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4G base-station on a chip runs Linux

Feb 16, 2011 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 20 views

Freescale Semiconductor announced a Linux-ready system-on-chip family for femtocell and picocell 4G base stations. The QorIQ Qonverge SoCs combine a Power-PC core for the PSC9130/31 femtocell version — or dual cores for the PSC9132 picocell model — as well as one or two Freescale StarCore DSP cores, a Maple baseband accelerator, and other accelerators that create a scalable “base station-on-chip.”

QorIQ Qonverge is billed as the "first scalable family of products sharing the same architecture to address multi-standard requirements spanning from small to large cells."

By integrating communications processing, digital signal processing, and wireless acceleration technologies on a single SoC, QorIQ Qonverge avoids the cost and complexity of integrating separate FPGAs, ASICs, DSPs, and CPUs on a single device, while also reducing power consumption and footprint, says the company.

Compared to discrete silicon based products, the SoCs can provide 4x cost reduction and 3x power reduction for LTE + WCDMA macro base stations, and 4x cost and power reductions for LTE + WCDMA pico base stations, claims Freescale. QorIQ Qonverge is said to support GSM, LTE FDD & TDD, LTE-Advanced, HSPA+, TD-SCDMA, and WiMAX cellular standards.

Simplified QorIQ Qonverge architecture

QorIQ Qonverge combines one or more e500 Power Architecture (PowerPC) cores, along with one or more Freescale StarCore DSPs for signal processing, a Freescale Maple multimode baseband accelerator, plus a security accelerator and packet processing acceleration engines, says Freescale. These are all connected via an interconnect fabric, and enhanced with "next-node process technology," says the company.

According to Preet Virk, Global Networking Segment Marketing Lead at Freescale, the processors are related to the company's QorIQ processors, sharing the same e500 cores and offering other similarities. However, the QoriQ processors, which have often been deployed in base station designs along with Freescale's StarCore and Maple baseband chips, needed to be redesigned for this application, said Virk in a recent interview briefing with LinuxDevices. As a result, the Qonverge is not hardware-compatible with previous QorIQ designs, he said.

"This level of integration requires systematic thinking and engagement at the systems level," said Virk. "It took a lot of R&D to pull it together — each fundamental IP block had to be optimized."

According to Virk, QorIQ Qonverge is "the first comprehensive platform to support multiple 4G standards and different cell sizes." Virk added, "It's truly a base station on a chip."

In order to support all those standards,  Freescale is "working with partners to put logic on-chip to create a glueless interface to various types of radios," said Virk. To ensure various radio-optimized versions are developed quickly, meanwhile, Freescale established an "open ecosystem" with its partners. "All internal silicon level hooks are presented with an API to our partners at the same time as they are to our internal tools team," said Virk.

Four different QorIQ Qonverge products

The QorIQ Qonverge portfolio includes four products optimized for small cell (femto and pico) and large cell (metro and macro) applications, says Freesacle. QorIQ Qonverge is also said to support remote radio head and emerging cloud-based radio access network (C-RAN) configurations.

The first two products — the PSC9130/PSC9131 femto SoCs and the PSC9132 picocell/enterprise SoC — use 45nm process technology and should be available in the second half of 2011, says Freescale. The company plans to introduce metro and macro versions of QorIQ Converge for larger base stations later this year using 28nm technology, with shipments occurring after that.

QorIQ Qonverge PSC9130/31 block diagram

The PSC9130/31 SoCs support 8-16 user femotcell base stations using WCDMA, LTE, or CDMA2K technology. The SoCs support 3G-LTE at up to 100Mbps downloads and50Mbps uploads, HSPA+ at 42Mbps/11Mbps, and also offer CDMAx support, says Freescale.

The PSC9130/31 models each combine a single e500 core, StarCore SC3850 DSP, Maple B2P accelerator, and a security engine connected by a multicore fabric, says the company. The SoCs are said to support simultaneous multimode and 2×2 MiMO, and offer a single 64-bit DDR3 memory channel, security and trust architecture, multiple timing sources, and an antenna interface.

Touted Maple baseband features include Turbo/Viterbi decoding, Turbo encoding with rate match, Fourier transform acceleration, and chip-rate acceleration. Peripheral support includes Ethernet and USB 2.0 support, as shown in the diagram above. The difference between the 30 and 31 models, however, is not clear.

QorIQ Qonverge PSC9132 block diagram

The Picocell-oriented PSC9132, meanwhile, supports 32-64 users on WCDMA or LTE picocell or enterprise base stations. The PSC9132 supports 3G-LTE at 150Mbps/75Mbps, dual-carrier HSPA+ at 42Mbps/11Mbps, and WiMAX 802.16e at 50Mbps/13Mbps, claims Freescale.

The PSC9132 doubles up with dual e500 and StarCore SC3850 cores, and the Maple accelerator also adds MiMo equalization in addition to the features listed above for the PSC9130/31, says the company.

Other touted features are similar, with the exception that the SoC moves up to 2×4 MiMO support, offers dual DDR3 channels instead of one, and supplies both local and remote antenna interfaces. Additional interfaces are also supplied, including PCIe expansion.

Mentor Graphics to offer Linux support

Both the PSC9130/31 and PSC9132 will ship with L1 and reference, as well as L2 through L4 software, says Freescale. A development platform based on the QorIQ P2020-MSC8156 AMC is available, bundled with partner software and RF solutions, says the company.

Mentor Graphics will be handling the Linux BSP, said Virk. The company last April signed a partnership deal with Freescale involving Linux support for QorIQ processors with a version of its Development System for Linux toolsuite. In December, Mentor Graphics acquired all the substantial assets of CodeSourcery, including its Sourcery G++ GNU toolchain.

Meanwhile, Green Hills and others will support various other real-time operating systems (RTOSes). Freescale also provides a portfolio of GaAs MMICs and LDMOS RF solutions that can be integrated into QorIQ Qonverge pico and femto cell base-station designs, says the company.

Customers can also combine their own differentiated IP with off-the-shelf components from Freescale and ecosystem partners. Integrated tools include Freescale's CodeWarrior and VortiQa software.

In addition to the following Mentor Graphics quote, testimonials supporting QorIQ Qonverge were posted by Freescale from customers Alcatel-Lucent and Airvana, analyst Will Strauss of Forward Concepts, as well as software ecosystem partners Continuous Computing, Critical Blue, Enea, Green Hills, L&T Infotech, Signalion, and Tata-Elxsi.

Stated Glenn Perry, general manager of the Mentor Graphics Embedded Software Division, "The integration of StarCore DSP technology with Power Architecture cores in the new Freescale QorIQ Qonverge portfolio is a major advancement for the wireless industry. The Mentor Embedded Linux platform for Freescale devices combined with CodeSourcery software development tools will enable our mutual customers to develop advanced, innovative and scalable systems with increased performance and power efficiency.""


The QorIQ Qonverge PSC9130/PSC9131 (femto) and PSC9132 (picocell/enterprise) SoCs should be available in the second half of 2011, says Freescale. The metro and macro versions of QorIQ Qonverge for larger base stations will be announced later this year using 28nm technology, with shipments occurring sometime after that. More information may be found on Freescale's QorIQ Qonverge page.

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