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USB dongles transform PCs into LTE base stations

Posted: 11 Feb 2016     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:USB  Lime Microsystems  LTE  base station  FPRF 

Lime Microsystems has developed a field programmable RF (FPRF) chip that covers all the global LTE cellular bands. In addition to supporting a fully–programmable operating frequency, the bandwidth and gain are also tunable on the fly, thus offering a very flexible RF solution. The FPRFs support multiple–input multiple–output (MIMO) and all the variations of code division multiple access (CDMA), giving them the ability to support high-data-rate traffic.

The dongle includes an Altera Cyclone IV device that performs the baseband processing to encode and decode the data patterns that are transmitted over the air interface. Finally, the "heavy lifting" of processing the LTE stack and interfacing to the backhaul is handled by the PC, which provides a solution that is both cost-effective and easy to use.

USB dongle used for LTE base station

USB dongle used for LTE base station (Source: Lime Microsystems)

The resulting LTE base station is ideal as a small cell for enterprise applications or to offload traffic in high usage areas.

The low cost is enhanced by an operator's ability to customise the open source code to work seamlessly in a software defined network (SDN). This freedom and flexibility avoids issues such as "vendor lock–in" for the operator, where proprietary software is sourced by the equipment supplier.

Looking to the future, Lime has created a fully programmable up/down RF frequency shifter as a companion chip for the FPRF. This combination provides a simple solution for channel aggregation, which is a technique that uses two cellular channels to increase the throughput experienced by the user. The engineering work to design the dongle started well before Altera became an Intel company. That said, it would hardly be surprising to see a further integration of the design onto an optimised PC, although this remains pure speculation by the author.

- Paul Dillien
  High Tech Marketing

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