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Kapow! NI-based 5G Massive MIMO SDR proto system “chock full of FPGAs” sets bandwidth record: 145.6 bps/Hz in 20MHz channel

by Xilinx Employee ‎08-08-2016 01:20 PM - edited ‎08-08-2016 01:24 PM (52,276 Views)


In May, a team of 5G engineers from the Universities of Bristol and Lund set a new world record for wireless spectrum efficiency—145.6 bps/Hz in a narrow 20MHz channel serving 22 clients—using a 5G Massive MIMO SDR system developed and prototyped with FPGA-based SDR equipment from National Instruments (NI). This result breaks the team’s own record set less than two months prior, which had been 79.4bps/Hz serving 12 clients. 5G system goals require this sort of extreme, breakthrough data-carrying efficiency to achieve 1000x more data bandwidth for customers.



NI Massive MIMO Proto System Photo.jpg


128-Antenna 5G Massive MIMO System, with researchers Paul Harris and Siming Zhang




This latest 5G testbed uses a 128-antenna MIMO array (dubbed ARIES) coupled to 64 NI USRP RIO dual-channel SDR radios, which are based on Xilinx Kintex-7 325T FPGAs. The 64 USRP RIO units talk to multiple NI PXIe-7976R FlexRIO FPGA modules (based on Xilinx Kintex-7 410T FPGAs) plugged into NI PXIe chassis for further processing of the Massive MIMO signals. The USRP RIO units connect over high-speed PCIe cabling, through PCIe switch boxes, to NI PXIe-8384 interface modules plugged into the same chassis as the FlexRIO FPGA modules. (By my count, there are at least 68 Kintex-7 FPGAs in this system.) The entire system was developed with NI’s LabVIEW System Design Software. There’s a full description of the 5G Massive MIMO system here, a case study here, and here’s a system block diagram:



NI Massive MIMO Proto System sets World Record.jpg


Massive MIMO SDR system developed by the Universities of Bristol and Lund using NI hardware and software



This project won big at last week’s NI Engineering Impact Awards. It won in its category, “Wireless and Mobile communications”; it won the “Powered by Xilinx” Award; it won the “Engineering Grand Challenges Award”; it won the “HPE Edgeline Big Analog Data Award”; and it won the “2016 Customer Application of the Year Award” from NI.


No surprise then that NI has introduced the world’s first Application Framework for Massive MIMO to speed innovation in 5G prototyping based on this groundbreaking research. You can scale 5G testbeds from 4 to 128 antennas using this NI 5G framework. More information is available in this 3-minute video:





For more information about NI’s USRP RIO SDR, see “Software-defined radio dev platform for 5G research handles MIMO, massive MIMO using Kintex-7 FPGA.”


To see additional uses for the NI PXIe-7976R FlexRIO FPGA modules, see “NI and Nokia Networks develop 10Gbps, FPGA-based mmWave SDR transceiver for 5G using new NI mmWave Transceiver System,” and “What do you need to build the world’s highest-performance, Real-Time Spectrum Analyzer? RADX says: NI, Xilinx, and Kintex-7 FPGAs.”


About the Author
  • Be sure to join the Xilinx LinkedIn group to get an update for every new Xcell Daily post! ******************** Steve Leibson is the Director of Strategic Marketing and Business Planning at Xilinx. He started as a system design engineer at HP in the early days of desktop computing, then switched to EDA at Cadnetix, and subsequently became a technical editor for EDN Magazine. He's served as Editor in Chief of EDN Magazine, Embedded Developers Journal, and Microprocessor Report. He has extensive experience in computing, microprocessors, microcontrollers, embedded systems design, design IP, EDA, and programmable logic.