Ericsson soups up its 5G software

Kit vendor Ericsson has released some new software designed to help operators with their move so standalone 5G NR when they eventually get around to it.

The early 5G we’re getting now still relies on a 4G core and hence is known as ‘non-standalone (NSA)’. It’s largely a way for the industry to start banging on about 5G a year or two earlier than it would otherwise have been able to. Proper 5G, known as ‘standalone (SA)’, will come with release 16 of the 5G standard, which won’t even be finalised until March next year.

Ericsson’s latest announcement is designed to equip its customers to jump on the SA bandwagon and also to augment its narrative about Existing Ericsson gear being software upgradable to 5G. The latest software not only supports what is expected to be SA architecture but also enables inter-band carrier aggregation, which will be handy for combining the coverage characteristics of low-frequency spectrum with the capacity potential of high-frequency beams.

“We continue to focus our efforts on helping our customers succeed with 5G,” said Ericsson Networks boss Fredrik Jejdling. “These new solutions will allow them to follow the 5G evolution path that fits their ambitions in the simplest and most efficient way.”

Not Fred’s most comprehensive canned quote, but it seems to cover the essence of the announcement. Ericsson also launched a couple of new radios to support mid-band 5G and refreshed its NFV infrastructure offering in ways the video below attempts to illustrate. Lastly it got some analysts to say how great all this is, which is nice.

 

Going under the hood of Qualcomm Snapdragon 855: plenty to like

More details of Qualcomm’s first 5G chipset have been released, bringing all-round improvements, and a 5G chipset for PCs was also announced.

On the first day of its annual Snapdragon Technology Summit, Qualcomm announced its 5G chipset for mobile devices, the Snapdragon 855, but released limited specs. On the following two days more details were disclosed. An SoC for 5G-connected PCs, the Snapdragon 8cx was also unveiled.

In addition to the X50 modem for 5G connectivity (on both mmWave and sub-6GHz frequencies) and X24 modem (to provide LTE connectivity), at the centre of the Snapdragon 855 is ARM’s new flagship Cortex A76 CPU, marketed by Qualcomm as Kryo 485. It contains 8 cores with the single core top performance at 2.84 GHz. Qualcomm claims the 855 is 45% faster than its predecessor 845, though it did not specify what exactly this refers to. More importantly for Qualcomm, the top speed is 9% faster than the Kirin 980 from HiSilicon (a Huawei subsidiary), another 7-nanometre implementation of the ARM Cortex A76.

Also included in the 855 is the new Adreno 640 GPU rendering graphics. Qualcomm has focused 855’s marketing messages on gaming performance, and the GPU is at the core to deliver it. Qualcomm claims the new GPU will enable true HDR gaming, as well as support the HDR10+ and Dolby Vision formats. Together with the display IP, the Adreno 640 GPU will support 120fps gaming as well as smooth 8K 360-degree video playback. Another feature highlighted is the support for Physically Based Rendering in graphics, which will help improve VR and AR experience, including more accurate lighting physics and material interactions, for example more life-like surface texture, or material-on-material audio interaction.

The key new feature on Snapdragon’s Hexagon 690 DSP is that it now includes a dedicated Machine Learning (ML) inferencing engine in the new “tensor accelerator”. The Hexagon 690 also doubles the number of HVX vector pipelines over its predecessors the Hexagon 680 and 685, to include four 1024b vector pipelines. The doubled computing power and the dedicated ML engine combined are expected to improve the Snapdragon 855’s AI capability by a big margin.

The integrated new Spectra 380 image signalling processor (ISP) will both improve the Snapdragon’s capability to deepen acceleration and to save power consumption when processing images. Qualcomm believes the new ISP will only consume a quarter of the power as its predecessor for image object classification, object segmentation, depth sensing (at 60 FPS), augmented reality body tracking, and image stabilisation.

On the OEM collaboration side, in addition to Samsung, on day 2 of the event we also saw Pete Lau, the CEO of Chinese smartphone maker OnePlus come to the stage to endorse the new 5G chipset and vow to be the “first to feature” the Snapdragon 855. Separately, the British mobile operator EE announced that it will range a OnePlus 5G smartphone in the first half of 2019.

On the same day, thousands of miles away, more Chinese smartphone OEMs including Xiaomi, OPPO, Vivo, and ZTE (in addition to OnePlus) also embraced the new Snapdragon chipset at the China Mobile Global Partner Conference in Guangzhou, southern China. China Mobile will also launch a customer premise equipment (CPE), likely a fixed wireless access modem, using the same platform.

Back in Hawaii, on day 3 of the Snapdragon Tech Summit, Qualcomm launched a new chipset for PC: the Snapdragon 8cx (“c” for computer, “x” for eXtreme). This is Qualcomm’s third iteration of chipset for PC, built on ARM v8.1 (a variant of Cortex A76). Similar to the Snapdragon 855, the 8cx also has the X24 integrated cellular modem with for LTE connectivity, and the X50 modem with 5G connectivity can be paired with it. The CPU also has eight cores, with a top speed of 2.75 GHz. The new Adreno 680 GPU is said to process graphics twice as fast as the GPU in the previous generation ARM for Windows chipset (Snapdragon 850) but 60% more efficient in power consumption.

Perhaps the most meaningful change is its memory architecture. The Snapdragon 8cx will have a 128-bit wide interface, enabling it to provide native support for much more software and applications, including Windows 10 Enterprise and Office 365, which clearly is a sales pitch to the corporate IT departments.

Unlike the OEM support garnered by Snapdragon 855, there was no public endorsement by PC makers yet. Lenovo did come to the stage but was only talking about its Yoga 2-in-1 notebooks that have used earlier generations of Snapdragon chipsets for Windows on ARM. On the other hand, Qualcomm does not position Snapdragon 8cx as a replacement for the 850 but rather as a higher end contemporary, with 850 mainly targeted at a niche consumer market.

In general, this year’s Snapdragon Tech Summit has delivered more step change with the new product launches. More concrete industry support was also on show, indicating that, depending on how fast and extensive 5G is to be rolled out, we may start seeing true 5G smartphones in the first half of next year. We may need to wait a bit longer before a reasonable line-up of always-on 5G connected PCs can hit the market.

Nokia invests in its IoT portfolio with SpaceTime Insight acquisition

Networking vendor Nokia has snapped-up machine learning-powered analytics firm SpaceTime Insight, which it says will augment its IoT offering.

SpaceTime Insight specialises in the use of predictive analytics to manage and optimize the use of enterprise assets. It has packaged all this cleverness into an IoT platform and it’s this application that seems to have caught Nokia’s eye. Specifically Nokia is going to integrate SpaceTime into its IoT software portfolio and expects to produce better IoT apps as a consequence.

“Adding SpaceTime to Nokia Software is a strong step forward in our strategy, and will help us deliver a new class of intelligent solutions to meet the demands of an increasingly interconnected world,” said Bhaskar Gorti, president of Nokia Software. “Together, we can empower customers to realize the full value of their people, processes and assets, and enable them to deliver rich, world-class digital experiences.”

“Today marks a transformational moment for SpaceTime, and I’m delighted to join forces with one of the world’s top organizations-a global brand that is reshaping the future of networking and intelligent software,” said Rob Schilling, CEO of SpaceTime Insight, who’s hanging around. “I am excited for this incredible opportunity to help accelerate and scale Nokia’s IoT business and provide a new class of next-generation IoT solutions customers cannot find anywhere else.”

It has been a busy start to the week for Nokia. On the software side its Nuage SDN division announced a deal win with Telefónica Spain to software-define its datacentres. This is an extension of an SD-WAN rollout last year and the usual claims of agility, scalability and efficiency apply.

“To meet the rapidly emerging business requirements for agility and on-demand deployments, we moved aggressively to build our business connectivity services around a new cloud-based architecture,” said Joaquín Mata, director of operations, network and IT at Telefónica Spain. “Nuage Networks provided us with a highly scalable SDN architecture that could support all our services across all our regions without disruption. We are confident our customers will significantly improve their businesses with these new cloud-based services.”

Lastly Nokia has got together with French operator SFR to claim the first French 5G NR call over the 3.5 GHz spectrum. It was a test conducted at Nokia’s Paris campus and seems to be a pretty standard affair, designed as much to give the protagonists some 5G kudos as anything else.

“SFR is developing a roadmap for the evolution of its networks that takes into account the benefits and complexity of implementing 5G,” said François Vincent, head of Mobile Network at SFR. “The joint projects and trials will enable us to meet future data demand in the most effective way, while exploring new ways to deliver our media content that will increase the subscriber experience.”

Intel continues to insist it’s really good at 5G

Chip giant Intel is hoping the announcement of a new family of 5G modems will convince everyone it’s not rubbish at mobile anymore.

The big reveal is the Intel XMM 8000 series, the company’s first family of 5G NR multi-mode commercial modems. The flagship chip is the XMM 8060, which apparently caters for every variety of 5G NR and legacy air interface you can imagine. It had first been mentioned at MWC earlier this year and won’t appear in devices until 2019, so it’s not immediately obvious why Intel is banging on about it now, but maybe the imminent 3GPP 5G standard freeze (see below) has something to do with it.

“Intel is committed to delivering leading 5G multi-mode modem technology and making sure the transition to 5G is smooth,” said Dr. Cormac Conroy, GM of Intel’s Communication and Devices Group. “Our investments in a full portfolio of modem technologies and products are critical to achieving the vision of seamless 5G connectivity.”

“Today’s wireless networks are the equivalent of data driving down a single-lane highway; tomorrow’s will need to serve as a multilane superhighway as data moves at warp speed with 5G networks,” said Sandra Rivera, GM of Intel’s Network Platforms Group. “Our roadmap progress shows how Intel is moving at gigabit speeds to help the industry create this superhighway and benefit from the speed, capacity and low latency that 5G promises.”

You can see Intel’s wireless roadmap for the next couple of years below. The company has been trying to be a significant player in mobile devices for decades. Its attempts to take on the ARM ecosystem and Qualcomm in particular in applications processors over the past decade failed conclusively and it’s determined to do better in the 5G era. On the datacenter side Intel is still very strongly positioned but it will take more than slick presentations to topple Qualcomm’s dominance on the modem side.

Intel 5G roadmap

3GPP 5G timeline

EE and Huawei show off 5G network architecture with all the bells and whistles

A UK lab showcase by EE using Huawei kit is laying claim to a breakthrough in end-to-end 5G network architecture testing.

The demo featured a host of 5G buzzword name-dropping. It’s being positioned as a major step forward for NFV as the core network is fully virtualized on commercial-off-the-shelf hardware. EE claims to have managed consistent download speeds of 2.8 Gbps with the help of a 5G NR 64×64 Massive MIMO active antenna using the 3.5 GHz test spectrum band.

“We’re using our experience in cutting edge 4G technologies and our dedicated partnership approach to ensure technology leadership in 5G,” said Tom Bennett, EE Director of Network Services & Devices. “The network architecture we’ve proven today is a huge step forward, and will drive our ambitious rollout timetable to be first for 5G.”

That’s it really. EE made a video for any people still in doubt about its general 5G awesomeness. We can probably have a good guess at who paid for it though.