What challenges will SOC face in the 5G era and how can we overcome them?

At present, the wave of artificial intelligence is sweeping the world, and the 5G era is also coming. The integration of the real society and the Internet space is accelerating.

At present, the wave of artificial intelligence is sweeping the world, and the 5G era is also coming. The integration of the real society and the Internet space is accelerating.

Realizing the Internet of Everything requires ubiquitous sensors, smart terminals, etc. to continuously collect data, and also requires data transmission through ubiquitous Internet of Things, Internet and other infrastructures. Faster network speed is necessary, and the required traffic will be increased dozens of times.

What challenges will SOC face in the 5G era and how can we overcome them?

The arrival of 5G has fundamentally subverted the concept of “communication”. 5G technology expands the objects of communication from people to all things, and realizes the interconnection of all things at any time and anywhere, so that human beings dare to expect to communicate with all things on the earth. There is no time difference to participate in the live broadcast synchronously.

The arrival of the 5G era

5G is the fifth generation of mobile communication technology, with fiber-like access rates, “zero” latency experience, the ability to connect hundreds of billions of devices, ultra-high traffic density, ultra-high connection density, and ultra-high mobility, etc. Compared with 4G, 5G achieves a leap from qualitative change to quantitative change, opening a new era of extensive interconnection of all things and deep human-computer interaction, becoming a new round of scientific and technological revolution and industrial transformation driving force. 5G communication is backward compatible with 4G3G2G.

5G has rich applications and trends. Three of the most promising trends are: Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB), Ultra-Reliable Low-Latency Communications (URLLC), and Massive Machine Type Communications (mMTC).

What challenges will SOC face in the 5G era and how can we overcome them?

Essentially, eMBB provides better mobile data connections. This includes using fixed wireless access to compete with traditional fixed broadband (as described in Market Trends). URLLC will be key for industrial and medical applications. In these applications, excellent network performance can save costs and save lives. mMTC enables applications such as smart grids and smart cities. These applications require excellent coverage and massive connectivity, and have the potential to change the way we live.

According to Huawei’s forecast, by 2025, 5G will serve 58% of the world’s population, and China will become the world’s largest 5G market. 5G and its governing body, the 3GPP, have high expectations for extending 5G capabilities beyond the mobile market.

5G has greatly increased the speed of mobile phones in streaming video, social media, and more, and 5G has also opened the way to many new frontiers. These include low-power Internet of Things (IoT) applications such as asset tracking, automated connection of vehicles to infrastructure, broadband Internet services, cable TV services, and more.

It can be said that 5G is already on the horizon, and it is rapidly “shooting” to all walks of life, prompting more and more devices to be interconnected, and the first batch to usher in the east wind is mobile phones, Internet of Things, automobiles, etc. have certain development. Basic 5G application industry. IDC predicts that the number of 5G device connections will increase from 10 million in 2019 to 1.01 billion in 2023, with a compound annual growth rate of 217.2% from 2019 to 2023.

Changes in chip design

On this basis, as the core component of the chip, the demand is greatly increasing. According to Statista data, the global 5G chip market size in 2019 was US$1.03 billion. The market size is expected to reach USD 14.53 billion by 2025, with a CAGR of over 55% from 2019 to 2025.

What challenges will SOC face in the 5G era and how can we overcome them?

5G chips can be divided into three categories: AP chips (application processors), baseband chips, and radio frequency chips. Among them, the most difficult and most important is the baseband chip. The 2G to 5G standards are upgraded and compatible together, which requires more technology accumulation.

The research and development of 5G chips started as early as 2016. In 2008, NASA first proposed the concept of 5G. In 2014, the Next Generation Mobile Network Alliance (NGMN), which is composed of major global operators, announced the launch of a global project for 5G. Early research on the layout of 5G chips by companies represented by Qualcomm, MediaTek, and Huawei.

From 2016 to 2018, 5G chips gradually advanced to the trial stage. In October 2016, Qualcomm released the X50 5G baseband chip. In 2018, Huawei, MediaTek, Samsung, and Intel respectively released 5G chips that support NSA/SA networking.

From 2019 to 2020, 5G chips will enter the commercial development stage. With the determination of 5G standards, the 5G baseband technologies of various manufacturers continue to mature, and the second generation of 5G basebands has begun.

According to relevant media analysis, starting from 2021, 5G chips will enter a stage of comprehensive development. With the deepening development of 5G commercialization, 5G chips have become popular in telecom base station equipment, smartphones/tablets, Internet cars, Internet equipment and broadband access gateway equipment, and the industry has entered a stage of comprehensive development.

The impact of 5G on SoCs

Over the years of development, the design of 5G chips has also undergone many changes. And these changes are precisely to deal with the new problems that arise with the arrival of 5G.

The first is bandwidth, since this is a system challenge, not just a wireless technology challenge, the bandwidth of the SoC design throughout the device is very important. High-bandwidth, standards-based IP is a critical part of 5G SoC system design.

The second is latency. Taking the need to reduce latency as an example, the current 5G specification expects a round-trip delay of less than 1ms. Future 6G plans to launch in fall 2019 are expected to have round-trip latency of 10 microseconds. While this may be orders of magnitude higher than the latency of some memory access operations in an SoC, with still such low latency, every clock cycle in an SoC design matters more.

Finally, there is power consumption. To expand the capabilities of mobile providers to serve the Internet of Things, low-power protocols are now available, such as LTE-M and NB-IoT. These protocols require new processing solutions, new wireless solutions, and low-power system design methodologies and IP capabilities, including operation near threshold voltages, voltage and frequency scaling, and intelligent clock gating.

In this regard, the Synopsys DesignWare IP portfolio provides reliable solutions for high-speed analog front ends (AFEs) with proven interface IP, security IP, and efficient processing capabilities for the most advanced 5G chipset designs .

To meet many demands, these SoCs must accommodate application processors with higher bandwidth and sophisticated communication capabilities. These application processors are used in mobile phones, AR/VR headsets, drones, cameras, tablets, all-in-one PCs, and many other consumer devices. In addition to consumer devices, the infrastructure must also be able to meet the high density requirements of these consumer devices and forward incoming data to the appropriate destination. This could be another network, a local device, a cloud data center, or a local data center, for these applications, edge computing will be the fundamental trend to support distributed computing in the future. All of these trends require upgrading SoCs to meet 5G coverage requirements.

Chip designers are integrating new and innovative IP for processors, interfaces, analog, and security. In addition, 5G’s expansion into IoT applications requires sensors, memory, and “chip-to-chip” interfaces, processing power, and low-power wireless IP solutions that provide low-latency capabilities with high reliability.

The Synopsys ARC EM9D processor provides a well-defined DSP instruction set, XY memory with advanced address generation, and optional custom extensions to the instruction set, enabling efficient implementation of NB-IoT or any other communication protocol. The complexity of 5G chip design requires additional expertise and resources for chip developers. As a result, more than ever, designers rely on the DesignWare IP portfolio of interface IP, and pooling key in-house resources enables them to focus on product differentiation and meeting the demands of 5G.

In addition to standards-based single-controller and PHY interface IP, Synopsys also offers configurable, pre-verified DesignWare interface IP subsystems. These IP subsystems provide complete, complex functionality ready to be integrated into the chip “as is” or customized by the design team.

5G in-depth application scenarios

Specific to the application field, 5G will also have different requirements for different application scenarios.

The first is the mobile processor. The goal of 5G is to provide speeds that are competitive with current wired home broadband solutions. To do this, 3GPP has updated several specifications that focus on upgrades such as higher bandwidth, more channel aggregation, and large-scale antenna arrays. To accommodate this high throughput, SoC designs must integrate multiple elements, including complex baseband processing, high-speed analog IP, and interface IP that supports the latest high-speed standards and security.

What challenges will SOC face in the 5G era and how can we overcome them?

This status quo has significantly increased the complexity of baseband, infrastructure and application processor technologies, creating a need for new innovative IP to address this complexity. Synopsys’ DesignWare┬« IP portfolio provides reliable solutions ranging from high-speed analog front ends to proven interface IP used in advanced FinFET technology and processing solutions for the most advanced 5G chipset designs.

In terms of 5G IoT, in order to expand mobile wireless technology to more devices, 3GPP has defined lower bandwidth, simplified communication protocols such as NB-IoT and LTE-M to meet the low power consumption and low cost requirements of IoT . Low-power baseband processing is critical for wireless IoT applications. Given the complexity of 5G, when using baseband modems, more and more design teams are opting to develop programmable and task-optimized cores/accelerators, as these cores/accelerators have ultra-low power consumption and High computational throughput to meet the exact requirements of the device.

Synopsys offers a comprehensive IP portfolio to meet the specific requirements of IoT SoC designs. Such designs include silicon-proven wired and wireless IP, data converters, security IP, low-power embedded memory and logic libraries, power-efficient processor cores, and integrated IP subsystems.

On the 5G automotive (V2X) side, 5G will support extremely low latency capabilities, making the feedback system latency for controls less than 1ms. This requires innovative IP solutions. Automotive SoCs are a key driver of the low latency requirements defined by 3GPP. However, automotive solutions require high quality, high reliability and safety and must be proven from the start, making IP a critical path to success.

What challenges will SOC face in the 5G era and how can we overcome them?

Synopsys’ quality and reliability standards give automotive SoC designers the confidence to develop complex SoCs at mainstream and advanced process nodes using the latest interface IP, processor IP, embedded memory and logic libraries. The ISO 9001 certified DesignWare IP Quality Management System implements the applicable provisions of the IATF 16949 standard to support other stringent automotive quality requirements.


5G is often seen as a collection of the most advanced technologies, such as increasing system bandwidth, reducing SoC latency, and significantly reducing power consumption for the Internet of Things, presenting multiple challenges for the design of next-generation SoCs.

Bringing 5G to market requires trusted standards-based IP and proven processing and analog IP at the most important process technology nodes. In this regard, Synopsys offers the most comprehensive IP portfolio for 5G implementation, making 5G chip design easier.

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