Massive MIMO: Ten Myths and One Critical Question

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  • Author: Emil Bjornson, Erik G. Larsson, and Thomas L. Marzetta

Wireless communications is one of the most successful technologies in modern years, given that an exponential growth rate in wireless traffic has been sustained for over a century (known as Cooper's law). This trend will certainly continue, driven by new innovative applications; for example, augmented reality and the Internet of Things.

Massive MIMO has been identified as a key technology to handle orders of magnitude more data traffic. Despite the attention it is receiving from the communication community, we have personally witnessed that Massive MIMO is subject to several widespread misunderstandings, as epitomized by following (fictional) abstract:

“The Massive MIMO technology uses a nearly infinite number of high-quality antennas at the base stations. By having at least an order of magnitude more antennas than active terminals, one can exploit asymptotic behaviors that some special kinds of wireless channels have. This technology looks great at first sight, but unfortunately the signal processing complexity is off the charts and the antenna arrays would be so huge that it can only be implemented in millimeter-wave bands.”

These statements are, in fact, completely false. In this overview article, we identify 10 myths and explain why they are not true. We also ask a question that is critical for the practical adoption of the technology and which will require intense future research activities to answer properly.