Vodafone UK, Huawei press ahead with massive MIMO tests

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Vodafone UK and Huawei completed what the companies claimed was the first trial in Europe of massive MIMO (multiple-input multiple output) antenna technology on 2.6 GHz TDD spectrum, saying they saw significant improvements in spectrum efficiency and increases in network capacity.

Like many of its peers, the UK-based operator regards 4x4 and 8x8 (also known as massive) MIMO as an important part of its network evolution as it moves towards 5G deployments.

Indeed, Kye Prigg, head of mobile network at Vodafone UK, recently told FierceWireless:Europe that the company is now putting 4x4 MIMO into the network and had also done some trials with 8x8 MIMO.

“We’re looking at how we can get the maximum efficiency out of our existing assets. We're very interested in MIMO and the efficiency gains that that could bring for us,” Prigg said.

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The massive MIMO test with Huawei was carried out on Vodafone’s commercial network in Newbury.

The companies noted that a number of technologies, including Wi-Fi and LTE, have used MIMO techniques for years to achieve more capacity without the need to use more spectrum. However, massive MIMO is able to focus the signal into a more precise set of layers, making transmission more efficient.

“These layers can bring more capacity than current 4G systems with the same bandwidth and massive MIMO is also capable of ‘full dimensional beamforming’, which means it can direct beams both horizontally and vertically,” they commented.

In other words, like carrier aggregation, which bundles together different frequency blocks to improve overall speeds and spectrum efficiency, MIMO is a technique that enables operators to make better use of existing infrastructure and spectrum assets.

"We're not chasing the peak speeds. It's not about shouting about 200, 300, or 400 megabits per second, it's about getting the capacity where people need it,” Prigg said.

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