Sprint to start massive MIMO deployment, plans 5G launch in H1 2019

Tuesday 27 February 2018 | 10:26 CET | News

Sprint announced at Mobile World Congress plans to start rolling out massive MIMO in April in select US cities, in preparation for the launch of a 5G mobile network in the first half of 2019.

Customers in Chicago, Dallas and Los Angeles will begin experiencing "5G-like" capabilities, including significant increases in data speed and capacity, as Sprint rolls out massive MIMO from this spring. Sprint said it will "aggressively expand" to additional markets including Atlanta, Houston and Washington, DC later this year. In 2018 and 2019 Sprint said it expects to deploy "thousands" of massive MIMO radios. 

Sprint's first 5G-ready massive MIMO cell sites are capable of delivering up to 10 times the capacity of current LTE systems, significantly increasing data speeds for more customers in high-traffic locations. The company is rolling out the technology in the 2.5 GHz band over TDD-LTE, after testing the equipment over the past year with vendors.

In addition, Sprint said it is working with Qualcomm and device manufacturers to launch 5G mobile devices in the first half of 2019. The recently announced Qualcomm Snapdragon X50 5G modem supports 5G NR for Sprint's 2.5 GHz spectrum band.

Sprint will deploy 64T64R (64 transmit, 64 receive) massive MIMO radios using 128 antennas, working with suppliers Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung Electronics. The massive MIMO radios from all three suppliers are software-upgradable to 5G without additional tower climbs. The radios support split-mode service, enabling Sprint to offer both LTE and 5G on the same radio.

Sprint said its spectrum holdings give it an advantage in bringing 5G quickly to market. It holds a total of 204 MHz of spectrum, including more than 160 MHz of 2.5 GHz spectrum in the top 100 markets. This gives it enough capacity to operate LTE and 5G simultaneously over 100-200 MHz on the same massive MIMO radios.

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