Sprint suggests some serious speed with Massive MIMO

Vodafone might want to lead the charge for Massive MIMO in Europe, but Sprint is making a claim for the title on the other side of the pond.

The team has put forward some big claims after successful trials: 3-6 Gbps over LTE big. Working with Samsung, the purpose of the trials was to compare Massive MIMO with the 8T8R (8 transmit, 8 receive) it has already deployed on the network. The pair claim there was an ‘impressive’ increase in both capacity and coverage, in a variety of circumstances including multi-user and non-stationary cases.

“The testing in South Korea is an important step towards deploying Massive MIMO in our US network where it will be a key element of LTE Plus as well as 5G,” said Günther Ottendorfer, COO for Technology at Sprint.

“Massive MIMO is a tremendous differentiator for Sprint because it is easily deployed on 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. This makes Massive MIMO an important tool for unleashing our deep 2.5 GHz spectrum holdings.”

Now here’s where it gets a bit more complicated. During field tests, 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. In the future, Sprint plans to deploy Massive MIMO radios with 128 antenna elements (64 transmit, 64 receive) using its 2.5 GHz spectrum to increase capacity up to eight times (in theory).

Back in March, Sprint deployed Gigabit Class LTE on a live commercial network in New Orleans. Using three-channel carrier aggregation and 60 MHz of 2.5 GHz spectrum, in combination with 4X4 MIMO and 256-QAM higher order modulation, it achieved Category 16 LTE download data speeds on a TDD network. With Massive MIMO radios using 64T64R, Sprint believes it has the ability to push capacity beyond 1 Gbps to reach 3-6 Gbps per sector.

With the Massive MIMO technologies, spectrum can be used more efficiently because of Beamforming. Massive MIMO radios use more antenna elements, to allow the use of horizontal and vertical beamforming technology to focus signals into more targeted locations. This more efficient use of spectrum delivers faster speeds and provides more data capacity to customers in high-traffic locations.

Some may comment Sprint is constantly making big promises as it seemingly continuously plays catch-up with the other big boys in the states, but we don’t hold grudges at Whether the speeds are achievable in the long-run remain to be seen, though for the moment it is another useful promise for Sprint to make in the PR game.

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