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Sprint foresees up to 10x more network capacity with new antennas

Massive MIMO will be a cornerstone of 5G and IoT for Sprint

SAN FRANCISCO — Sprint said it expects four to ten times more network capacity from new antennas designed by Ericsson for the carrier’s 2.5 GHz spectrum. The companies plan to roll out the massive multiple-input multiple-output antennas next year. Sprint said all users within range of a new antenna will get more bandwidth, regardless of what smartphone they use. But the new network technology is not just about smartphones.

“The promise of 5G is very much about the internet of things,” said Günther Ottendorfer, Sprint COO for technology. He said the new antennas will help Sprint connect the huge numbers of IoT devices expected in the years ahead.

The 2.5 GHz massive MIMO antenna is integrated with Ericsson’s 64 transmit 64 receive radio. Ottendorfer said Ericsson has developed a way to compute all 128 streams for every user at every moment in time. He said horizontal and vertical beamforming focus the antenna’s energy to reduce power consumption and preserve battery life for the end user devices.

Nishant Batra, head of network infrastructure at Ericsson, said Sprint’s use of time division duplex (TD-LTE) increases the effectiveness of the new technology. TD-LTE allows operators to deliver more bandwidth in the downlink than in the uplink, which is consistent with the way most people use their smartphones.

Sprint CTO John Saw said the new technology will give Sprint a competitive advantage by enabling the carrier to “maximize our deep 2.5 GHz spectrum holdings,” an asset that is unique to Sprint. He also said the new antennas will help Sprint prepare for 5G, and that once they are deployed in the network 5G will be “just a software upgrade.”

“In a way you could say Sprint has 5G already in the network,” Saw said. But first, the carrier has to get the new equipment deployed. After several years of focusing on network densification with small cells, Sprint appears ready to work on at least some of its macro sites and towers.

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