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Super QAM: Higher 5G Throughput Translates To Reduced Energy Consumption

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By RCR Wireless News

Sustainability is top of mind for governments, corporations, investors and individuals. Against this backdrop, the global Information and Communications Technology sector is uniquely poised to not only make itself more efficient and sustainable through technological advancements, but also deliver to vital industries efficiencies that translate to greener, more sustainable business practices.

Today operators are balancing investment in their own sustainability while also delivering business outcomes to customers. In the context of 5G, while the standard itself brings system-level energy efficiencies as compared to its predecessors, there’s a need for new spectrum band deployments and densification of infrastructure which drive power consumption up. In addition to augmenting their energy mix with renewable power, operators are looking to equipment upgrades and operational improvements that lower total network energy demand.

Qualcomm, meanwhile, is working on a technology that would deliver the benefits of more energy-smart operations without the need for equipment upgrades. That’s because the firm has figured out how to make on-device high-order modulation schemes compatible with existing base stations without any hardware upgrade requirement.

A principal engineer with Qualcomm, Ronen Shaked said the company is working to increase the order of modulation from 256 QAM to 16K QAM (16384 QAM) in sub-6 GHz and from 64 QAM to 1K QAM (1024 QAM) in mmWave, which bring a huge boost in throughput.

“As modulation order scheme is increased,” he explained, “throughput is increased. For [a] certain amount of bits, transmission duration can be shortened thus allowing early RF component shutdown. This saves energy. In other words, it increases efficiency which translates to reduced energy consumption and improved sustainability.”

Shaked said Qualcomm has developed a sophisticated algorithm that runs on the device side making 16K QAM compatible with existing base station hardware. “This leap can provide a huge boost in throughput and this will be a major milestone achieved in the roadmap of next generation 5G and 6G.”

A focus on green networks is included in 3GPP’s plan for the Release 18 standard which creates a pathway to commercialization for Qualcomm’s work on Super QAM, and the sustainability benefits it enables.

In a demonstration, Shaked discussed the primary concept of Super QAM as reducing noise at the receiver in an iterative fashion to improve signal quality. This follows a three-step process: reducing the phase noise, addressing non-linearities from the power amplifier, and rectifying IQ imbalances. Moving from 256 QAM to 16K QAM in sub-6 GHz, he showed an improvement from 5.1 Gbps to 8.9 Gbps, a 75 per cent increase over the starting point.

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