Xilinx Helps Samsung Push 5G Commercial With Its Network-on-a-Chip

April 17, 2020 by Cabe Atwell

What do these two powerhouses plan to do with Xilinx's adaptive compute acceleration platform?

Xilinx has recently announced its partnership with Samsung to incorporate the Versal ACAP (Adaptive Compute Acceleration Platform) platform into Samsung’s 5G commercial networks, which Xilinx states will provide a universal, flexible, and scalable system that can address multiple operator requirements across multiple geographies.

The Versal ACAP, which we've previously discussed in an article on greater FPGA accessibility, is noted for an architecture that offers an NoC (Network on a Chip). This NoC can be easily be programmed by developers and engineers, and according to Xilinx, provides real-time signal processing and performs beamforming techniques that will increase network capacity.


Beamforming and 5G

Beamforming is a signal processing technique that’s used in sensor/antenna arrays for directional signal transmission or reception, which can be used at both the transmitting and receiving ends to achieve spatial selectivity. This brings an improved data throughput over omnidirectional reception/transmission networks since it can limit the types of traffic that can get through.


Three programmable engines

Xilinx says Versal ACAP combines the virtues of three programmable engines. Image used courtesy of Xilinx


Thus, it gains more speed and capacity to preferred signal types, in this case, 5G. An adaptive chip like the Versal ACAP will work well for those networks.


How Versal ACAP Affects 5G Networks

Xilinx says are several types of 5G networks with a varied range of speeds that can benefit from the Versal ACAP: 

  • A low-band network (600 MHz to 700 MHz) that can cover hundreds of square miles with service that ranges from 30- to 250-megabits per second 
  • A mid-band 5G network (2.5 GHz to 3.5 GHz), which can cover an area of several miles and range from 100- to 900-megabits per second
  • A high-band network (millimeter wave to 24/39 GHz) that can cover up to one mile and provide 1- to 3-gigabits per second.



Samsung says the 5G spectrum  "eclipses" the fragmented spectrum of LTE. Image used courtesy of Samsung

Xilinx says the Versal ACAP adaptive chips can benefit them all.


More on the Versal ACAP

The Versal ACAP series of chips all feature the base APUs, RPUs, memory, and connectivity options, but vary in the number of AI/DSP engines, system logic cells, LUTs, and NoC Master/Slave ports. 


Versal ACAP chip

Versal ACAP chip. Image used courtesy of Xilinx

Xilinx’s Versal ACAP family of chips (Premium, Prime, and AI Core) all feature the same base hardware but differ in the amount of AI and DSP engines, system logic cells, LUTs, and the number of NoC master/slave ports. The universal hardware includes:

  • A dual-core Arm Cortex-A72 APU (48KB/32KB L1 cache w/ parity & ECC, 1MB L2 Cache w/ ECC)
  • A dual-core Arm Cortex-R5F RPU (32KB/32KB L1 cache, and 256KB TCM w/ECC)
  • 256 KB on-chip memory with ECCT

They also have a myriad of connection options, including 2X Ethernet, 2X UART, 2X CAN FD, 1X USB 2.0, 2X SPI, and 2X I2C.



The Premium series features up to 14,352 DSPs, up to 7,352 system logic cells, up to 3,360,896 LUTs, and the same network options as the Prime series.



The Prime series offers up to 14,352 DSP engines, up to 7,352 system logic cells, and up to 3,360,896 LUTs. Network options include GTYP 32G, GTM 58G (112G), CCIX & PCIe w/DMA (CPM), PCI Express with CXL, 100G Multirate Ethernet MAC, 600G Ethernet MAC, 600G Interlaken, and a 400G High-speed Crypto Engine. 


Functional diagram of the Versal ACAP.

Functional diagram of the Versal ACAP. Image used courtesy of Xilinx

AI Core

The AI Core series incorporates up to 400 AI engines, up to 1,968 DSP engines, up to 1,968 system logic cells, and up to 899,840 LUTs. They also pack up to 28 NoC Master / NoC Slave ports, up to 4 DDR memory controllers, CCIX & PCIe w/ DMA (CPM), PCIe, multi-rate Ethernet MAC, and up to 44 (32.75Gbps) transceivers.


"Trailblazer of 5G Innovation"

In the press release, executive vice president (Wired/Wireless Group, Xilinx) Liam Madden states, “Samsung is a trailblazer when it comes to 5G innovation, and we are excited to play an essential role in its 5G commercial deployments. Versal ACAPs will provide Samsung with the superior signal processing performance and adaptability needed to deliver an exceptional 5G experience to its customers now and into the future.”

The first Versal ACAP chips have already been shipping to early-access companies and are expected to be generally available by the last quarter of this year (2020).