs), as well as JESD204B interfaces to connect gluelessly with commonly available radio transceivers.

For small cell applications, the PC802 device transforms FAPI messages from the L2/3 into IQ samples for the radio and vice versa. This includes driving the external physical and software interfaces, PHY processing and Digital Front End (DFE) functions.

The PC802 is also optimised to provide upper PHY processing in an O-RAN Alliance O-DU. It achieves this by transforming the FAPI messages from the L2/3 into frequency domain IQ samples using eCPRI and Open fronthaul messages, which can be transmitted over the Ethernet to O-RU remote radio units.

This first appeared in the subscription newsletter CommsWire on 7 December 2021.

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