Nokia Touts NPU for Internet's Next Chapter

Release time:2017-06-16
source:EE Times

Claiming capabilities that will enable the next phase of Internet evolution, Nokia on Wednesday (June 14) unveiled its next-generation service routers, based on a network processor capable of an eye-popping 2.4 Tb/s performance.

The chip, the Nokia FP4, is implemented in a 16nm FinFET process—two full nodes ahead of its predecessor, the 40nm FP3. Nokia bills the FP4 as "the world's first multi-terabit chipset" and claims it is up to six times more powerful than any processor currently available despite relatively low power consumption.

Speaking at a launch event here Wednesday, Basil Alwan president of the IP/Optical Networks business unit at Nokia, offered an ambitious blueprint for the FP4's potential impact on the continuing evolution of the Internet, and the onset of what he termed "cloud-scale routing." He said the chipset offers the performance and heightened security to enable further transformations of the Internet and the Cloud, including immersive communications, the Internet of Things (IoT) and the growth of applications that leverage artificial intelligence.

"It's fundamental innovation for cloud-scale routing," Alwan said, adding that the FP4 "meets all the requirements for the next chapter of Internet growth."

Ken Kutlzer, vice president of hardware engineering and hardware product management for Nokia's IP/optical networking business unit, speaks at the product unveiling in San Francisco Wednesday.
Ken Kutlzer, vice president of hardware engineering and hardware product management for Nokia's IP/optical networking business unit, speaks at the product unveiling in San Francisco Wednesday.

The FP4 represents Nokia's push to leverage its strength in edge routing to making a meaningful dent in the core router market that has long been dominated by Cisco Systems and Juniper Networks. It powers Nokia's new "petabit-class" 7950 Extensible Routing System for core routing, claimed by the company to be the world's highest capacity router.

According to Ray Mata, CEO and principal analyst at ACG Research, Nokia has gained enough credibility with network operators through its success in edge routing — where it is the No. 2 player —  to make some noise in the critical core routing market, where performance and reliability are paramount. 

"This gives an opportunity for Nokia to enter into that arena and potentially increase their total available market," Mata said.

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SAN JOSE, Calif. — Nokia and Qualcomm completed a lab test of a 5G New Radio connection for 10 carriers that they hope will take their systems into field trials soon. The announcement is the latest step in a marathon toward commercial 5G services stretching this month from the Winter Olympics in South Korea to the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona.The duo showed a version of Nokia’s AirScale base station and a prototype Qualcomm handset making 5G NR links over 3.5- and 28-GHz bands at a Nokia lab in Oulu, Finland. The FPGA-based systems will provide the basis for field trials with operators this year including BT/EE, Deutsche Telekom, Elisa, KT, LGU+, NTT DOCOMO, Optus, SKT, Telia, and Vodafone Group. The companies hope that the trials lead to commercial deployments of a variety of 5G services next year in China, Europe, Korea, Japan, and the United States.Qualcomm and Nokia’s rival, Ericsson, staged a competing lab demo over the same bands just after the 5G NR spec was completed in December. Their partners included AT&T, NTT Docomo, Orange, SK Telecom, Verizon, and Vodafone. The effort followed a test in late November at a China Mobile lab using a prototype base station from China’s ZTE and a Qualcomm test handset.Later this week, South Korea will showcase a pre-standard 5G network at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang using gear from Intel and Samsung. Later this month, the MWC event in Spain will be about “5G going commercial — how to get the return on investment and put artificial intelligence into the networks,” said Phil Twist, an engineer-now-head-of-marketing for mobile networks at Nokia, speaking in a pre-MWC press briefing.Nokia will show at MWC a version of its 5G ReefShark chipset for base stations. The company designed its AirScale base stations to support a ReefShark module that upgrades them from handling 28 Gbits/second of LTE traffic to 84 Gbits/s of 5G.Multiple modules with the 10-nm chipsets can work together to support throughput up to the 6-Tbit/s limit of the AirScale’s backplane. Nokia claims as many as 30 customers for ReefShark, some with deployment plans this year.At the handset, vendors are expected to show devices supporting as many as 20 data streams using 4x4 MIMO antennas and up to five 20-MHz carriers. Such techniques will push advanced LTE and 5G beyond today’s gigabit LTE with mobile broadband services that some carriers are interested in rolling out as early as this fall.The push for speed could keep Qualcomm ahead of Intel, its rival in handset baseband chips. Intel announced in November plans to support CDMA and gigabit speeds in its 2018 cellular modems and up to 1.6-Gbit/s downlinks in 2019.In the race to 5G, the new NR spec was “the one everyone was waiting for … we have a first version of one variant running, and many more variants will come,” said Twist.RF chips and backhaul options also will come in many flavors. For example, Nokia is developing base station radios using three-carrier aggregation for high capacity as well as beamforming radio heads for high bandwidth. In backhaul, it is designing microwave, IP, and optical options.With the 5G radio standard set, the next big agenda item is network slicing. A final standard for this version of virtualized radio is still in the works, with the next big pieces due in June, said Twist.
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