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Beamformer configurable for connecting a variable number of antennas and radio circuits

Imported: 17 Feb '17 | Published: 23 Sep '14

USPTO - Utility Patents

Abstract

A reconfigurable RF routing module may include M RF inputs and N RF outputs, wherein M is greater than N; a plurality of RF switches arranged to select between incoming RF signals; a plurality of RF combiners arranged to combine RF signals to a single RF signal; and a plurality of RF couplers, each associated with a transfer switch and a specified attenuation, wherein the specified attenuation of each one of the plurality of RF couplers is selected so that the RF inputs of each one of the plurality of the RF combiners are combined in a balanced manner, wherein the switches, the combiners, and the RF couplers are configured to route any of 1 to M of the inputs into each of the N outputs.

Description

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application is a continuation-in-part application of U.S. non-provisional patent application Ser. No. 13/630,146 filed on Sep. 28, 2012, which in turn claims benefit from U.S. provisional patent applications: 61/652,743 filed on May 29, 2012; 61/657,999 filed on Jun., 11, 2012; and 61/665,592 filed on Jun. 28, 2012; and this application further claims benefit from U.S. provisional patent applications: 61/658,015 filed on Jun. 11, 2012; 61/658,009 filed on Jun. 11, 2012; 61/665,600 filed on Jun. 28, 2012; and 61/671,417 filed on Jul. 13, 2012, all of which are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to the field of radio frequency (RF) systems and in particular to systems and methods for enhanced performance of RF systems using RF beamforming and/or digital signal processing.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Prior to setting forth a short discussion of the related art, it may be helpful to set forth definitions of certain terms that will be used hereinafter.

The term “MIMO” as used herein, is defined as the use of multiple antennas at both the transmitter and receiver to improve communication performance. MIMO offers significant increases in data throughput and link range without additional bandwidth or increased transmit power. It achieves this goal by spreading the transmit power over the antennas to achieve spatial multiplexing that improves the spectral efficiency (more bits per second per Hz of bandwidth) or to achieve a diversity gain that improves the link reliability (reduced fading), or increased antenna directivity.

The term “beamforming” sometimes referred to as “spatial filtering” as used herein, is a signal processing technique used in antenna arrays for directional signal transmission or reception. This is achieved by combining elements in the array in such a way that signals at particular angles experience constructive interference while others experience destructive interference. Beamforming can be used at both the transmitting and receiving ends in order to achieve spatial selectivity.

The term “beamformer” as used herein refers to RF circuitry that implements beamforming and usually includes a combiner and may further include switches, controllable phase shifters, and in some cases amplifiers and/or attenuators.

The term “Receiving Radio Distribution Network” or “Rx RDN” or simply “RDN” as used herein is defined as a group of beamformers as set forth above.

The term “hybrid MIMO RDN” as used herein is defined as a MIMO system that employ two or more antennas per channel (N is the number of channels and M is the total number of antennas and M>N). This architecture employs a beamformer for each channel so that two or more antennas are combined for each radio circuit that is connected to each one of the channels.

In implementing RDNs, application specific integrated circuits (ASICs) are sometimes used for routing RF signals coming from the antennas to the radio circuits from which they are then conveyed to the baseband modules. ASIC RF routing modules are considered a good design choice due to their low loss, low cost, high Reliability. ASIC design however usually requires preliminary interface definition, and once done, flexibility to interfaces modifications is limited.

FIG. 1 depicts a K input RF beamformer. While K inputs is the maximum, one may use only part of the inputs (for instance, when the implementation provides lower number of inputs); that however comes at the price of combining losses, generated by imbalanced inputs or lack of some of them.

FIG. 2 depicts an N branch RDN with K antennas each. Another level of flexibility may be required vis-à-vis the number of radios fed by an RDN.

It would be therefore advantageous to provide an RF routing module for a Hybrid MIMO RDN architecture that is both variable in the number of connected antennas and the number of MIMO channels while keeping combiner losses at bay.

SUMMARY

Embodiments of the present invention address the challenge of reconfiguring a hybrid MIMO RDN architecture based on a different number of antennas and MIMO channels.

According to one aspect of the present invention, a reconfigurable RF routing module is provided herein. The RF routing module includes M RF inputs and N RF outputs, wherein N≦M. The RF routing module includes a plurality of RF switches arranged to select between incoming RF signals. The RF routing module further includes a plurality of RF combiners arranged to combine RF signals to a single RF signal. The RF routing module further includes a plurality of RF couplers, each associated with a transfer switch and a specified attenuation, wherein the specified attenuation of each one of the plurality of RF couplers is selected so that the RF inputs of each one of the plurality of the RF combiners are combined in a balanced manner. Additionally, the switches, the combiners, and the RF couplers are configured to route any of 1 to M/N of the inputs into each of the N outputs and are further configured to route any of the 1 to K of the inputs to at least one of the N outputs.

According to another aspect of the present invention, the aforementioned RF routing module, possibly in the form of an application specific integrated circuit (ASIC), is provided within the framework of a hybrid MIMO RDN architecture with M antennas and N MIMO channels. Advantageously, the RF routing module eliminates the combiner losses due to imbalanced inputs.

These additional, and/or other aspects and/or advantages of the present invention are set forth in the detailed description which follows.

The drawings together with the following detailed description make the embodiments of the invention apparent to those skilled in the art.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

With specific reference now to the drawings in detail, it is stressed that the particulars shown are for the purpose of example and solely for discussing the preferred embodiments of the present invention, and are presented in the cause of providing what is believed to be the most useful and readily understood description of the principles and conceptual aspects of the invention. In this regard, no attempt is made to show structural details of the invention in more detail than is necessary for a fundamental understanding of the invention. The description taken with the drawings makes apparent to those skilled in the art how the several forms of the invention may be embodied in practice.

Before explaining the embodiments of the invention in detail, it is to be understood that the invention is not limited in its application to the details of construction and the arrangement of the components set forth in the following descriptions or illustrated in the drawings. The invention is applicable to other embodiments and may be practiced or carried out in various ways. Also, it is to be understood that the phraseology and terminology employed herein is for the purpose of description and should not be regarded as limiting.

FIG. 3 is a block diagram illustrating an exemplary non-limiting implementation of the RF routing module according to one embodiment of the present invention. The exemplary implementation includes two reconfigurable combiners 100 and 100A that are fed with antennas A1, A2, A3, C1, C2, and C3, and gain/phase units 10-1, 10-2, 10-3, 12-1, 12-2, 12-3, 14-1, 14-2, 14-3, 16-1, 16-2, and 16-3 respectively. Reconfigurable combiners 100 and 100A include, inter alia, 3 way combiners 101, 104, 102A, and 104A; SP2T switches 112, 214, 112A, and 114A; 2 way combiners 122 and 122A; and single pole 8 throw (SP8T) switches 132 and 132A. Reconfigurable combiners 100 and 100A then feed two to four radio modules 30-1 to 30-2.

In operation, reconfigurable combiners 100 and 100A may be configured to route 1 to 3 antennas to the radio modules and up to six antennas to some of the radio modules.

FIG. 4 is a block diagram illustrating an RF coupler 400 according to one embodiment of the present invention. RF coupler 400 is an RF circuitry that enables to add two RF signals so that one of the signals is added to the other signal after some attenuation. In the exemplary RF coupler depicted, port B is added to port A so that the output 2 exhibits an addition of A to an attenuated B port. The RF coupler (which includes a transfer switch and an attenuator) may be used effectively in embodiments of the present invention as described below.

FIG. 5A through 5D are scattering matrices illustrating an aspect of FIG. 4 according to one embodiment of the present invention. The scattering matrix takes the general form of that shown in FIG. 5A. Inspecting the matrix we can see that the imaginary terms show that there is a −90 degree phase shift to the signal applied to port 1 that is output at port 2. Similarly, the signal applied to port 1 and output from port 3 has no imaginary term. The signal applied to port 4 experiences the opposite: a −90 degree phase shift to port 3. The signal amplitudes are distributed according to the coupling ratio of the coupler (affected by the attenuation of the attenuator that implements the RF coupler). FIGS. 5B, 5C, and 5D show the scattering matrices for 3 dB, 4.77 dB and 7 dB couplers respectively. We can see from FIG. 5B that if the relative amplitudes and phases of the signals applied to ports 1 and 4 are equal for the 3 dB coupler and their phases are different by 90 degrees, the signals at one port will cancel and they will add at the other such that the sum of the powers will be output from the other port. A similar result applies for couplers 2 and 3 except the relative signal amplitudes must be at the correct ratio for the full power to appear at the output port (the signal at port 1 must be twice the power than the signal at port 4 for the 4.77 dB coupler and four times for the 7 dB coupler.)

FIG. 6 is a block diagram illustrating an aspect according to some embodiment of the present invention. RF routing module 600 presents the straightforward, inefficient design solution for an RF routing module that routes K input antennas 1 thru K, into a module 600 and into a single radio circuit 50. As can bee seen, K−1 different switches are used, single pole 2 throw (SP2T) . . . SP(K−1)T, depicted 601-(K−1) SP2T. In addition, K−1 combiners are used, running from 2-way combiner to a K-way combiner. Finally, a single pole K throw (SPKT) switch is used to feed the outputs of RF routing module 600 to radio circuit 50.

As can be seen in the aforementioned generalized case of RF routing module 600, the number of poles used in the SPDT switches is (K−1+2)*(K−1)/2. A similar number of poles are contributed by the combiners and K+1 poles are added by the SPKT. It can be easily seen that the high number of poles in the straightforward design solution make it an impractical one, due to the high level of combiner losses due to the relative high number of poles.

FIG. 7 is a block diagram illustrating an exemplary implementation of the RF routing module according to one embodiment of the present invention. RF routing module 700 is shown with A-F input antennas and two radio circuits 40-1 and 40-2 that are feeding in turn a MIMO baseband module (not shown here).

RF routing module 700 may, with the right configuration, cater for any required combination of the antennas and the radio circuits so that a configurable number of antennas (inputs) and radio circuits (outputs) may be used. More specifically, as will be shown below, RF routing module 700 may effectively route 3 antennas per radio circuit, 2, antennas per radio circuit, one antenna per radio circuit, and 4, 5, and 6 antennas for one of the radio circuits. RF routing module 700 may well be used for the more trivial design requirements of routing 1, 2, or 3 antennas to any of the radio circuits. Exemplary RF routing module 700 may include several switches (e.g., a single pole two throw SP2T) 702, 704, 706, and 708, and 730 (e.g., a single pole three throw SP3T), several combiners 714, 712, and several transfer switches 722, 724, 726 coupled to respective attenuators 742, 744, and 746. The aforementioned RF circuitries are interconnected so that RF routing module 700 is capable of routing antenna inputs A-F into the radio circuits 40-1 and 40-2.

According to some embodiments of the present invention, a generalized RF routing module is associated with M RF inputs and N RF outputs, wherein M is greater than N. The routing module may include a plurality of RF switches arranged to select between incoming RF signals; a plurality of RF combiners arranged to combine RF signals to a single RF signal; and a plurality of RF couplers, each comprising a transfer switch and an attenuator having a specified attenuation. The specified attenuation of each one of the plurality of attenuators is selected so that the RF inputs of each one of the plurality of the RF combiners are combined in a balanced manner, wherein the switches, the combiners, and the RF couplers (pairs of transfer switches and attenuators) are configured to route any of 1 to M of the inputs into each of the N outputs and are further configured to route any of the 1 to K of the inputs (inputs per beamformer) to at least one of the N outputs.

According to some embodiments of the present invention the RF routing module may include RF combiners that are two way combiners and wherein an RF coupler is used in conjunction with a respective RF combiner, whenever an odd number of RF signals need to be combined. More specifically, the specified attenuation of each one of the plurality of the RF couplers is selected based on a number of inputs of an RF combiner that feeds the transfer switch associated with the respective RF coupler.

According to some embodiments, the RF routing module implements N beamformers, each associated with K antennas and a single radio circuit. More specifically, the RF routing module may be used as a RF distributed network (RDN) in a MIMO receiving system having N receive channels and M receive antennas. In order to address several challenges of the hybrid MIMO RDN architecture, the RF routing module may further include at least one phase shifter and at least one gain control module associated with the M RF inputs.

As will be appreciated by one skilled in the art, aspects of the present invention may be embodied as a system, method or an apparatus. Accordingly, aspects of the present invention may take the form of an entirely hardware embodiment, an entirely software embodiment (including firmware, resident software, micro-code, etc.) or an embodiment combining software and hardware aspects that may all generally be referred to herein as a “circuit,” “module” or “system.”

In various embodiments, computational modules may be implemented by e.g., processors (e.g., a general purpose computer processor or central processing unit executing software), or DSPs, or other circuitry. The baseband modem may be implanted, for example, as a DSP. A beamforming matrix can be calculated and implemented for example by software running on general purpose processor. Beamformers, gain controllers, switches (e.g. the SPDT), combiners, and phase shifters may be implemented, for example using RF circuitries.

The aforementioned flowchart and block diagrams illustrate the architecture, functionality, and operation of possible implementations of systems and methods according to various embodiments of the present invention. In this regard, each block in the flowchart or block diagrams may represent a module, segment, or portion of code, which comprises one or more executable instructions for implementing the specified logical function(s). It should also be noted that, in some alternative implementations, the functions noted in the block may occur out of the order noted in the figures. For example, two blocks shown in succession may, in fact, be executed substantially concurrently, or the blocks may sometimes be executed in the reverse order, depending upon the functionality involved. It will also be noted that each block of the block diagrams and/or flowchart illustration, and combinations of blocks in the block diagrams and/or flowchart illustration, can be implemented by special purpose hardware-based systems that perform the specified functions or acts, or combinations of special purpose hardware and computer instructions.

In the above description, an embodiment is an example or implementation of the inventions. The various appearances of “one embodiment,” “an embodiment” or “some embodiments” do not necessarily all refer to the same embodiments.

Although various features of the invention may be described in the context of a single embodiment, the features may also be provided separately or in any suitable combination. Conversely, although the invention may be described herein in the context of separate embodiments for clarity, the invention may also be implemented in a single embodiment.

Reference in the specification to “some embodiments”, “an embodiment”, “one embodiment” or “other embodiments” means that a particular feature, structure, or characteristic described in connection with the embodiments is included in at least some embodiments, but not necessarily all embodiments, of the inventions.

It is to be understood that the phraseology and terminology employed herein is not to be construed as limiting and are for descriptive purpose only.

The principles and uses of the teachings of the present invention may be better understood with reference to the accompanying description, figures and examples.

It is to be understood that the details set forth herein do not construe a limitation to an application of the invention.

Furthermore, it is to be understood that the invention can be carried out or practiced in various ways and that the invention can be implemented in embodiments other than the ones outlined in the description above.

It is to be understood that the terms “including”, “comprising”, “consisting” and grammatical variants thereof do not preclude the addition of one or more components, features, steps, or integers or groups thereof and that the terms are to be construed as specifying components, features, steps or integers.

If the specification or claims refer to “an additional” element, that does not preclude there being more than one of the additional element.

It is to be understood that where the claims or specification refer to “a” or “an” element, such reference is not be construed that there is only one of that element.

It is to be understood that where the specification states that a component, feature, structure, or characteristic “may”, “might”, “can” or “could” be included, that particular component, feature, structure, or characteristic is not required to be included.

Where applicable, although state diagrams, flow diagrams or both may be used to describe embodiments, the invention is not limited to those diagrams or to the corresponding descriptions. For example, flow need not move through each illustrated box or state, or in exactly the same order as illustrated and described.

Methods of the present invention may be implemented by performing or completing manually, automatically, or a combination thereof, selected steps or tasks.

The term “method” may refer to manners, means, techniques and procedures for accomplishing a given task including, but not limited to, those manners, means, techniques and procedures either known to, or readily developed from known manners, means, techniques and procedures by practitioners of the art to which the invention belongs.

The descriptions, examples, methods and materials presented in the claims and the specification are not to be construed as limiting but rather as illustrative only.

Meanings of technical and scientific terms used herein are to be commonly understood as by one of ordinary skill in the art to which the invention belongs, unless otherwise defined.

The present invention may be implemented in the testing or practice with methods and materials equivalent or similar to those described herein.

While the invention has been described with respect to a limited number of embodiments, these should not be construed as limitations on the scope of the invention, but rather as exemplifications of some of the preferred embodiments. Other possible variations, modifications, and applications are also within the scope of the invention. Accordingly, the scope of the invention should not be limited by what has thus far been described, but by the appended claims and their legal equivalents.

Claims

1. A radio frequency (RF) routing module having a configurable number of RF inputs and a configurable number of RF outputs, comprising:
a number M of RF inputs;
a number N of RF outputs, wherein M is greater than N, and M and N are integers;
a plurality of RF switches arranged to select between incoming RF signals;
a plurality of RF combiners arranged to combine RF signals to a single RF signal; and
a plurality of RF couplers, each associated with a transfer switch and an attenuator having a specified attenuation,
wherein the switches, the combiners, and the RF couplers are configured to route any of number 1 to M of the inputs into at least one of the N outputs such that all combiners used in the route receive RF signals on all inputs thereof.
a number M of RF inputs;
a number N of RF outputs, wherein M is greater than N, and M and N are integers;
a plurality of RF switches arranged to select between incoming RF signals;
a plurality of RF combiners arranged to combine RF signals to a single RF signal; and
a plurality of RF couplers, each associated with a transfer switch and an attenuator having a specified attenuation,
wherein the switches, the combiners, and the RF couplers are configured to route any of number 1 to M of the inputs into at least one of the N outputs such that all combiners used in the route receive RF signals on all inputs thereof.
2. The RF routing module according to claim 1, wherein the RF combiners are two way combiners and wherein an RF coupler is used in conjunction with a respective RF combiner, whenever an odd number of RF signals need to be combined.
3. The RF routing module according to claim 1, wherein the RF routing module is implemented as an application specific integrated circuit (ASIC).
4. The RF routing module according to claim 1, wherein the RF routing module implements N beamformers, associated with M antennas and a single radio circuit.
5. The RF routing module according to claim 1, wherein the specified attenuation of each one of the plurality of the RF couplers is selected based on a number of inputs of an RF combiner that feeds the transfer switch associated with the respective RF coupler.
6. The RF routing module according to claim 1, implemented as a RF distributed network (RDN) in a multiple input multiple output (MIMO) receiving system having N receive channels and M receive antennas.
7. The RF routing module according to claim 1, further comprising at least one at least one gain/phase unit associated with the M RF inputs.
8. A radio frequency (RF) multiple inputs multiple outputs (MIMO) receiving system having a number N channels comprising:
a number M antennas;
a number N beamformers, wherein M is greater than N, and M and N are integers;
a number N radio circuits; and
an RF routing module including a plurality of RF combiners arranged to combine RF signals to a single RF signal, said RF routing module being configurable to route signals of any number of 1 to M of the antennas into at least one of the N radio circuits such that all combiners used in the route receive RF signals on all inputs thereof.
a number M antennas;
a number N beamformers, wherein M is greater than N, and M and N are integers;
a number N radio circuits; and
an RF routing module including a plurality of RF combiners arranged to combine RF signals to a single RF signal, said RF routing module being configurable to route signals of any number of 1 to M of the antennas into at least one of the N radio circuits such that all combiners used in the route receive RF signals on all inputs thereof.
9. The system according to claim 8, wherein the RF routing module comprises:
a number M of RF inputs;
a number N of RF outputs;
a plurality of RF switches arranged to select between incoming RF signals;
a plurality of RF combiners arranged to combine RF signals to a single RF signal; and
a plurality of RF couplers, each associated with a transfer switch and an attenuator having a specified attenuation,
wherein the specified attenuation of each one of the plurality of RF couplers is selected so that the RF inputs of each one of the plurality of the RF combiners are combined in a balanced manner,
wherein the RF switches, the RF combiners, and the RF couplers are configured to route any of 1to M of the inputs into each of the N outputs.
a number M of RF inputs;
a number N of RF outputs;
a plurality of RF switches arranged to select between incoming RF signals;
a plurality of RF combiners arranged to combine RF signals to a single RF signal; and
a plurality of RF couplers, each associated with a transfer switch and an attenuator having a specified attenuation,
wherein the specified attenuation of each one of the plurality of RF couplers is selected so that the RF inputs of each one of the plurality of the RF combiners are combined in a balanced manner,
wherein the RF switches, the RF combiners, and the RF couplers are configured to route any of 1to M of the inputs into each of the N outputs.
10. The system according to claim 9, wherein the RF combiners are two way combiners and wherein an RF coupler is used in conjunction with a respective RF combiner, whenever an odd number of RF signals need to be combined.
11. The system according to claim 9, wherein the RF routing module is implemented as an application specific integrated circuit (ASIC).
12. The system according to claim 9, wherein the RF routing module implements N beamformers, associated with M antennas and a single radio circuit.
13. The system according to claim 9, wherein the specified coupling ratio of each one of the plurality of the RF couplers is selected based on a number of inputs of an RF combiner that feeds the transfer switch associated with the respective RF coupler.
14. The system according to claim 9, implemented as a RF distributed network (RDN) in a MIMO receiving system having N receive channels and M receive antennas.
15. The system according to claim 9, further comprising at least one at least one gain/phase unit associated with the M RF inputs.