Massive MIMO Rocks      Back to

Massive MIMO Feb 2018

Dark blue: Building actively: China Mobile, Softbank Japan, Bharti India, 
Jio India, Vodafone India, Singtel, Globe Phillippines

Dark green: Announced: DT, FT/Orange, BT, Sprint USA, Qatar, Verizon USA, T-Mobile Netherlands, 

Light green: Talking: Vodafone England, Vodafone Turkey,
Safaricom Kenya, Telekom South Africa   


"I am crazy about Massive MIMO," Kitihara of Softbank ordering 1,000's of Massive MIMO bases

Massive MIMO Softbank by Jennie Bourne5G is here. China Mobile and Softbank plan thousands of sites. At Huawei's remarkable Tokyo Mobile BBF, both Softbank Japan and China Mobile showed enthusiasm. These are the first large moves in 5G, pulling Massive MIMO at least one year ahead of high-frequency millimeter wave. I believe my report  was the first in the West. I have since learned that Huawei, as well as ZTE, provided equipment.

Gear that triples capacity (or better) at modest cost is now in production from both Huawei and ZTE. Softbank has 100 base stations up and running. They are mostly in Tokyo but also in several other cities. China Mobile has working systems in two cities.  

Their early reports are that 128 antenna Massive MIMO today increases capacity 3X to 10X. Expect considerably better results over time. MIMO inventor Paulraj of Stanford two decades ago realized that MIMO could enormously increase capacity in a given amount of spectrum. Remarkably, the additional throughput requires minimal additional power.

Respected engineers - Henry Samueli, Andrea Goldsmith, Vint Cerf - two years ago were comfortable with predictions that wireless capacity would soon increase 50X. MIMO is crucial to that goal.

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Softbank's Giga Monster Massive MIMO: World's first commercial 5G is not highband millimeter wave

128 antennas, 6X-10X improvement in throughput to ?1.5 gigabits. The fearless Masayoshi Son wants to change the world again, this time by launching 5G. They have deployed 100 cell sites in 43 cities, with many in Tokyo. He may be a year ahead of anyone else. Masa-san wasn't patient enough to wait. (I'm mostly working in Google translation from the Japanese, included below.)

Softbank subsidiary Wireless City Networks is taking charge. They may be using the ZTE 128 antenna unit demoed last year. Cell siting is particularly difficult in Japan and MIMO is the best way to get much more out of your existing network and spectrum. On the other hand, Softbank controlled Sprint has 120 MHz of unused spectrum. Sprint's logical path forward begins with carrier aggregation putting that spectrum to use.

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Tom Marzetta's work on Massive MIMO

Tom Marzetta of Bell Labs has been called the "Father of Massive MIMO." His 2010 paper, Noncooperative Cellular Wireless with Unlimited Numbers of Base Station Antennas, has been cited over 1700 times. He and Bell Labs colleague Gerry Foschini have been working on MIMO since the 1990's and made many contributions. For those who want to understand in depth, I've included the abstract of that paper and others below. 

In 2014, Tom told me he thought it would take several more years for practical systems. Masayoshi Son of Softbank was unwilling to wait and launched the first commercial deployment in September, 2016. Softbank is installing 100 systems across 43 cities in Japan. Softbank's early results, from five cities, show a 5X to 10X improvement in the same spectrum. They use 128 antennas. Some of the antennas are used for "beamforming," which is proving crucial for deployments.  Many top engineers expect a 50X improvement from MIMO in the coming years. Remarkably, the increased performance does not require significantly more power. 

Marzetta writes, "Massive MIMO is the most promising technology available to address the ever increasing demand for wireless throughput:

• Orders of magnitude spectral efficiency gains over LTE - large numbers of users communicate simultaneously over entire allotted spectrum through elementary multiplexing signal processing
• Uniformly excellent service throughout the cell - regardless of location relative to base station
• Drastically reduced radiated power
• Simple and scalable design - employs measured channel characteristics rather than assumed channel characteristics
• Naturally green technology - superior energy efficiency

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128 Antenna MIMO from Ericsson in 2017

PaulrajTom Keathley of AT&T approves. No one believed Arogyaswami Paulraj in the 1990's when he claimed MIMO (his invention) would one day lead to a 100x improvement in wireless capacity. That day is now close, with Ericsson making the first announcement of commercial Massive MIMO. 

"We must have MU-MIMO," Sanyogita Shamsunder of Verizon said this spring. "Massive-MIMO, also known as 3D MIMO, is an important milestone in China Mobile's technology roadmap," Huang Yuhong of China Mobile says in the pr below. Keathley adds a comment from AT&T. 

Many of us have seen how well four antennas work in 4x4 Wi-Fi, raising theoretical speeds over a gigabit and real world tests at 500 megabits. Four antenna MIMO is a crucial enabler of gigabit LTE, about to start deploying. Add more antennas and performance continues to improve. See 1000% MU MIMO gain in gigabit tests by Universities, Facebook

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Shamsunder of Verizon: "We must have MU MIMO"

ShamsunderMillimeter wave is exciting but the telcos are putting MIMO multi-antennas on the front burner. Verizon, NTT and other carriers presented MU MIMO as crucial to their plans at the remarkable Brooklyn 5G event. Sanyogita Shamsunder (quoted in title, pictured) leads their 5G program and made clear in her slide that Verizon 5G will be MU MIMO, not just the publicized millimeter wave.

Tom Keathley of AT&T had a similar comment. "The 5G Industry expects Massive MIMO." He noted the importance of "Sub 6 GHz for wide area coverage with improved spectral efficiency." The Bells seem to be reaching a similar conclusion as NTT. Seizo Onoe, NTT CTO, startled last year's Brooklyn 5G Conference by saying that NTT's 5G efforts mostly will be below 6 GHz for years. High frequencies will be important, Onoe told us, but mostly after 2022-2023.

This year, Verizon and other carriers confirmed that MU MIMO, with many antennas, is crucial to their plans. 

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1000%! MU MIMO gain in gigabit tests by Universities, Facebook

Facebook array 320The Facebook PR will get everyone noticing MU-MIMO. The top wireless engineers yawned. They have known for years that you could get extraordinary results from adding antennas and multiple streams. Bristol used 128 small antennas in about eight feet by four feet for a 12X efficiency gain. Facebook used 96 antennas (pictured) for what they considered a 10X gain. These are very early units. Better software and dedicated processors will take speeds higher; Facebook promises ~40% improvement. (Many details and excellent video below.)

20 MHz of spectrum could deliver a gigabit. Early LTE networks, like AT&T, get ~100 megabits. More recent LTE-A networks in Turkey, the Philippines, and many other countries use 60 MHZ and will get speeds well into the gigabits. 

An important caveat: MIMO works because the signals from each antenna can be separated by how they bounce off walls, etc. That means that the MIMO gain is much less  in some locations. Line of sight is best for today's systems but not ideal for MIMO. These are ideal figures; at the edge of a cell you get much less.

Arogyaswamo Paulraj invented MIMO in 1993. He predicted twenty years ago that you would one day be able to increase efficiency 100X.

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Verizon 2017?: 5-10x Faster 5G M-MIMO

Verizon and Nokia refuse to wait for 2020 for 5G. Massive MIMO promises major speed jumps in the same spectrum. Testing in 2016 for Massive MIMO, beamforming and interference cancellation. Hopes for huge speed boost starting in 2017. Think 64 antennas and 5-10x throughput. Good engineers tell me it's possible but didn't expect it so soon. 

Verizon Ready to Try Massive MIMO and Beamforming

Beginning trials soon would suggest deployment in 2017 if they go well. That's not guaranteed. Lowell McAdam plans "Staying ~two years ahead of competitors in network performance." They are getting ambitious, including going to Alcatel's TWDM PON for 40 gig. "VZ will soon begin market trials of 5G capabilities including 'massive MIMO' (which is when a large number of antennas are packed into a single device) and beam forming (which is when a wireless signal is concentrated on a specific location)."(Paul de Sa) Much more

Nokia's Moliin: Massive MIMO/Interference Cancellation is Ready

CTO Hossein Moiin intends to test Antonio Forenza's pCell technology early next year. There have been stadium field trials that went well. Very big improvements are close in wireless. Four world-class engineers were comfortable with the forecast wireless capacity would soon increase 50 times or more. 

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"Go Massive," Says the Texas MIMO Man - and Verizon

Go WestSuddenly 2017 rather than 2020 looks possible for Massive MIMO and beamforming. Verizon told Wall Street they were close to trials. Nokia next quarter will test Antonio Forenza's pCells, with similar features. Verizon's Lowell McAdam also briefed the street on a plan for "Staying ~two years ahead of competitors in network performance." (Paul de Sa.) They can't reach that goal without pulling up technologies that most thought were five years away.  

"Go Massive" is the conclusion of Robert Heath, at The University of Texas at Austin.

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Verizon Ready to Try Massive MIMO and Beamforming

massive mimo linkopingsHoping for 2017 although almost no one expected this before 2020 and "5G." CEO Lowell McAdams told analysts Verizon plans  "Staying ~two years ahead of competitors in network performance."  Massive MIMO and beamforming deliver "Huge gains in spectral efficiency." Delivered wireless can increase two to ten times over the next few years using arrays of thirty-five to hundreds of antennas. A 10x jump wouldn't surprise any of the researchers. Pulling that far ahead is probably an impossible dream. AT&T has almost caught up with Verizon. 

Until this week, almost everyone thought substantial Massive MIMO deployment unlikely until 2020 and 5G. The excellent Bernstein analyst Paul de Sa was the first to report "VZ will soon begin market trials of 5G capabilities including 'massive MIMO' (which is when a large number of antennas are packed into a single device) and beam forming (which is when a wireless signal is concentrated on a specific location)." I confirmed with a second analyst what was said.

Beginning trials soon would suggest deployment in 2017 if they go well.

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Massive MIMO Explained. What the heck is it? (Updated September 2016)

Marzetta Massive10x or 100x more wireless throughput using many antennas. Masayoshi Son at Softbank has just deployed the first commercial Massive MIMO systems. 100 systems, each with 128 antennas, are being deployed in Japan. The early results show 6-10X capacity improvements. Some of the world's best engineers - Henry Samueli, Andrea Goldsmith, Arogyaswami Paulraj, Vint Cerf - expect ultimately MIMO will yield a 50X improvement. (That's not guaranteed, of course.)

Ericsson announced they'd be shipping 64 antenna systems in 2017. Huawei, ZTE, and Facebook have demonstrated 96-128 antenna systems. Each transmitting antenna sends a separate signal. The receivers mostly have two or four antennas. Each signal bounces off walls and other obstacles in a slightly different way, allowing the receivers to separate them. 

Paulraj invented MIMO in 1993 and nearly twenty years ago predicted a 100X improvement in capacity at very little power increase. Many of us have seen a preview of what's possible from WiFi 802.11ac. That uses 4 antennas and triples performance under the right conditions. Add more antennas and enough processing power and almost anything may be achievable. 

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Nokia's Moiin Believes Massive MIMO/Interference Cancellation is Ready to Come Out of the Labs

ArtemisVerizon and Nokia are ready to test. Nokia CTO Hossein Moiin intends to test Antonio Forenza's pCell technology early next year. Last year, I wrote extremely skeptically about Artemis/pCell informed by three very respected engineers. CEO Steve Perlman made wildly implausible claims, including that they would deploy across 350 San Francisco rooftops by the end of last year. They haven't been seen.

Moiin is a respected, independent engineer. I have to look again. USC Prof Giuseppe Caire now says "The early trials showed pCell achieving far higher concurrent user capacity than any wireless technology I am aware of." That's very different from his earlier comments (below) and I assume he's been shown something newer. Peter White at Faultline has an important article about semi-secret trials in U.S. sports stadiums. (Paywall.) 

Verizon in a startling move Monday told analysts they would soon test Massive MIMO and beamforming. (pCell is very similar.) These are key "5G" tools that weren't expected until about 2020. 

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