CEVA Serves Up ASIC IP Platform for 5G O-RAN Designs

September 26, 2022 by Jake Hertz

Aiming to ease the challenges of 5G Open RAN (O-RAN) system designs, CEVA has unveiled a baseband IP platform for 5G RAN ASICs.

With the recent rollout of 5G, the telecommunications industry has undergone a significant change and, with it, a new set of challenges. Out of these challenges have come new ways to think about our cellular infrastructure as well as new movements such as Open RAN (O-RAN) which are democratizing RAN through improved interoperability.

Despite these changes, many platforms in the industry still lack the ability to scale effectively and/or support new O-RAN use cases. To address this problem, CEVA announced the release of a new baseband platform IP for 5G RAN ASICs last week

AllAboutCircuits had the opportunity to speak with Moshe Sheier, VP of Marketing at CEVA, and Nir Shapira, Director for Strategic Technologies at CEVA, to hear about the product release firsthand.


5G RAN Trends: Massive MIMO

With the continuing rollout of 5G, the industry is seeing a number of noteworthy trends that are impacting RAN design and deployment. One of the most notable trends here is the introduction of massive MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output) technologies to improve data throughput in 5G deployments.

5G’s introduction of massive MIMO brings significant computing challenges.

5G’s introduction of massive MIMO brings significant computing challenges. Image used courtesy of National Instruments


Unlike traditional MIMO, massive MIMO moves beyond legacy solutions by relying on a massive number of antennas, typically 32, 64, or 128, for the base station. Supporting this number of antennas requires significant computing requirements, as tasks like beamforming computation and management are increasingly crucial. 

As Shapira explains, “Today the radio unit is becoming a massive compute machine, handling a large number of antennas, typically 64. So there are a lot of compute requirements now within the radio unit to handle all these vast numbers of antenna elements and performing calculations. Today, many available solutions are just not efficient enough to scale up to massive MIMO.”

The result, Shapira tells us, is that the barrier to entry for new market entrants can be very high and ultimately intimidating. As CEVA sees it, there is a design gap within the semiconductor industry for 5G baseband processing, where a lack of expertise coupled with the high complexity requirements of 5G is turning potential entrants away from the market.


ASIC-based PentaG-RAN 5G Platform

In an effort to bridge this glaring gap in the industry, CEVA released its PentaG-RAN platform last week. PentaG-RAN is described as the industry's first 5G baseband platform IP for O-RAN ASICs. Specifically, the platform aims to target the complete range of ASICs that one might find in base stations and radios, especially in applications such as massive MIMO.

To do this, PentaG-RAN employs a scalable heterogeneous architecture that consists of a number of DSP cores as well as dedicated hardware accelerators for tasks such as beamforming and FFT/DFT. This ASIC-based approach, claims CEVA, is more scalable than other Open RAN solutions based on FPGAs.


Block diagram of the PentaG-RAN Radio platform in two configurations.

Block diagram of the PentaG-RAN Radio platform in two configurations. Image used courtesy of CEVA (Click image to enlarge)


As Sheier tells us, “PentaG-RAN is essentially a heterogeneous compute platform that provides customers with complete licensable IP that they can integrate into their ASICs. And this platform has an optimal hardware-software partitioning that integrates power through the speed and dedicated and tuned hardware accelerator that we have developed.”

Overall, PentaG-RAN is meant to support both the base station, supporting Macro DU/vDU and Small Cell acceleration, as well as the radio unit, supporting Open RAN low-PHY as well as massive MIMO and beamforming. Describing their goals, Shapira tells us “Where we come in is to reduce the risk for customers in terms of the design gap and the expertise that is required to really architect these platforms.”

Ultimately, the goal is to provide smaller-scale market players and new entrants into the market with the IP necessary to easily design 5G radio solutions in a way that is both cost-effective and offers a fast time to market.

5G Expertise Hurdle to Overcome

As 5G rolls out, the technical challenges emerging in the industry are becoming more and more prominent. The expertise required to solve these problems is becoming a hindrance to new entrants in the market and is ultimately limiting innovation and development from small-scale organizations.

With PentaG-RAN, CEVA is aiming to address these problems and breathe life back into the 5G O-RAN industry, allowing organizations of all sizes to develop 5G solutions.