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NEBS: 4G Network Designers Must Overcome Challenges to Achieve Optimal Performance


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December 30, 2010

NEBS: 4G Network Designers Must Overcome Challenges to Achieve Optimal Performance

By Susan J. Campbell, TMCnet Contributing Editor

Wireless network capacity is under considerable strain as consumers and businesses alike continue to demand richer content, enhanced quality and video services on any preferred device.

These demands are expected to continue to grow and as a result, each piece of equipment within the network must be able to achieve higher levels of packer processing performance. And, as captured in this Compact PCI (News - Alert) Systems piece, the equipment must also be designed to meet challenging requirements in schedule, power and cost.

These challenges are a key focus for providers designing 4G telecom infrastructure products and they cannot be overcome using the same techniques that proved effective in 2G or 3G environments. With the total traffic in the core network growing at more than 100 percent per year, service providers must anticipate that individual network elements will increase bandwidth by a corresponding amount at the very least.

There is also an obstacle in terms of the number of high-performance processor substations that can be used. Telecom equipment has been increasingly deployed in commercial and outdoor environments that rely on forced-air cooling to drive down power consumption costs. At the same time, worldwide 4G deployments can only be effectively driven with low product costs and low cost operations.

In 4G network environments, 3GPP has designated that a flat IP-based network architecture, or System Architecture Evolution (SAE) that is designed to efficiently support massive IP service use is the desired method for implementation. The result is a much simpler network architecture, but the processing of the packets efficiently is critical to overall performance.

The SAE architecture will support a full range of protocols that must be implemented, including low-level protocols such as IPsec, ROHC and VLAN; protocols supporting communications between individual subsystems, such as GTP and SCTP; and differentiating services to give priorities to real-time traffic.

As all of these protocols are encapsulated within IP packets, software to support packet processing must be able to analyze successive encapsulated headers expediently.  This high throughput is essential for maximum performance of the 4G network. When the designer can ensure the network performs this processing fast enough, the network will only be limited by the physical network connection.

Multicore architectures appear to be the preferred method for high-end processors as they lend well to environments demanding increased performance. Power tends to be proportional to the square of the clock frequency and multicore architectures run at a clock frequency that creates manageable power consumption for the processor overall. As the preferred platform used today, it creates the ideal environment for the implementation of high-performance packet processing demanded by the 4G environment.

Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMCnet and has also written for To read more of Susan’s articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Stefanie Mosca

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