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Linux-driven router/gateway unleashes 5G NR

Dec 14, 2020 — by Eric Brown — 2236 views

Advantech’s rugged “ICR-4453” 5G NR (New Radio) router runs Conel OS Linux on a Cortex-A72 SoC with 5x GbE ports, an SFP cage, 2x mini-PCIe, 2x SIM, and USB, serial, and CAN connections.

Advantech has announced a Linux-driven router and gateway equipped with a 5G NR (New Radio) modem. 3GPP’s 5G NR spec is a faster air interface for 5G compared to the 4G LTE infrastructure used by most 5G networks. Supporting extensions of 5G beyond 6GHz, 5G NR is particularly useful for low-latency “massive IoT” applications. (See farther below for more on 5G NR.)



ICR-4453

Advantech’s ICR-4453 router is designed for “high data demand” applications including mobile Internet access, CCTV cameras and security systems, industrial systems and utilities, medical, retail, AV systems, traffic management and primary and back-up Internet services. The router can also fall back to 4G LTE (LTE-A Pro) and 3G networks.

The ICR-4453 is a variation on Advantech’s earlier ICR-4434 4G LTE router and is similarly equipped with an unnamed Cortex-A72 SoC clocked at 1.2GHz or 1.4GHz, depending on conflicting citations. Our best guess is NXP’s headless, quad-core Layerscape LS1046A, which can be clocked at up to 1.8GHz. The LS1046A has appeared on Forlinx’s OK1046A SBC.

The ICR-4453 provides 1GB RAM, 4GB eMMC, a microSD slot, and 4MB “flash,” which is likely NOR flash. The router provides 5x GbE ports, including one independent port and 4x switched ports. There is also an independent SFP cage for optical networking.

The router is further equipped with USB 2.0 host, RS232, RS485, and CANBus ports plus 2x binary inputs and 2x binary outputs. Dual mini-PCIe slots are designed for WiFi. The built-in 5G NR modem is supported by 2x SIM slots, which can be optically replaced with a single eSIM. Judging from the image, there are also 8x antenna mounts.

The ICR-4453 is housed in a “robust” metal case that supports wall-mounting and optional DIN-rail. There is a -40 to 75°C operating range and a 9-48 VDC input with a PMIC that enables a sleep mode. Security features include Secure Boot, TPM 2.0, and a tamper button.

 
Conel OS

Advantech supplies its own Conel OS Linux distribution, which uses a combination of modular open source and proprietary components. Fully open source versions of the networking distro are available on request or you can build one yourself with the help of an Advantech “building open source” guide.

Conel OS provides a free SDK and can run Node-RED, with Docker support in the works. The distribution supports multiple configuration profiles, automatic firmware updates, and customizable edge computing gateway features. Users can add their own Linux scripts and load Router Apps (user modules). Also available is a cloud-based WebAccess/DMP tool for management, provisioning, and monitoring massively deployed devices and creating secure VPNs.

 
5G NR overview

— ADVERTISEMENT —


5G New Radio (NR) is a 3GPP air interface spec that has been adopted by the telecom industry as the heir to 4G LTE. Basically, all the hype you have heard about how 5G will revolutionize IoT is enabled by 5G NR.



5G NR conceptual diagram
Source: Qualcomm
(click image to enlarge)

Designed specifically for 5G networking gear, the 5G NR spec builds on recent LTE Advanced and LTE Advanced Pro specs but is not backward compatible. It similarly uses ODFM (orthogonal frequency division multiplexing) technology to combine multiple subchannels within a channel.

Almost all the current 5G mobile networks use 4G LTE infrastructure, which enables faster communications over your new 5G phone, but not much more. This is called Non Stand Alone (NSA) 5G compared to the Stand Alone mode enabled by 5G NR,



5G NR scalability
Source: Qualcomm
(click image to enlarge)

5G NR includes a radio access technology (RAT) with two frequency ranges. The FR1 range that will be deployed first on routers such as the ICR-4453 supports sub 6GHz frequencies. There is also an FR2 range, which supports “bands above 24 GHz and into the extremely high frequency range above 50 GHz,” according to a 5G NR blog posted by Telit. Stand Alone Mode operations using FR2 enables diverse spectrum bands such as mmWave via technologies including scalable subcarrier spacing and massive MIMO.

The 3GPP lists three key applications for 5G NR:

  • Enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) for intensive video and gaming streaming applications
  • Ultra-reliable and low-latency communications (uRLLC) for critical applications like command and control functions in autonomous vehicles or remotely controlled healthcare and manufacturing
  • Massive machine type communications (mMTC) for massive IoT connectivity of low-power devices on a massive scale

According to a Feb. 2019 ZDNet overview, 5G NR reduces energy consumption and interference compared to 4G LTE by switching off “always-on” base station beacon signals when they are not needed. The technology is more reconfigurable, better enabling software-define radio (SDR) applications.

Numerous telecom carriers and technology firms offer 5G NR overviews, including this Qualcomm page, which supplied the diagrams shown above.

 
Further information

No pricing or availability information was provided for the ICR-4453 router and gateway. More information may be found in Advantech’s announcement on EEJournal and its ICR-4453 product page.

 

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