Picocom launches first SoC for 5G Open RAN radios

Picocom launches first SoC for 5G Open RAN radios

Technology News |
By Nick Flaherty

Picocom in Bristol has developed a smaller, more cost effective system on chip for 5G Open RAN radio units to take on WiFi.

The Picocom PC805 has 25 RISC-V cores and is packaged in a smaller 17 x 17 package for radio units (O-RU) for small cell 5G Open RAN designs.

The aim is to replace FPGAs in radio units with a software programmable part to reach the same price point as an enterprise WiFI unit

“The 805 is a new silicon design and we’ve taken software across and added other functions,” Peter Claydon, president of Picocom tells eeNews Europe.  “We’ve had samples back for a couple of months at the lab in Bristol.”

“We have integrated the RISC-V management processor running Linux which was previously an external processor and are more flexible for the digital front ends with a feature to put two PC805s together for more bandwidth or more antennas,” he said.

“We worked with Andes on the cores and these are doing deeply embedded tasks, there are 25 cores on the chip.” The previous PC802 has 35 cores with 32 RISC-V cores and three CEVA vector processor cores

There is also a development board for a radio unit that can be used for enterprise, industrial, neutral host and private networks with the same chip.

The PC805 architecture

“The development board is more detailed with TI transceiver, iCana RF front end, GNSS for synchronisation so customers could go into production with it,” said Claydon. 

The SoC interfaces directly with O-DUs via Open Fronthaul (split 7.2) and supports seamless connections to RFICs with a standardised JESD204B high-speed serial interface and the PC805 is shipped with a fully integrated O-RAN compliant Picocom 5G NR RU and M-plane software suite.

The design also reduces the power consumption on the same 12nm TSMC process as the 802. “The 805 running an O-RU would be around 5W and this is below 3W,” said Claydon

“We have 7 customers using PC802 for O-RU designs and most of those will migrate to 802 and others that are waiting for the 805 to start developments,” he said. “Most RUs use FPGAs and we have customers with FPGA RUs but they need scarce hardware engineers. With our RU design you need embedded software engineers, and we license that software anyway and customers are taking binary licenses, although some have source code licenses.”

The smaller size and power is key says Claydon. “There is no reason why a 5G O-RU should cost more than an enterprise WiFi with a power over ethernet connection, that’s another reason for getting the power down,” he said.

“As 5G deployments progress, operators want to aggregate spectrum from different bands. This is especially true for neutral host operators, who often need to support the frequency allocations of several mobile operators or aggregate non-contiguous channels in shared spectrum. PC805 supports these use cases with a minimum of additional components, greatly reducing both capital and operating costs. Take PC805, add RF and a power supply, and you will have an O-RU,” said Oliver Davies, VP of Marketing at Picocom

The PC805 can perform aggregation of four or more 4T4R carriers in a 200 MHz instantaneous bandwidth (IBW), applicable for operation in the US CBRS and equivalent bands that are increasingly becoming available in other countries (for example, UK band n77 shared access band). A single PC805 can also support multiple bands, including both TDD and FDD for both 5G NR and LTE, with a cascade of two SoCs doubling the bandwidth supported.

The PC805 launches with a complete software suite and a companion RU Demonstrator Board, the PC805RDB. It is available in a 17mm x 17mm FC LFBGA Flip-Chip Ball Grid form factor, and Picocom will provide samples to lead customers from November 2023.


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