To truly accelerate the reality of “connected everything,” chipmakers need effective verification solutions that verify complex algorithms and infrastructure configurations to fuel the chip designer’s ability to handle 5G’s ubiquitous, fast, and uninterrupted nature.
However, it is easier said than done. 5G’s very strength — flexibility, interoperability, and diverse applications — makes verifying 5G SoCs extremely difficult; an evolving area that has clearly driven a market change in the way chipmakers approach verification today. The old ways of implementing testing strategies at the base station, followed by the silicon, and then connecting it to a 5G tester to test compatibility is no longer viable for the industry. Given the breadth of performance requirements from multiple chip components and the ongoing evolution of the 5G standard, emulation has emerged as a must-have. The design must be connected to an emulation system at the pre-silicon stage to test for the same requirements as before. 5G infrastructure tester companies that traditionally span the collaboration between the base station manufacturer and the network operator, once a base station is physically available, are now being asked to leverage their technology in conjunction with emulation during the pre-silicon stage.
Moreover, rather than running endless brute-force scenarios to find bugs, design teams need powerful and efficient ways to optimize their verification strategies and invest in solutions with the best debugging capabilities, making it possible to test real-world scenarios with both hardware and software.
So, what makes an all-rounded solution for teams designing 5G SoCs?
There are three key traits that modern emulation systems need to possess, apart from representing the latest 5G protocol standards:
- Flexible emulation capacity use models to maximize pre-silicon test cycles
- High performance for pre-silicon software bring-up
- Robust debug capabilities to find bugs early in the cycle
In addition to the platform, customers are looking for a complete end-to-end pre-silicon emulation verification/validation solution that enables algorithm development, design verification, 5G software stack development, and compliance verification.
This solution needs to have the following characteristics:
- Common measurement mechanism across the entire development workflow to ensure test process consistency and test vectors reuse from pre-silicon to validation and production
- Integrated RF/network/O-RAN cross domain insight to serve RF, protocol, and digital design teams with faster and centralized support
- Maximize design test coverage with full parametric control of 3GPP and O-RAN test vectors
- Follow evolutions of 5G O-RAN standard
- Enable pre-conformance validation before tapeout
- Accelerate learning curve with common user interfaces across design cycle
- Reduced complexity with integrated solution
- Open platform and API for test automation and existing test cases customization
Emulating real-life interference patterns and behavior of designs at the pre-silicon stage will deliver significantly faster time-to-market targets — a quantum leap for tester and semiconductor companies.