Mobile World Congress Barcelona 2023 was well attended with an expected 80,000 visitors and think they easily hit that number. It looks like this year trade shows will make a comeback to near pre-COVID levels of attendance. The main topics of emphasis were the potential of 5G Private Networks, 5G Non-Terrestrial Networks (NTN), Green/Energy Efficient Devices/Networks and 5G Reduced Capacity (RedCap) devices for IoT applications. Several of these features were part of the recent release 17 of 5G so has enabled these new technologies to be realized in networks. There were also many companies featuring future 6G technology as research has blossomed in this area.

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ADI metaverseThe Metaverse was also a hot topic but most agreed the first use cases will probably be industrial training and other instructional applications other than gaming. There were many displays demoing AR/VR applications but the best one I saw (and did) was the Analog Devices anatomy VR setup where you could reach into the body and examine various organs up close by grabbling them and pulling them out to see a 3D visualization.

Rohde & Schwarz and Keysight technologies both had great demos for green energy, 5G RedCap and 5G NTN. They also were showing 6G evaluation platforms including how machine learning can be used to implement neural networks that dynamically optimize the network to reduce energy consumption. Keysight showed how digital twins can be used to prototype and test 6G networks while R&S showed extended reality being used to overlay measured data and a live view inside of the anechoic chamber at the same time. Murata announced they are partnering with Skylo to implement 5G NTN in their mobile devices so that their RF front ends are compatible and can access the network anywhere in the world via satellite.

On the high frequency side, the highest frequency setups I saw were Fraunhofer was showing a 300 GHz, 100 Gbps link and Fujitsu showing a 250 to 300 GHz setup using their own InP devices with an output power of 7 mW. Two interesting areas that several companies are pursuing are transparent antennas and reconfigurable intelligent surfaces (RIS). CHASM is producing carbon nanotube antennas on a fine wire mess that are 80-90 percent transparent and Sumitomo (in the SK Telecom booth) was showing transparent antennas in glass for windows. Geenerwave has developed metamaterial structures for RIS so was showing how they can re-direct a 5G signal at any angle with only about 1 dB loss. Sumitomo/SK Telecom and KT Telecom were showing their RIS experimental results. Another interesting area are 5G repeaters such as Pivotal Commware who is already deploying their holographic beamforming repeaters for 5G mmWave networks.

RISOn the device side, Analog Devices was featuring reference designs for massive MIMO and had the best virtual reality demo where you could reach into a body and pick out the various organs to see a 3D view of them up close. Infineon was featuring their high efficiency GaN on Si for RF power amplifiers plus their GaN and SiC DC to DC converters that can improve end-to-end energy efficiency by about 10% over the current device lineups used for computing applications. There were several mmWave companies featuring both unlicensed 60 GHz arrays and licensed 24-28 GHz 5G arrays. Perso, Murata, Analog Devices, Infineon, Qualcomm, Pitoval Commware, Sivers, Kreemo and Fujitsu are some that I visited.

I thought GaN on Si was a dead technology but found that was not the case in Barcelona. Many companies are still pursing RF GaN on Si like Infineon, Macom/Ommic, Finwave, Tagore, Sony and others. I was surprised to hear of at least two companies pursing GaN on Si for handsets. Sony is rumored to be working on it and Finwave has it in their roadmap. Soitec confirmed they are suppling materials to unknown partners. The trick is getting the voltage down to like 3V for a mobile device since current GaN amplifiers to typically 28 or 50 V.

The Chinese companies made a big statement by taking massive amounts of exhibition space. China Mobile, Huawei and ZTE to name a few had large spaces and displays. Huawei was the largest exhibitor taking about two thirds of Hall 1 plus a large outdoor space with various exhibit modules.

I visited many companies in the exhibition halls, here is a quick summary:

5G Americas announced the release of “The Evolution of Open RAN”, which provides an update to a 5G Americas’ 2020 report on Open RAN standards. The new white paper focuses on market updates and the latest developments including artificial intelligence and machine learning tools. 

AMD announced it will be expanding support of its growing 5G partner ecosystem spanning from core to RAN applications, delivering additional new test capabilities and unveiling new 5G products. The AMD wireless telecom partner ecosystem has more than doubled in the past year, bolstered by the integration of the AMD and Xilinx product lines as well as the creation of its new Telco Solutions testing lab in collaboration with VIAVI. AMD showcased the latest 4th Gen AMD EPYC processor-powered systems in conjunction with technology partners including: Amdocs, Groundhog, Juniper and Nokia. 5G ecosystem partners showcasing radio solutions with AMD include: Abside, Astrome, AW2S, CellXica, Comba, Fujitsu, Mavenir, NEC, Solid, Tejas, Ulak, Viettel, VVDN and Zlink.

Renesas Electronics Corporation showcased a full RF front end solution for 5G Active Antenna Systems (AAS) radios in collaboration with AMD in their booth. Paired with the field-proven AMD Zynq® UltraScale+™ RFSoC Digital Front End OpenRAN Radio (O-RU) Reference Design, the RF front end includes RF switches, low-noise amplifiers and pre-drivers. It offers a complete solution to meet the demand of the growing mobile network infrastructure market.

Analog Devices showed a 32Tx/32Rx massive MIMO radio reference design based on their latest ADI RadioVerse® ADRV904x SoC with fully integrated digital front end and Marvell’s Octeon 10 Fusion baseband processor—the industry’s first 5 nm baseband processor. This design solution provides 40% power savings compared to competing solutions, enabling lighter, smaller radios, and much faster time to market. 

Since the RAN consumes 70% to 80% of total network energy, energy savings modes are critical to reducing the carbon footprint across 5G networks and lowering OPEX spending. ADI RadioVerse solutions provide the path forward to meeting the upcoming 3GPP Rel. 18 network energy saving (NES) modes for 5G RAN. ADI showed how energy savings are realized in an interactive model of micro-sleep and hibernation modes across multiple O-RU configurations. 

ADI also showed how to upgrade your macro and small cell indoor 5G deployment across the entire 24 GHz to 47 GHz space. This impressive, multi-option, board lineup highlights ADI’s latest O-RAN 7.2 split compliant mmWave reference platform, with a proven 25% efficiency improvement, based entirely on ADI silicon solutions.

See more ADI demos here.

Anritsu was collaborating with many companies for demos in their booth. Greenerwave (see below) was demonstrating their RIS using Anritsu measurement equipment. One interesting partner demo was Anritsu solution for Automated Valet Parking with dSpace. This solution features Anritsu MT8000A Radio Communication Test Station and dSPACE VEOS (a PC-based simulation platform), with dSPACE AURELION sensor-realistic simulation provides 5G Digital Twin testing environment for Automotive V2X Use Cases.  This is a demonstration of Automated Valet Parking (AVP) Type 2, which is one of the actively discussed use cases of V2X. By using communication technology such as 5G, the parking request will be received by the AVP service. The vehicle will then be dropped off by the driver and automatically driven by the AVP system to its intended parking spot. Upon request of the owner, the vehicle is automatically retrieved.

Arctic Semiconductor formerly known as SiTune Corporation announced that its RF transceiver, IceWings, is powering a new universal 5G small cell infrastructure platform from Compal Electronics, one of the largest ODMs. The world’s first open ecosystem small cell platform leverages IceWings’ design integrated with NXP® Semiconductor’s Layerscape® Access LA12xxx programmable baseband processor to achieve the highest performance at the lowest power consumption and beats 3GPP standard requirements, all at a competitive cost. The new infrastructure platform can operate at any 5G FR1 frequency bands from 600 MHz to 7.2 GHz. A 4x4 MIMO solution, it is fully integrated with best-in-class components and supports throughputs beyond Gbps speeds.

Chasm AntennasCHASM Advanced Materials announced the commercial launch of AgeNT® solutions for transparent antennas in a wide range of connectivity applications based on different protocols including Cellular, WI-FI/Bluetooth/ZigBee, Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS), Near Field Communications (NFC), Low-Power Wide-Area Network (LPWAN), Satellite, and Combo/Hub antennas. CHASM showcased its solutions for transparent antennas at the event and even gave me a sample. The new AgeNT solutions for transparent antennas are based on CHASM’s nanocarbon/copper hybrid technology, the a versatile, transparent, high- performance, and low cost offering for antennas in automotive, IoT&M2M, public safety, point-of-purchase, and other market segments. CHASM offers its AgeNT flexible conductive film with performance equivalent to the leading low-loss, ceramic-based PCB laminates and its robust circuit fabrication technology. The company accelerates clients' “Design-for-Manufacturability” process by providing material characteristic data for performance simulation and reference designs of wideband Wi-Fi Coplanar antenna for 2.4 and 5.8 GHz; Narrow Band Patch Antenna for band n78, and Microstrip antenna.

EdgeQ had four major releases. EdgeQ, Vodafone and Dell introduced mMIMO 5G networks that leverage in line acceleration technologies to deliver high user capacity, high network bandwidth at relatively low-power for the new O-RAN based deployments. WNC and EdgeQ introduced the first all-in-one, multi-mode 4G/5G small cell. The two companies enable a new paradigm for telco operators and enterprise customers looking for a singular design that converges 4G and 5G networks, spans indoor and outdoor environments, scales across multiple antennas and offers field-upgradeable software within a compact unit for frictionless deployment. Actiontec and EdgeQ Announced Flexible, and Scalable Small Cell Architecture Platform for 4G and 5G SA/NSA – Together with Actiontec, EdgeQ combines silicon ingenuity with modular design to help navigate through all the multiplicities and complexities of 4G and 5G in an elegant manner. And finally, MaxLinear partnered with EdgeQ on Converged 4G and 5G Small Cell Platform – Future-proofed to address evolving 5G requirements of enterprise, cloud and telco, both EdgeQ’s and MaxLinear’s products deliver high integration value with leading edge low-power.

Ericsson introduced new indoor solutions allow for CSPs, enterprises, and other hosts to better deploy and scale 5G networks across any building. With 80% of mobile data stemming from indoor use, developing hardware and software conducive to indoor use is vital. The new solutions include: IRU 8850 (Indoor Radio Unit), Ericsson Indoor Fusion Unit, and Ericsson 5G Precise Positioning. T-Mobile US has already shared plans to harness these new solutions to quickly scale and deliver 5G networks to customers.

Ericsson also announced today 10+ new radios and software solutions, including a full range of remote radios for 4G and 5G capacity, a new range of wideband Massive MIMO radios, mobile transport offerings, and more – all of which work to boost network capacity in conjunction with a reduction of energy usage by up to 94% during low traffic compared to peak consumption.

Finwave has a revolutionary 3DGaN architecture that is designed to dramatically enhance 5G devices with up to 10X higher power and higher linearity plus 80% less cost. Their patented approach for linearizing both PAs and LNAs at the device level allows more than 10 dB higher linearity than the conventional technologies. Finwave’s 3DGaN FinFET technology is built on 8” GaN on Si wafers using standard silicon foundry tools. 12” is on the horizon for even more aggressive device scaling. They are even looking at GaN PAs in the handset and 6G for the future. Jim Cable is now Executive Chairman and charging ahead with this technology into the market so will follow them closely.

Fraunhofer was demonstrating a terahertz communication system with greater than 100 Gbps capacity for backhaul/fronthaul, fixed wireless access and indoor short range in future 6G networks. The prototype used full-duplex operation, 300 GHz carrier, 20 GHz bandwidth and 32 GBd dual-polarized QPSK modulation to achieve 100 Gbps capacity at up to 1 km distance using a high gain reflector antenna.

Greenerwave showcased its beamforming antenna solutions addressing conventional 5G network infrastructure as well as new 5G NTN utilization cases. Greenerwave designs metasurfaces comprised of elements that shape electromagnetic waves. These metasurfaces consist in a group of centimetre-sized elements called pixels that operate as a collection of micromirrors. Each pixel can modify the sign of the reflected wave. Interactions between pixels and microwaves are managed by algorithms from the world of physics that direct waves after they are reflected on the surface. Passive and low cost, this technology aims to improve the use of electromagnetic waves to lower energy consumption and infrastructure costs. Their demo showed only about 1 dB loss in re-directing signals. See their video demo here.

Infineon’s focus was on 5G mMIMO applications (32T or 64T) in the mid-range frequency ranges. They have a complete portfolio of RF Front end components plus power supply components and NOR Flash. In the RF area, the are concentrating on PA module with integrated Doherty amplifiers using GaN on Si devices. Infineon believes that GaN on Si has the best cost/performance characteristics.

Infineon was also featuring their DC to DC converter technologies that offer better conversion efficiency. Using their latest SiC and GaN technology, conversion efficiency can be improved by about 10% using the latest Infineon devices versus traditional technology in a typical computing system. This would result in a huge energy cost savings.

Intel was featuring their 4th Gen Xeon Scalable processors provide outstanding energy efficient performance across networking use cases, including vRAN deployments. The platform delivers up to twice the capacity at the same power envelope for vRAN workloads versus the prior generation.1 It is optimized for high throughput and low latency, with built-in acceleration for packet and signal processing, load balancing and AI. It also provides higher memory bandwidth compared to the previous generation, with I/O capacity to meet the highest capacity requirements for next generation vRAN deployments. Building on that foundation, 4th Gen Intel Xeon Scalable processors with Intel vRAN Boost integrate vRAN acceleration directly into the CPU. By eliminating the need for external accelerator cards, this integration helps reduce the complexity and bill-of-materials cost of vRAN deployments for CoSPs. It is also power-efficient, providing approximately 20% additional compute power savings, beyond the 4th Gen Intel Xeon Scalable processors’ generational gains alone.

Keysight Technologies announced it signed a three-party agreement with NTT DOCOMO, Inc., and NTT to advance the development of key technologies expected to drive the innovation necessary for 6G.  Under the agreement, Keysight, NTT DOCOMO, and NTT will combine their expertise and solutions to enable the industry to overcome technical challenges associated with the introduction of 6G use cases and applications. The first technical collaboration will focus on new spectrum technologies for sub-THz frequencies. The companies have agreed on a multi-year project that will focus on RF channel measurement and modelling for frequencies ranging from 92 GHz to 300 GHz.

Keysight Technologies also announced it has signed a MoU with Analog Devices to advance 6G technology design and development. Under the MoU, the companies will collaborate to develop innovative solutions in technology areas critical to multiple facets of wireless network performance including energy efficiency as well as resilient and secure wireless connectivity. Keysight and ADI demonstrated open RAN and mMIMO antenna design prototypes and measurement platforms addressing several challenging industry goals, including optimizing the design of O-RAN radio units (RU) to reduce overall network energy consumption and enhance the performance of O-RUs to support higher data rate throughput levels.

Keysight and Samsung Electronics' System LSI Business teamed up to demonstrate 5G NR NTN enabling satellite-to-smartphone data connections. The demonstration was conducted by emulating a constellation of satellites in LEO through the Keysight PROPSIM Channel Emulator and establishing a 5G connection between the Keysight E7515B UXM 5G Wireless Test Platform and Samsung's Exynos Modem platform. Despite being in lower altitude orbits, LEO satellites move at very high speeds creating high Doppler fluctuations and signal degradations that require compensation to achieve reliable connections and provide end-to-end quality of service.

See more Keysight demos here.