Lekha Wireless Accelerates Development and Interoperability Testing of 5G NR Technology
Accelerate the development of 5G NR physical layer IP and reference solutions
Use MATLAB and 5G Toolbox to design, analyze, and verify the functionality and performance of complete 5G NR gNB signal chains
- Development time halved
- UE test framework setup time reduced from 8 months to less than a month
- RF testing times cut by 80%
With data rates 10 times faster than those supported by LTE technology, 5G New Radio (NR) technology will enable faster, lower-latency communications in next-generation mobile broadband networks and applications. To ensure interoperability between 5G NR products, OEMs racing to bring products to market must ensure that their implementations—including licensed IP—comply with the 3GPP specification.
As a leading provider of 5G NR physical layer (PHY) reference solutions and IP, Lekha Wireless Solutions uses MATLAB® and 5G Toolbox™ to design, analyze, and perform early testing of complete 3GPP 5G NR gNB signal chains.
“We can use RF test and measurement equipment to assess the final implementation of our 5G NR PHY, but well before that, we validate our designs with MATLAB and 5G Toolbox,” says Gurucharan Acharya, senior manager at Lekha. “Early in development, MATLAB enables us to verify each module both independently and as an end-to-end uplink or downlink chain.”
Lekha wanted to begin testing earlier in the development life cycle and to test individual elements as well as the complete signal chain. When the group postponed verification until their IP was fully implemented in hardware, any defects that were identified often required costly rework to fix. It was difficult to locate the root cause of these defects because the team had no way to run tests on specific blocks in the chain.
Lekha established a new workflow for the development and verification of 3GPP 5G NR physical layer signal chains. In this workflow, Lekha engineers build a complete 5G NR gNB test bench in MATLAB using the customizable and editable algorithms provided in 5G Toolbox as a golden reference.
The PHY downlink chain includes modules for channel encoding, rate matching, scrambling, layer mapping, MIMO precoding, and subcarrier mapping. The uplink chain includes modules for channel estimation and equalization, deinterleaving, demodulation, descrambling, and channel decoding.
Engineers run unit-level tests of each module in the chains to verify functionality and performance against the 3GPP specification. After integrating the modules into complete chains, they run end-to-end tests, again verifying functionality and performance in the presence of channel impairments. They visualize the test results in MATLAB constellation plots and in plots of metrics such as throughput, bit error rate, block error rate, and error vector magnitude (EVM).
Using MATLAB Compiler™, the team created a web application that engineers can use to initiate tests based on the signal chains they developed. Through the application interface, engineers configure options for numerology, number of antennas, control channel settings, frame settings, and channel noise. The application generates an IQ file, feeds the file into the downlink chain created with 5G Toolbox, and displays the constellation plots and other visualizations that the team uses to assess performance.
Lekha is using this MATLAB based workflow for the design and verification of 5G NR gNB PHY IP and reference solutions that it licenses to companies building products based on 5G NR technologies.
- Development time halved. “MATLAB and 5G Toolbox enabled us to reduce development time by 50%,” says Acharya “Without these tools, we would have had to develop an equivalent testbench simulator; generate unit, integration, and system test vectors; and develop 5G NR physical layer functions from scratch, all of which would take substantial time and engineering effort.”
- UE test framework setup time reduced from 8 months to less than a month. “With MATLAB and 5G Toolbox, we established a complete test framework for user equipment (UE) in less than one month,” says Acharya. “Without these tools, it would have taken 6–8 months. As a result, we shortened time-to-market for new IP and tested new capabilities on a tight deadline before demonstrating them at Mobile World Congress.”
- RF testing times cut by 80%. “Because we fully validate our signal chain in MATLAB, final verification on RF test equipment is an easy walkthrough of the test scenarios,” says Acharya. “In our previous workflow, RF testing took a week or more because we needed to track down the source of errors, but now we’re done the same day.”