SERENA (5) H2020 Project: Signal Processing

SERENA (5) H2020 Project: Signal Processing

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Intro: This is a Technikon podcast. Peter Balint (host): 5G... it's become a buzzword, a marketing term, maybe even Peter Balint (host): a sales gimmick. But behind all the glitz and glamour

Peter Balint (host): of the promised tremendous data speeds and ultra low latency Peter Balint (host): are the people making it happen. And here in Europe, Peter Balint (host): it's H2020 funded projects that are enabling this research. I'm Peter Balint (host): Peter Balint from Technikon, and today we look at one Peter Balint (host): such project called SERENA. SERENA Partners are exploring the use Peter Balint (host): of high frequencies for data delivery... and the higher the frequency, Peter Balint (host): the shorter the radio waves are able to travel, so Peter Balint (host): they must travel smarter. And this is where beam forming Peter Balint (host): and new types of antennas are coming in. Using gallium

Peter Balint (host): nitride and silicone as a means to develop high-performance millimeter Peter Balint (host): wave active antenna systems at a commercially viable price point Peter Balint (host): while remaining energy efficient is at the heart of SERENA. Peter Balint (host): Today we talk with SERENA Partners, Giuseppe Caire and Thomas Kuehne from the Technische Universität Berlin. Peter Balint (host): Let's have a listen. Welcome, gentlemen, and thanks for coming Peter Balint (host): on today. Thomas Kuehne: Yes, thanks for the invitation.

Giuseppe Caire: Yeah, thank you. Peter Balint (host): In the intro, we heard a bit about the big Peter Balint (host): picture in SERENA, but what is your particular role in Peter Balint (host): the project? And we'll start with you, Giuseppe. Giuseppe Caire: Yeah. So basically, SERENA is a large project with many partners.

Giuseppe Caire: We cover the signal processing part, and the signal processing Giuseppe Caire: part consists of basically what comes after the antennas and Giuseppe Caire: the A-to-D converters, and take the signals and basically make sense Giuseppe Caire: out of them. Peter Balint (host): And to clarify for our listeners. When you say A-to-D converter, Peter Balint (host): that means simply analog to digital. Thomas, can you add

Peter Balint (host): anything here? Thomas Kuehne: Yeah. So the the part of signal processing is not Thomas Kuehne: only the strict designing the signal processing, but because of Thomas Kuehne: we are so many partners and also from different fields Thomas Kuehne: of expertise, it's also our task to basically help designing Thomas Kuehne: the overall system and say what requirements the signal processing Thomas Kuehne: has on the other components. And also what is the Thomas Kuehne: limitation of the signal processing so that the others know Thomas Kuehne: what they can expect. So it's also on the cooperation Thomas Kuehne: collaboration side that basically we discuss it together in the project, Thomas Kuehne: and it's our task to basically present the signal processing Thomas Kuehne: and the communication system. Peter Balint (host): So your team is basically managing expectations when it comes Peter Balint (host): to signal processing, and this is important because nothing happens Peter Balint (host): without the signal getting through regardless of hardware or anything else. Giuseppe Caire: Yeah, actually, the signal processing involves going from the digital Giuseppe Caire: domain to the analog domain, and therefore the transmission side Giuseppe Caire: is generating waveforms that will be then amplified filtered and Giuseppe Caire: sent through the antennas. And on the other side, on

Giuseppe Caire: the receiver side is collecting the signals from the antennas, Giuseppe Caire: filters and eventually A-to-D converters. And then somehow transferring them Giuseppe Caire: into a digital machine that does the numerical processing of Giuseppe Caire: the signals and therefore analyzes, you know, decodes the signals if Giuseppe Caire: this is a digital communication. But anyway, does the measurement Giuseppe Caire: the representation of the signals that comes from the hardware, so without Giuseppe Caire: that the hardware is... difficult to understand what the hardware

Giuseppe Caire: does if you don't see the signals that you eventually Giuseppe Caire: you can actually process them and make sense of them? Thomas Kuehne: So maybe in general, for more a customer viewpoint, what Thomas Kuehne: the signal processing does is it converts the bits from Thomas Kuehne: a video, for example, and converts them to this analog signal, Thomas Kuehne: which is then used by the hardware to to be transmitted. Thomas Kuehne: And this conversion process consists in general of many, many steps, Thomas Kuehne: and some are related to communication systems and we are Thomas Kuehne: basically covering these communication steps. And the better we do that, Thomas Kuehne: the better the communication is. So the more reliable and Thomas Kuehne: the higher the data rate is. Peter Balint (host): Yeah, reliability and speed from the consumer side, these are Peter Balint (host): the top issues, and working at higher frequencies gives us Peter Balint (host): increased bandwidth, thus faster communication speeds. But tell us Giuseppe Peter Balint (host): about the challenges or downsides of working with these higher frequencies.

Giuseppe Caire: Yeah. So it is very challenging because there is something Giuseppe Caire: called the propagation loss that depends on the wavelength. So Giuseppe Caire: the smaller, the wavelength and therefore the higher the frequencies, Giuseppe Caire: smaller the wavelength, the larger is this propagation loss, and Giuseppe Caire: this propagation loss has to be compensated through antenna gain. Giuseppe Caire: So antenna gains means that one has to design, in Giuseppe Caire: this case... in the case of SERENA, smart antenna arrays Giuseppe Caire: that create something called beamforming gain. So the antennas become Giuseppe Caire: very directive. And in order to achieve these directivity, basically

Giuseppe Caire: what there is the all the digital and analog processing that, Giuseppe Caire: that that creates that. So it's not only a problem Giuseppe Caire: of amplifying the signal, but is also creating these special Giuseppe Caire: antenna radiation patterns that can be steered towards the target. Giuseppe Caire: And of course, these presents a number of problems... the Giuseppe Caire: technology problem is to design efficient hardware and the algorithms Giuseppe Caire: to to do this beam steering. And also there are

Giuseppe Caire: problems in terms of network design because one has to Giuseppe Caire: design particular transmission patterns that allow the base stations and Giuseppe Caire: the users to estimate directions and point beams at each other, Giuseppe Caire: which is a fairly difficult process, especially in the mobility Giuseppe Caire: conditions where beams have to follow the target. In addition Giuseppe Caire: high frequencies suffer from blocking problems so they don't go Giuseppe Caire: to walls that they don't go around buildings like lower Giuseppe Caire: frequencies do. So it means that that you need probably Giuseppe Caire: a more distributed, more dense deployment of access points in Giuseppe Caire: order to have... to guarantee coverage. So there is a

Giuseppe Caire: number of challenges at the system level, at the technology Giuseppe Caire: level and at the algorithmic levels that make the exploitation Giuseppe Caire: of very high frequencies is still quite quite at the beginning. Giuseppe Caire: And the direction of 5G and then beyond 5G is Giuseppe Caire: to go higher and higher and so to address these issues. Thomas Kuehne: Yeah, and I think one of the major challenges or Thomas Kuehne: the downsides is that this technology is very new, although Thomas Kuehne: what Giuseppe said is true, and that's why you need those Thomas Kuehne: new technologies. But one has to understand that 5G is

Thomas Kuehne: the first big standard to actually introduce these high frequency Thomas Kuehne: into real products. It has been there before, but just Thomas Kuehne: a couple of years ago and was more Wi-Fi systems. Thomas Kuehne: But it hasn't been used. It never really took off. Thomas Kuehne: So where the lower frequencies have been used for 20, Thomas Kuehne: 30 years and with radar even longer in commercial systems, Thomas Kuehne: this is the first time where those technologies are used Thomas Kuehne: in commercial systems. And that's what is challenging in actually

Thomas Kuehne: using those. So downside is that the experience is much lower, Thomas Kuehne: is much less experienced and with far higher frequencies. Peter Balint (host): That's a good point. Thomas, I would imagine that without Peter Balint (host): decades of performance data or real world experience, working in Peter Balint (host): these high frequencies could be quite challenging. What do you

Peter Balint (host): think SERENA can contribute to the 5G world of tomorrow? Thomas Kuehne: It's actually not maybe a single result which SERENA will Thomas Kuehne: will have, but SERENA is a project with many partners, Thomas Kuehne: and it's actually bringing together different technologies to basically solve Thomas Kuehne: this common goal of having an efficient, high frequency system. Thomas Kuehne: And there's also the interesting part of SERENA is that Thomas Kuehne: there is this cooperation between the many partners and for example, Thomas Kuehne: we have some partners who focus on manufacturing and some focus, Thomas Kuehne: like we are, on the signal processing. And basically all Thomas Kuehne: our results are a bit hidden from the customer because Thomas Kuehne: what we will enable with this cooperation and basically the Thomas Kuehne: that we design a system which has all of these Thomas Kuehne: different fields in mind is that we have a more Thomas Kuehne: efficient system. So the power consumption might be better and Thomas Kuehne: also have a... like a higher integrated system so that Thomas Kuehne: it's actually feasible to to be implemented so that 5G Thomas Kuehne: can have many, many of those millimeter wave or high Thomas Kuehne: frequency base stations. And not only a few because if Thomas Kuehne: they're costly and if they use a high power, maybe Thomas Kuehne: there are few. But if they are really up to

Thomas Kuehne: date and they don't use too much power and they Thomas Kuehne: are cheap enough so that they can be sold with a profit, Thomas Kuehne: then they're actually deployed by the providers. Peter Balint (host): Meaning these marketing aspects must be considered even in the Peter Balint (host): R&D phases, Giuseppe, do you have anything to add? Giuseppe Caire: Well I generally agree that the SERENA platform is a high Giuseppe Caire: output power steerable antenna array at millimeter waves that is Giuseppe Caire: highly integrated, and therefore it's like a step forward in Giuseppe Caire: bringing this technology to become mainstream in terms of cost Giuseppe Caire: and usability. Then we have to see how the especially Giuseppe Caire: the industry partners seen in SERENA will decide to do, Giuseppe Caire: and this will evolve into real products. That's maybe a Giuseppe Caire: bit early to say, but certainly that's the direction. Peter Balint (host): That would certainly be a great result coming from SERENA. Giuseppe, Peter Balint (host): sometimes in the field of communication we hear of beyond 5G.

Peter Balint (host): Is it clear what beyond 5G will actually be? Giuseppe Caire: Yeah, so it's funny because 5G is barely being deployed Giuseppe Caire: and the components of 5G, which is deployed is mainly Giuseppe Caire: the core network and some software features and some radio Giuseppe Caire: access interfaces at the relatively low frequencies. There is not yet, Giuseppe Caire: as far as I know apart of say, beyond lab experiments, Giuseppe Caire: there is not yet a widespread deployment of millimeter waves, Giuseppe Caire: at least for the access. So for for the access Giuseppe Caire: to the users, people use millimeter waves for relaying macro Giuseppe Caire: base station to a smaller base, stations to do like Giuseppe Caire: wireless front haul and things like this, but for access, for Giuseppe Caire: coverage is still pretty much not yet there. Nevertheless, industry Giuseppe Caire: and research are really, you know, thinking about beyond 5G. Giuseppe Caire: Some people there are 6G centers, 6G research hubs popping Giuseppe Caire: out in different European countries. So, I think that the definition

Giuseppe Caire: of beyond 5G is still quite vague. For some people, Giuseppe Caire: this means going even to higher frequencies than millimeter wave. Giuseppe Caire: Other people talk about the different type of features that Giuseppe Caire: the ways of going beyond cellular. People talk about cell free, Giuseppe Caire: user centric networks that go beyond the concept of cellular. Giuseppe Caire: There is this concept of open RAN architectures with interoperability Giuseppe Caire: between different vendors so that the telecom operators are not Giuseppe Caire: somehow committed uniquely to a single vendor that provides the Giuseppe Caire: whole set of network components all together. So there are

Giuseppe Caire: many different ideas that are in the discussion. So I Giuseppe Caire: think that the contribution of SERENA in this direction will Giuseppe Caire: be somehow demonstration and feasibility of these steerable antenna technology, which, Giuseppe Caire: although it has been around for a while, is not Giuseppe Caire: particularly new in terms of the concepts. But it has Giuseppe Caire: been relegated mainly in military applications or phased arrays in Giuseppe Caire: military applications that are very expensive objects or on research papers. Thomas Kuehne: Maybe I can also add the larger part of SERENA is Thomas Kuehne: investigating frequencies, which will be used in 5G and the 5G, Thomas Kuehne: which might be deployed in a year or two. But Thomas Kuehne: there's also a smaller part of SERENA, which actually focuses Thomas Kuehne: on even higher frequencies. So exactly what Giuseppe said that one

Thomas Kuehne: technology or one idea for the beyond 5G world is Thomas Kuehne: is that even using again higher frequencies because of more Thomas Kuehne: available bandwidth. And SERENA even covers this. I mean, it's Thomas Kuehne: not as integrated and not as complete as the 5G part, Thomas Kuehne: but there is already a part of SRENA which investigated Thomas Kuehne: those higher frequencies. And of course, also the signal processing Thomas Kuehne: and the design of the communication system we have proposed Thomas Kuehne: with SERENA might become more and more relevant for higher Thomas Kuehne: frequencies because it becomes more and more different compared to Thomas Kuehne: lower frequency systems. This is also something which can be Thomas Kuehne: used for higher frequencies or which has to be used Thomas Kuehne: more and more for higher frequencies. Peter Balint (host): And that's most encouraging. SERENA has been running for almost Peter Balint (host): three years now. What kinds of challenges have you experienced

Peter Balint (host): in that timeframe? Thomas Kuehne: So so what I have mentioned before what the goal Thomas Kuehne: of SERENA is to integrate many partners in many fields Thomas Kuehne: of research. But of course, this can also be challenging Thomas Kuehne: because collaboration is something which needs to be done. And Thomas Kuehne: then you have experts from different fields, so there's often Thomas Kuehne: a bit difference in seeing the problems from different viewpoints Thomas Kuehne: and this collaboration. It was actually a very good collaboration Thomas Kuehne: within the project, but still the partners have dependencies, and Thomas Kuehne: those dependencies are a risk when you see that there Thomas Kuehne: are some delays introduced because maybe something didn't work out Thomas Kuehne: as expected in the beginning. So delays were somehow a Thomas Kuehne: problem for SERENA because it's still research so things can not work.

Thomas Kuehne: And then they might need to be redone with something Thomas Kuehne: you learned in the first process where it didn't work. Thomas Kuehne: And then the second version works. But then maybe you Thomas Kuehne: have a partner who is also delayed because he also Thomas Kuehne: needs to wait for the second version. So the challenges

Thomas Kuehne: have been exactly in this collaboration that partners depend on Thomas Kuehne: each other and this means that delays propagate and things Thomas Kuehne: cannot be tested before a certain goal has been achieved Thomas Kuehne: and things are tested from a different partner. So that Thomas Kuehne: was basically the main challenge, I would say. But it was Thomas Kuehne: also this collaboration is, I think, at the heart of Thomas Kuehne: SERENA so it's very important, but it was also a Thomas Kuehne: challenge and a risk. But sometimes you... especially in research, Thomas Kuehne: you need to take risks otherwise you cannot go beyond Thomas Kuehne: the state of the art. Giuseppe Caire: Yeah, I think... I don't have much to add to what Giuseppe Caire: Thomas said is that in these multi partner projects the... it's

Giuseppe Caire: always challenging to make all the partners work together in Giuseppe Caire: a way that at the end, the integration can actually Giuseppe Caire: be done without too many problems. And also there are Giuseppe Caire: several different technologies here in there that participate... So, yeah, Giuseppe Caire: there were some challenges in in in putting all these Giuseppe Caire: things together.

Peter Balint (host): That's how it is in the research realm. So on Peter Balint (host): the SERENA website, I see that there is a demonstrator Peter Balint (host): to be built and seeing as how we're on the Peter Balint (host): tail end of the project here. Can you give us Peter Balint (host): a brief update on that endeavor? Thomas Kuehne: So actually, we can see the demonstrator is built from Thomas Kuehne: many blocks. As I said, we have many different partners. Thomas Kuehne: And the main achievements of the project... so this manufacturing

Thomas Kuehne: integration and the communication system... those work. So we have Thomas Kuehne: a demonstrator for this very small integrated module where you Thomas Kuehne: have the antennas and the power amplifiers and beamforming all integrated, Thomas Kuehne: and we can also control this module. So this is Thomas Kuehne: the basic block of what our how the proof of Thomas Kuehne: concept system, as we have called it, has envisioned and Thomas Kuehne: this this module works and we have also used it Thomas Kuehne: to to measure communication signals and and to see if Thomas Kuehne: the signal processing works. What is a bit delayed because

Thomas Kuehne: of the what we have, the challenges, what we have Thomas Kuehne: talked before is that we use this block and we Thomas Kuehne: basically scale it up to have a nice demonstrator, which Thomas Kuehne: is already into the direction of a product, which is, Thomas Kuehne: of course, not the product, because we have product you Thomas Kuehne: need to support and things like this, but we want Thomas Kuehne: the goal was to have a very a demonstrator which Thomas Kuehne: could actually demonstrate the whole system on a large scale. Thomas Kuehne: And this is unfortunately a bit delayed, but all the Thomas Kuehne: working parts they work and we measure them and we Thomas Kuehne: we got the results. So let's say for the research, Thomas Kuehne: the important parts, they are there and we have demonstrated them, Thomas Kuehne: whereas the final demonstrator to show maybe to the public, Thomas Kuehne: which is easier to understand, is still delayed, but we Thomas Kuehne: are working on it. Peter Balint (host): Well, this sounds good, and progress was made, and the Peter Balint (host): results of SERENA could keep Europe on the cutting edge Peter Balint (host): of next generation communication. And this is, of course, undoubtedly Peter Balint (host): due in part to the efforts of both of you.

Peter Balint (host): Thanks for all the information about SERENA. Thomas Kuehne: Yes, thank you. Thanks. Giuseppe Caire: OK, thank you very much. It was a pleasure.

Outro: This podcast was brought to you by Technikon. The SERENA Outro: Project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 Outro: Research and innovation programme under grant agreement number 779305.

2024-02-17 07:48

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