Ericsson opened a new circuit design centre in the US in a bid to further accelerate its work on 5G.

In a statement, the company said engineers at the facility in Austin, Texas, will work on the core microelectronics of future 5G base stations, components more commonly known as Application Specific Integrated Circuits (ASIC).

“ASIC is really the core part of the system, the brain of the system,” Sinisa Krajnovic, Ericsson’s head of Development Unit Networks, told Mobile World Live: “We’re accelerating our journey to 5G so we want to accelerate our capabilities in this crucial area,” he added.

Krajnovic said ASIC can be up to 100-times faster than the general processors found in PCs and other consumer electronics. They are also more cost efficient and consume less power, he added.

At the Austin centre, Krajnovic said Ericsson will be pushing to break boundaries, in particular around power consumption.

“The speed of course is very important, the computing power is important, the cost efficiency is important, but what is very important is the ability to control the power,” he said, explaining reducing power consumption enables the vendor to produce “smaller and higher performing radios.”

It will take between one year and two years to take a new design at the Austin centre from model to market, Krajnovic said. However, he noted Ericsson worked on ASIC development at a number of other facilities for a long time, so the Austin centre will be a continuation of its other work rather than a standalone lab.

Geographical benefits
Krajnovic said Ericsson chose Austin to be closer to its major silicon and other vendor partners, and to attract top talent flocking to the city as part of a broader tech boom.

The location will also enable closer collaboration with US mobile operators. Krajnovic said stateside operators are “all ambitious”, and he expects to see the first commercial 5G networks from all four of the major players in 2019.

Ericsson is currently recruiting “high competence” ASIC designers and architects, and expects to be up and running with an initial team of around 30 engineers by end-2017. By mid-2018, Ericsson aims to have around 80 ASIC engineers at the centre.