People are watching, sharing, and streaming video and music more than ever – putting increasing demands on speed. Ericsson has analyzed 4G network performance statistics from metropolitan areas around the world, and found that the probability of a smart device suffering from insufficient speed can be as high as 20 percent during peak hours. By 2023, mobile data traffic is expected to reach 110 Exabytes per month, which corresponds to 5.5 million years of HD video streaming. This anticipated surge in mobile data traffic will require even greater capacity in networks. Massive MIMO can help bridge the transition from 4G to 5G, adding intelligent capacity and boosting user experience.
What is Massive MIMO and why is it so important?
Massive Multiple-Input, Multiple-Output (MIMO) is a wireless technology that uses multiple transmitters and receivers in a minimum 16X16 array to transfer more data. The technology plays an increasingly critical role in the evolution of 4G networks toward 5G, delivering the higher capacity, spectral efficiency, and faster speeds that operators and subscribers are demanding.
Ericsson leads the way with comprehensive portfolio
Ericsson is at the forefront of this technology, with first-mover operators already trialing the technology as they evolve their networks from 4G to 5G. In August 2016, we unveiled the world’s first commercially available 5G New Radio (NR). Called Ericsson AIR 6468, it features 64 transmit and 64 receive antennas enabling it to support our 5G Plug-Ins for both Massive MIMO and Multi-User MIMO (MU-MIMO).
The portfolio of 5G radios for Massive MIMO is bolstered with new mid-band and high-band versions (AIR 6488 and AIR 5121). AIR 3246, which will be commercially launched this year, is our first 5G NR for frequency division duplex (FDD), giving Ericsson a complete portfolio of 5G radios for Massive MIMO.
Trials around the world
To enable a 5G future, mobile operators must start evolving their networks to support new 5G technology concepts, while also investing in their LTE networks. LTE is forecast to reach 5.5 billion subscriptions by the end of 2023, and it will play a strong role in tomorrow's 5G networks. Ericsson 5G Plug-Ins make it easier for operators to evolve their networks. These are software-driven innovations that are based on many of the breakthrough capabilities developed in Ericsson’s 5G Radio Test Bed and 5G Radio Prototypes, which are already deployed in operator field trials.
Throughout 2017, Ericsson conducted trials with leading operators around the world with Massive MIMO functionality both on commercial 4G/LTE networks and in pre-standard 5G radio demonstrations.
Ericsson has been working with Singtel to trial Massive MIMO on the operator’s network since February 2017. The two companies first signed a 5G Memorandum of Understanding in January 2015 and were the first to show a 5G system in Southeast Asia in August 2016, achieving a downlink speed of 27.5Gbps.
In October 2017, Ericsson and SmarTone conducted a FDD Massive MIMO trial on 1800 MHz, representing the first of its kind for operators in Hong Kong.
Plans were also announced with SoftBank Corp. to conduct a joint end-to-end trial of 5G in the 4.5GHz band in urban areas of Japan that would include deploying two 5G New Radios with Massive MIMO functionality.
In the US, operator Sprint and Ericsson tested advanced radio capabilities with an eye on the upcoming commercial 5G deployment in the country. At Mobile World Congress Americas, results were unveiled of the first US 2.5GHz Massive MIMO field tests using Sprint’s spectrum and Ericsson’s New Radios. Commercial deployment is planned for 2018, with Massive MIMO radios providing a significant increase in network capacity.
Telefónica-owned operator Movistar and Ericsson have brought the first 5G test system to Argentina. Base stations and device prototypes were used to show advanced 5G technologies, including Massive MIMO, massive beamforming, Distributed MIMO, Multi-user MIMO, and beam tracking.
In Europe, Vodafone UK and Ericsson, in partnership with King’s College London, successfully tested standalone pre-standard 5G using a prototype device in a central London 3.5 GHz spectrum field trial. This trial displayed the capabilities of many technologies, including Massive MIMO.
And, towards the end of 2017, Verizon, Ericsson and Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. completed a successful FDD Massive MIMO trial with a fully compatible customer device.
Essential for 5G
Ericsson’s recent trials with leading operators and ICT players prove Massive MIMO’s importance in network evolution to 5G, and show the value operator’s place on the technology as a key enabler for 5G.
In Ericsson’s latest 5G Readiness Survey, which compiles 5G-related plans and activities among operators, 82 percent of technical respondents chose Massive MIMO and MU-MIMO as essential for 5G.
The report also shows that many operators have accelerated preparations for the new technology, and 5G trials are being carried out by 78 percent of the respondents. Furthermore, 28 percent of the respondents expect to deploy 5G during 2018.
Want to know more about Massive MIMO?
It’s clear that 5G is upon us, and technologies such as Massive MIMO help accelerate operator plans and make the next-generation wireless networks a reality. For more information about the technology components that enable Massive MIMO, check out this paper from the European 5G project Mobile and Wireless Communication Enablers for the 2020 Information Society (METIS).
Discover more about how Massive MIMO improves the end-user experience, significantly increase network capacity and coverage, while reducing wireless network interference.