MAC layer support for National Instruments’ LabVIEW Communications 802.11 Application Framework will allow wireless researchers to take advantage of the new multi-user MAC layer enhancements to the 802.11 Application Framework. This will enable them to go beyond the PHY layer to address complex network-level problems that must be solved to make the 5G vision a reality, explains National Instruments (NI).

5G brings the promise of services and a broad range of use cases such as powering autonomous vehicles, smart factories and e-hospitals, predicts NI. While many of these applications will be delivered over cellular links, many will also be served by private networks based on WiFi, which will make 5G a combination of both licensed and unlicensed wireless protocols.

There are many challenges that wireless researchers must address when working toward a more optimal delivery of joint WiFi and 5G cellular services NI counsels. One is the ability of 5G network slicing to seamlessly deliver end-to-end orchestration across different radio access technologies. Wireless researchers can pair the 802.11 Application Framework with NI software- defined radio hardware to conduct network-level, real-time, over-the-air (OTA) prototyping experiments for a wide range of WiFi and 5G MAC/PHY research.

The 802.11 Application Framework also supports up to 80MHz of real-time bandwidth and full bi-directional communications and includes MAC layer features including CSMA/CA, RTS, CTS, NAV and retransmission. Because the MAC layer is implemented on an FPGA, the 802.11 Application Framework meets the strict timing requirements of the 802.11 specification for real-time operation.

With these new capabilities, users can take advantage of the 802.11 Application Framework to conduct a range of WiFi experiments and seamlessly integrate custom signal processing algorithms and MAC layer protocols in a fraction of the time compared to other approaches.

Already, wireless researchers at Texas A&M University, as participants in NI’s RF/Communications Lead User program, are using NI’s flexible prototyping solutions for implementing and validating novel MAC-layer algorithms that can improve performance of WiFi, WiGig and 5G protocol stacks operating in unlicensed spectrum.