Preliminary results are in from Europe’s largest roll out of Massive MIMO - by Ericsson and Russian telecommunications operator and digital service provider MTS - at several stadiums and locations at the global football tournament in Russia.

Measurements made during the tournament show Ericsson Massive MIMO base stations on the MTS network enabled up to five-fold increases in data throughput in uplink, allowing fans to broadcast good quality video from smartphones during matches. In addition, data downloading speed and spectrum efficiency doubled. Network capacity went up more than four-fold.

There has been a noticeable shift from photo to video between the last two tournaments. The 2014 competition was a ‘selfie’ event with smartphone users sharing selfies and 60 percent of spectators downloading photos.

In 2018, video streaming has dominated and led to traffic soaring by 2.5 times compared to an average day on the MTS network. Fans posted more content on social networks than in 2014 when social networking generated 90 percent of traffic. At matches in 2018, MTS registered a 30 percent increase in traffic from social platforms.

Prior to the competition, MTS deployed Massive MIMO with Ericsson Radio System AIR 6468. The technology was introduced in the LTE-TDD 2600 MHz band (B38) at more than 40 sites in seven out of the 11 tournament cities, including Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Kazan, Rostov-on-Don, Niznny Novgorod, Yekaterinburg and Samara. This increased network capacity around the stadiums, at railway stations, at airports, in fan zones, and recreation areas.

In addition, MTS built a telecommunications infrastructure in Luzhniki in Moscow and Rostov Arena in Rostov-on-Don, and gave other telecom operators access. MTS also carried out large-scale works aimed to build and expand the capacity of the network at all other stadiums where matches were held.

On July 9, top managers of both companies held a media briefing to inform journalists about the performance of the MTS network using 5G-ready solutions. They also discussed the application of high-tech in sports, outlined a typical fan's portrait, and opened a cyber-tournament on the next-generation test network.

Andrei Ushatsky, Vice President, Technology and IT, MTS, says:  " The extensive preparation of our network and the introduction of Ericsson’s 5G solutions for the football tournament have clearly paid off, allowing MTS to successfully handle the overload and provide high-quality communication services to tens of thousands of our subscribers. High-speed mobile internet makes football fans more engaged as they can instantly share the most spectacular and exciting moments with others. Indeed, we found that during some matches uplink exceeded downlink, clearly showing that our customers preferred uploading photos and videos on social networks, streaming games and sharing content in messengers than watching video or surfing the Internet.”

Ericsson predicts that data traffic in the 2022 competition will be driven by VR and AR technologies.

Arun Bansal, Senior Vice President, Head of Europe and Latin America, Ericsson, says: “5G will provide operators with opportunities to create new services, enabling fans to immerse themselves into games. 5G’s ultra-high speed, massive capacity and low latency will deliver the fan experiences that will be expected in future such as 4K HDR or even 8K streaming, AR & VR viewing, and live and immersive synchronized gaming. Fans will be able to track favourite athletes in real time via wearables on data such as physical conditions, statistics of their success and failures from game to game, and even watch a match though the players’ eyes.”

Ericsson AIR 6468 is the industry’s first New Radio (NR)-capable radio designed for compatibility with the 5G New Radio standard while also supporting LTE. It features 64 transmit and 64 receive antennas enabling it to support our 5G plug-ins for both Massive MIMO and Multi-User MIMO.

The media briefing ended with a demonstration of 5G test network possibilities featuring the cyber-sporting game Assetto Corsa: e-sports fans arranged a tournament on two gaming stations connected via Ericsson 5G Testbed on the 28 GHz band. The minimum latency between end devices was 4 milliseconds, which is at least five times less than in LTE networks.

MTS and Ericsson have conducted tests of 5G technologies as part of their strategic partnership, and within the framework of the agreement signed in December 2015 on cooperation in the development and implementation of 5G in Russia.