Improvements in MIMO technology support advanced mobile network capacity and 5G commercialization

MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) isn’t new technology. Early research on multi-channel transmission systems dates back to the 70s, with significant progress for cellular networks gaining traction in the 90s. However, the use of multiple antennas at each end of a communication circuit (transmitter and receiver), advances the ability to optimize data speeds and minimize errors.

“Quite simply, MIMO is one of the most efficient ways to increase network capacity,” said Derek Johnston, Head of Marketing at Samsung Networks. “It provides mobile operators the ability to effectively advance new capacity into the markets that require it without the high costs of buying more spectrum or adding new base station sites.” This is particularly important in mature LTE markets that benefit from greater network capacity.

Wi-Fi and LTE networks typically use MIMO antennas for faster transmission and to mitigate multi-path interference. Most LTE deployments are either 2T2R or 4T4R. However, wireless communications company, Sprint, has advanced its network and deployed 8T8R in its 2.5GHz TDD band. So what’s making this shift possible? Massive-MIMO.

Massive-MIMO is driving 5G networks forward and changing the operator landscape. LTE Advance Pro and 5G are two big factors driving Massive-MIMO interest. This is important because it will help advanced LTE markets gain greater capacity and help mobile operators further develop their 5G ready networks.

Massive-MIMO promises to deliver faster connection speeds and more data capacity in high-traffic locations — without using any additional spectrum. It offers better cell quality at the cell edge. In fact, Massive-MIMO tests have demonstrated its strong potential to deliver gigabit LTE services in dynamic, urban environments.

Samsung recently teamed up with Sprint for Massive-MIMO testing. Samsung’s Massive-MIMO hardware deployed 32 antennas which produced a four-fold increase in throughput from existing, commercially deployed configurations. By leveraging Sprint’s network, the test recorded peak speeds of 330 Mbps per channel using a 20 MHz channel of 2.5 GHz spectrum. This resulted in a four-fold throughput increase with an eight times increase in cell peak throughput and a three times increase in advance cell throughput compared to current commercial deployment.

Technology is so important for next-generation networks and Massive-MIMO comes with beam-forming technology, which allows for greater radio signal focusing on specific user devices in high-demand areas. Essentially, beam-forming improves signal reception and reduces interference. Samsung’s Massive-MIMO hardware is equipped with vertical and horizontal beam-forming technology, which ensures high reliability.

When it comes to frequency division duplex (FDD) or time division duplex (TDD) and Massive-MIMO, there may be an early beneficiary. TDD is generally associated with MIMO because it uses the same frequency for both downlink and uplink. This makes beam-forming easier to do with TDD rather than FDD as FDD requires two separate communications channels.

Currently, Sprint is the only mobile operator in the U.S. using both spectrum types, TDD and FDD for LTE. Despite having the 4th largest subscriber base, Sprint leads the competition in total MHz owned with 204MHz. It also operates its LTE TDD network at 2.5GHz using 8T8R, and plans to have Massive 64T64R MIMO there when it switches on 5G in that spectrum.

Sprint plans to roll out Massive-MIMO in the U.S. next year, deploying Samsung radios with up to 128 antenna elements at cell sites that need more capacity. And because the antenna elements are so small, they can be tightly integrated with the radios. This means the carrier will not have to purchase separate antennas from other vendors.

Samsung has also showcased their roadmap for advancing the commercial deployment of 64T/64R solutions. This demonstrates the commitment to LTE Advanced technologies and 5G cellular networks through Massive-MIMO hardware, which will increase in cell peak throughput by up to eight times and advance cell throughput by over three times, compared to current commercial deployments. Learn more about Samsung and their development of Massive-MIMO solutions in the Massive-MIMO Comes of Age whitepaper.

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