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Unlocking 5G's Potential with Lattice ORAN™ Small Cell Solution

Lattice Extends ORAN Solution Stack with Integrated 5G Small Cell Bridging Capabilities Enabling Next Gen Wireless Infrastructure
Posted 02/26/2024 by Mamta Gupta, Director of Comms and Security Segment Marketing

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5G technology is set to revolutionize the digital world with its core promises of ultra-high speeds, extremely low latency, and the capacity to connect a massive number of devices simultaneously. Today, the 5G rollout has made significant strides, with extensive networks in urban areas and growing coverage in suburban and rural settings. However, achieving global, uniform 5G coverage remains an ongoing effort, marked by regional disparities due to various challenges like sparse coverage in rural and remote areas, spectrum availability, cost and power considerations in expanding 5G coverage.

This is where small cells come into play as they enable 5G service where it’s needed most, extending and improving coverage to more localized areas. As such, 5G networks are becoming increasingly dependent on 5G small cells, and this trend will continue as more 5G small cells are deployed in a wide range of applications and infrastructure for smart factories, smart cities, smart cars, and more.

The Essential Role of Small Cells in the 5G Era

The realization of the 5G promise of high speed, low latency, and extensive connectivity heavily relies on the deployment of small cells as they can be installed in a decentralized manner providing connectivity, capacity, and cost saving, compared to the traditional network infrastructure and macro cell towers.

Small cells are essential for delivering the high-capacity, low-latency connectivity that factory automation, smart cities, and autonomous cars require. They allow for a more granular deployment of 5G infrastructure, ensuring that coverage extends into the areas most in need—whether it's within the dense walls of a factory, throughout the sprawling expanse of a city, along a busy highway, or in remote and rural areas. By providing targeted coverage and capacity, small cells enable the network to meet the specific demands of different environments and applications and extend 5G coverage and benefits to places where macro cell deployment is not cost effective or physically possible.

Moreover, small cells facilitate a more efficient use of the spectrum, by spatial and frequency reuse, allowing for the dense network deployments necessary for the massive device connectivity envisioned with IoT. They also support the network slicing capability of 5G, which allows for the creation of multiple virtual networks with different characteristics to meet the specific requirements of various applications, ensuring that each use case gets the network performance it needs.

From Macro to Femto: Exploring the Spectrum of Wireless Telecom Cells

The architecture of wireless telecommunications networks is built on a foundation of various cell types, each serving distinct coverage and capacity roles. At the broadest level, macro cells act as the pillars of cellular networks. Equipped with high-power transmitters, they cast a wide net of coverage, capable of spanning large geographic areas and forming the network's backbone.

To achieve finer network granularity and performance efficiency, small cells focus on specific areas that demand enhanced coverage or capacity. This category is made up of a range of cell types, each designed for particular environments and usage:

  • Microcells are deployed in urban outdoor areas where the user density is high, yet the expansive reach of a macro cell isn't necessary or possible. They fill the gaps between macro cells, ensuring consistent coverage in bustling cityscapes.
  • Picocells are a solution for indoor spaces, such as offices, shopping malls, and airports. They provide high-capacity coverage within confined areas, overcoming the limitations of building materials on signal penetration.
  • Femtocells cater to hyper-localized needs, offering coverage for small businesses or residential premises. Their deployment is typically user-driven, focused on enhancing connectivity in specific rooms or small buildings.

This hierarchical arrangement of cell types—from the expansive coverage of macro cells down to the targeted reach of femtocells—enables wireless networks to deliver seamless connectivity tailored to the diverse requirements of outdoor and indoor environments spanning urban to rural settings. Through strategic deployment of these varying cell types, telecom operators can address the specific connectivity needs of different areas, ensuring efficient and comprehensive network coverage.

Lattice's Innovations in the Open RAN Space

First introduced in 2022, the telecommunications-centric Lattice ORAN™ solution stack helps enable and accelerate secure, adaptable, Open Radio Access Network (ORAN or Open RAN) deployment.

Lattice ORAN is designed to help “Secure the Wire™” by providing a Zero Trust solution for disaggregated ORAN networks. Additionally, it includes a first of its kind Secure1588 Precision Time Protocol (PTP) stack, with mutual authentication, as precise timing and synchronization in 5G/O-RAN frameworks are critical in open and disaggregated networks. This solution not only achieves Class C performance according to IEEE/ITU standards, but also features embedded security to protect the signaling plane.

Continuing our commitment to innovation in the Open RAN space, Lattice today released new features and capabilities for next-generation small cell solutions in the latest version of the ORAN solution stack (version 1.2). This release features Lattice CertusPro™-NX FPGA technology with faster SERDES and logic cells to facilitate a PCIe® Gen 3 to JESD204B bridge and frame time control, ensuring smooth and low power acceleration and integration between a baseband modem and the Radio Frequency (RF) front end. Our solution is designed to be RF agnostic. The new application reference design accompanying this stack release includes a NXP baseband modem and ADI RF front end. In addition, the stack leverages the company’s Lattice Radiant® and Lattice Propel™ programming tools.

The Lattice ORAN solution stack, based on Lattice’s secure, low power FPGAs, significantly reduces the Bill of Materials (BOM) cost for telecom operators thanks to its low power and small footprint. This not only leads to direct cost savings in terms of energy usage but also simplifies installation and maintenance, particularly in challenging environments where space is at a premium. Lattice's commitment to security further enhances the value proposition, helping ensure that small cell networks are not only cost-effective and efficient, but also resilient against potential cybersecurity threats. This combination of low power, small size, and embedded security positions Lattice as a key enabler for the widespread deployment of small cells, facilitating the expansion of 5G networks while optimizing operational costs.

Unleashing the Full Potential of 5G

Small cells are becoming indispensable for unleashing the full potential of 5G, providing the necessary infrastructure to support the network's high-speed, high-capacity demands.

Through continuous innovations in its Lattice ORAN solution stack, Lattice is making the deployment of small cells more efficient and flexible, paving the way for a fully connected future that spans Industrial, Automotive, Computing, and Consumer IoT applications. As we continue to advance in the 5G journey, the evolution and integration of small cell technology will be key to achieving the widespread, reliable connectivity envisioned for the next generation of digital services.

If you’d like to learn more about how the Lattice ORAN solution stack can help you accelerate your 5G deployment, reach out to speak with the team at Lattice.