Sprint tests Massive MIMO on 2.5 GHz spectrum targeting 1 Gbps speed

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US telecom operator Sprint and Samsung Electronics recently tested Massive MIMO technology on 2.5 GHz spectrum — on the streets of Suwon, South Korea – targeting 1 Gbps speed.

The investment in Massive MIMO technology is expected to assist Sprint to significantly enhance LTE Plus wireless capacity and coverage, and offer Gigabit LTE service to its customers.

“The testing in South Korea is an important step towards deploying Massive MIMO in U.S. network where it will be a key element of LTE Plus as well as 5G,” said Gunther Ottendorfer, chief operating officer – Technology at Sprint.

Operators such as Sprint can deploy Massive MIMO easily on the 2.5 GHz spectrum due to the small form factor of the radios needed for a high frequency band. In lower frequency bands, wavelengths are much longer and therefore the radios require much larger, impractical form factors.

Massive MIMO Samsung radios, equipped with vertical and horizontal beam-forming technology, reached peak speeds of 330 Mbps per channel using a 20 MHz channel of 2.5 GHz spectrum during field testing in Suwon.

Sprint achieved about four times increase in capacity per channel, three times increase in cell edge performance, and improvement in overall coverage area as compared to current radios.

Sprint has deployed 8T8R (8 transmit, 8 receive) radios across its telecom network in the US. Sprint aims to compare the performance of Massive MIMO radios with 8T8R radios.

Test cases and requirements included a variety of performance scenarios involving multi-user and non-stationary testing. Samsung provided the Massive MIMO network infrastructure as well as test network design, operation, data collection and processing.

“Our recent testing in Suwon delivered impressive capacity and coverage improvements in a real world environment, demonstrating how massive MIMO will greatly improve a customer’s wireless service experience,” said Mark Louison, senior VP of Samsung Networks.

Massive MIMO radios use more antenna elements. 64T64R Massive MIMO radios uses 128 antenna elements, whereas a typical 4G LTE network uses 2T2R/4T4R/8T8R today. Massive MIMO antennas use advanced horizontal and vertical beamforming technology to focus and transmit cellular signals into targeted locations.

Massive MIMO, a key element of 5G, will provide high capacity in densely populated urban centers, and can enable LTE network performance well beyond 1 Gbps.

Sprint plans to deploy Massive MIMO radios with 128 antenna elements (64T64R) using its 2.5 GHz spectrum to increase capacity up to eight times in cities across the U.S.

In March, Sprint launched Gigabit class LTE on a commercial network in New Orleans — by using 3-channel carrier aggregation and 60 MHz of 2.5 GHz spectrum, in combination with 4X4 MIMO and 256-QAM higher order modulation, to achieve Category 16 LTE download data speeds on a TDD network.

Sprint, which has nearly 60 million wireless subscribers, has the ability to push capacity beyond 1 Gbps to reach 3-6 Gbps per sector with Massive MIMO radios using 64T64R.