Sprint & Ericsson Conduct First 2.5 GHz Massive MIMO Field Tests in the US

Sprint along with Ericsson have released their results of the first U.S. 2.5 GHz Massive MIMO field tests conducted in Seattle, Washington and Plano, Texas using Sprint’s Spectrum and Ericsson’s 64T64R radios. The two companies are preparing for commercial deployment next year, with Massive MIMO radios capable of increasing Sprint’s network capacity up to ten times.

Massive MIMO is a game changer for adding capacity to a network and taking LTE Plus to the next level. This technology is a tremendous competitive advantage for Sprint, enabling them to maximize their deep 2.5 GHz spectrum holdings. Massive MIMO will be the key to meeting customers’ growing demand for unlimited data, as well as offering Gigabit LTE and 5G services.

Testing of Massive MIMO on the Sprint LTE Plus network in downtown Seattle showed a capacity increase of approximately four times compared to an 8T8R (8 transmit, 8 receive) antenna. To showcase this capacity, Sprint convened 100 people with Samsung Galaxy S7 phones and ran simultaneous file downloads on a timed-test on all networks. The testing showed a 100 percent success rate on the Massive MIMO-powered Sprint network, which was a significantly higher result compared to the other networks. In Plano, Texas, Sprint and Ericsson also recently tested Ericsson’s 64T64R Massive MIMO radios reaching peak speeds of more than 300 Mbps using a single 20 MHz channel of 2.5 GHz spectrum.

For both field trials, Ericsson provided the radio network infrastructure and backhaul equipment. Sprint and Ericsson together developed the test cases and requirements, which included a variety of performance scenarios involving multi-user and non-stationary testing. The Radio Network infrastructure included Ericsson’s next-generation 5G-ready AIR6468 radio, and the backhaul equipment utilized the MINI-LINK 6352 R2 microwave radios which can provide up to 10 Gbps of backhaul, future proofing the network for 5G.

The companies will use the field trial results in preparation for commercial deployment of Massive MIMO in the U.S. beginning in 2018. In cities across the U.S., Sprint plans to deploy 64T64R Massive MIMO radios using its 2.5 GHz spectrum to increase capacity up to ten times. The technology will become part of Sprint’s extended network toolbox as it works to densify and optimize the network, providing more capacity, better reliability, and overall improved performance for customers. In addition Massive MIMO is slated to power Gigabit LTE services, and it will be a key element of Sprint’s 5G network.

Massive MIMO is a differentiator for Sprint because it can be easily deployed on high-band spectrum such as Sprint’s 2.5 GHz spectrum. Massive MIMO radios can support high-frequency bands with a small form factor, whereas the physics of lower-frequency spectrum bands would require radios far too large in size to manufacture and deploy on a broad scale.

64T64R Massive MIMO radios use 128 antenna elements - many more than what is used for 2T2R, 4T4R, or 8T8R in a typical 4G LTE network today. These Massive MIMO antennas use advanced horizontal and vertical beamforming technology to focus and transmit cellular signals into targeted locations. This more efficient use of spectrum delivers faster speeds and provides more data capacity to customers in high-traffic locations.

By 2022, Ericsson expects video applications to drive an eight-fold increase in mobile data traffic. Massive MIMO will be a key technology to enable users to enjoy data-intensive services and advanced features and applications on Sprint’s LTE Plus network. When deployed on the network, Massive MIMO can provide all mobile device users with performance improvements, and those with the latest generation of devices with the most antenna elements will see the best performance.

Sprint and Ericsson are demonstrating Massive MIMO solutions at Mobile World Congress Americas in the Sprint booth.