Ericsson eyes Nvidia’s GPU to potentially propel dynamic spectrum sharing

LOS ANGELES—This week Ericsson and Nvidia said they are collaborating to bring together Ericsson’s expertise in RAN technology with Nvidia’s graphics processing unit (GPU)-powered compute.

Thomas Noren, Ericsson’s VP and head of 5G commercialization, said that the fruit from the collaboration could affect Ericsson’s dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS) technology. DSS allows an operator to run 4G and 5G on the same spectrum band and dynamically allocate spectrum between the two. Ericsson’s DSS re-schedules spectrum every millisecond. Noren said the technology has to be super sophisticated to effectively handle both the time and frequency variables.

“We have a multi-core baseband architecture that allows us to do parallel processing; we have the capacity to introduce 5G and DSS on the same baseband,” said Noren. “If you look at our purpose-built baseband unit it is the fastest, more power efficient unit in the industry. That’s why we can do DSS. We will explore if we can develop a distributed baseband product (DU) with Nvidia GPU,” he said. “We don’t have any committed product plans, but we think this is a very interesting idea.”

He said Ericsson has roadmaps to virtualize the centralized unit (CU). But it is much harder to virtualize the DU. “If you look at all the available technologies, they are too expensive, too power hungry and too big to be effective compared to our purpose-built hardware for DU. Nvidia has a platform and development framework that we can potentially use.”

He added that the software to do DSS is “incredibly computer intensive,” and the benefit of Ericsson’s existing baseband unit is that it’s capable of doing DSS. But the company is open to the idea of using Nvidia GPU.

Ericsson is the only vendor that has a viable DSS technology, so far. But Noren said, “The software needs to be hardened and proven in the field.” Verizon has said it plans to introduce DSS in 2020 from all three of its vendors: Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung. But both Nokia and Samsung have been mum about their roadmaps for the technology.

RELATED: Verizon gears up for DSS launch next year

“Eighteen months ago, one other vendor said, ‘we already have it,’” said Noren. “Then they realized they didn’t have it. Then they said it was impossible. Then we just did it. Every operator in the world is interested in this.”

Ericsson’s spectrum sharing does require Ericsson Radio System equipment that can run both 4G and 5G. “We have 4 million radios already shipped,” he said.