Small Cells Bring the Outdoor Mobile Experience Inside
Christine Halsey posted on April 25, 2014 |

Have you ever walked into a building while talking on your cell phone and had to stop before you get on the elevator?  Or had to run to the nearest window to get a good enough signal?  Customers want a better indoor mobile experience.  Small cell base station technology is designed to respond to this challenge.

How do infrastructure equipment designers create as smooth an indoor mobile experience as we have outside?  The answer is small cell base stations that bring the mobile user a reliable indoor signal.  However, mobile signals come in different shapes and sizes.  Therefore, small cells have to be smart enough to recognize different types of mobile traffic and integrate them seamlessly into a normal data flow.

Texas Instruments (TI) has developed an end-to-end platform that enables developers to setup, visually inspect and test small cell implementations. This solution is based on TI's KeyStone II architecture to create heterogeneous network (hetnet) solutions.


KeyStone II architecture
TI's KeyStone II architecture provides the structure to support high speed mobile network devices seamlessly.  It is unique in the way that it provides adequate internal bandwidth and smooth packet flow.

Multicore Navigator is a queue based packet manager that routes traffic, using the internal TeraNet switch, to available hardware.   To keep from slowing down packet movement on the TeraNet, the Multicore Shared Memory Controller (MSMC) allows cores to share memory directly.

Hyperlink provides the chip-to-chip communications and works with the Multicore Navigator to speed up task execution.  Listen to Ruwanga Dassanayake with TI's infrastructure business discuss the upgrades that have been made to the KeyStone II architecture.


TCI6630K2L - small cell solution for PoE+ Enterprise to outdoor Pico applications

Figure 1 - KeyStone II-based SoC with DRFE
A new small cell device in the KeyStone II architecture is the TCI6630K2L. It is the first wireless infrastructure SoC to integrate Digital Radio Front End (DRFE) functionality via TI's AFE7500.  This integration sets the SoC apart from competitors. It also produces very little power requirements and a minimal BOM.  Essentially, interfacing the two via a JESD204B produces a smaller footprint and high performance.   

The TCI6630K2L is a low power, high performance, small cell solution that contains:

  • 2x ARM® Cortex™-A15 RISC cores
  • 4x TMS320C66x DSP cores with floating-point and fixed- processing. For flexible programming it supports 2G/3G, 4G LTE and LTE-A in hetnets
  • 1x Network coprocessor
  • 1x 4 port Gigabit Ethernet Switch complete with packet and security acceleration

The SoC will be able to support 32 to 128 active LTE users at 150Mbps/75Mbps. 


TCI6636K2H - small cell solution for indoor and outdoor uPoE applications

Figure 2 - TCI6636K2H SoC

However, if you are looking for more power to design larger small cell or even macro base station platforms, check out the TCI6636K2H SoC.  It is the first LTE Advanced (LTE-A) ready SoC, supporting 60-MHz LTE and up to 256 simultaneous active users.  This device is loaded with:

  • 8x TMS320C66x DSP Core Subsystems (C66x CorePacs)
  • 4x ARM® Cortex™-A15 MPCore™ Processors
  • Up To 1.4 GHz with 4MB L2 Cache Memory. 

To allow for development with all wireless standards (GSM, TD-SCDMA, TDD-LTE, FDD-LTE, WCDMA/HSPA/HSPA+, and WiMAX), hardware coprocessors are used to handle decoding of various data formats. 

TCI6636K2H also has a built in Network Coprocessor and a TeraNet switch. These will ensure the system of programmable cores, coprocessor and high speed I/O devices are operating without blockage or stalls. 


Figure 3 - Base Station SoftwarePac and software ecosystem
Base Station SoftwarePac
Finally, TI's Base Station SoftwarePac will allow you to spend time differentiating your product as opposed to developing it. 

This software simplifies the development process by providing the software and tools developers need to produce a final product quickly.

Additionally, it is designed to work with the KeyStone architecture. 


According to engadget, 1.6 billion mobile phones were shipped during 2012. Another 1.2 billion mobile devices are expected to have been sold in 2013. Additionally, research from Cisco VNI, Ericsson Mobile Experts, suggests the global mobile traffic has topped 1,000 petabytes/month and is still growing.

TI provides solutions to the growing data demands listed above. They are efficient with respect to data processing, power consumption and cost. Finally, TI's Keystone II architecture can design, debug and analyze your small cell products faster, allowing you to be first to the market.

Texas Instruments has sponsored promotion of their industrial communications solutions on They have no editorial input to this post - all opinions are mine.  Christine Halsey



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