Field trials underway. mmWave is exciting, drawing headlines, and certainly will be crucial one day. Massive MIMO is here today, deploying by the thousands at China Mobile and Softbank Japan. Verizon's Shamsundar told me last year, "We must have Massive MIMO." The early generation of M-MIMO and mmWave are showing 3X to 5X performance improvements. 50X improvements will be possible, although no one believes that other than a few engineers.
Now, AT&T has confirmed they are in field trials. AT&T has invested in Blue Danube, whose 96 antenna BeamCraft 500, right, is about 5 feet tall. It produced a 2X to 5X improvement in a selected high traffic area. These results are yet more proof of the potency of Massive MIMO. ZTE and Huawei are seeing 3X to 10X improvements from full Massive MIMO systems at Softbank and China Mobile. With eight antennas, Huawei is delivering 1.5X in Kuwait.
M-MIMO results, while almost all very good, differ enormously. Key factors include the local environment and the distribution of users. Much of the magic of MIMO results from the slightly different patterns produced by bouncing off walls and obstacles. The efficiencies of a directed beam depend on the concentration of users. In addition, the operator has many choices in how the system is configured. Softbank chose to improve performance for those at the cell edge rather than increase speeds to all. 95% of peak performance can be lost at the edge of the cell; an LTE tower putting out 120 megabits may only deliver ~5 to the edge. While there have been hundreds of papers on M-MIMO, we're only now getting meaningful field results. The systems will likely enormously improve over the next few years.
Blue Danube is led by Bell Labs veterans Mark Pinto and Mihai Banu, who have been developing this technology since 2013. Pinto writes me, ""Another approach is known as hybrid massive MIMO where analog and digital beamforming are mixed, allowing much simpler hardware. We have essentially developed a very powerful variant of hybrid massive MIMO." He believes hybrid will offer performance similar to all digital M-MIMO using less power and simpler, less expensive hardware. A group from UCLA led by Andreas Molisch joined by a team from Aalto University in Finland have a useful paper, Hybrid Beamforming for Massive MIMO – A Survey, which emphasizes high frequencies rather than the conventional bands AT&T is using here.
Nokia is also moving on Massive MIMO, scheduling a demonstration with Sprint at MWC Barcelona next month.
Here's the pr
Blue Danube Systems Announces Industry’s First FDD LTE Massive MIMO Commercial Trials with Shentel and AT&T
Demonstrates 20X increase in dynamic throughput for enhanced video user experience
Santa Clara, Calif. – February 16, 2017 – Blue Danube Systems, a provider of mobile wireless access solutions that significantly and cost-effectively increase network capacity, today announced that it has completed first commercial trials of its Massive multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) system in licensed FDD (Frequency Division Duplex) LTE spectrum. These trials were conducted using Blue Danube’s BeamCraft™ 500 active antenna product for advanced 3D beamforming, which is capable of delivering a record 160W of transmit power for a Massive MIMO system. Based on its underlying High Definition Active Antenna System (HDAAS™) technology, the 96 element BeamCraft 500 can intelligently and seamlessly focus signal energy where it is needed, allowing wireless carriers to better serve high demand areas and minimize interference zones. These industry-first trials were conducted with Shenandoah Telecommunications Company (Shentel) and AT&T, an investor in Blue Danube Systems, and supported over 10TB of data during a three-month period. Through a simple retrofit of the existing antenna with a BeamCraft 500 unit at the trial sites, an improvement of 2X to 5X in throughput was demonstrated for users in high traffic demand areas for the same transmit power as the legacy installation. Additionally, users received up to 20X improvement in instantaneous video throughput and experienced smooth 1080p HD videos in locations where existing systems were stalling and previously only capable of 144p. A second phase of trials is now ongoing to test additional operational modes and traffic scenarios.
This is the first commercial test of an FDD Massive MIMO system for deployment in current LTE networks. So far, over 85% of the commercial LTE networks have adopted the FDD air interface* and these first HDAAS™ trials have demonstrated an effective capacity solution for these markets. Blue Danube is also developing additional HDAAS™ products for additional spectrum bands and TDD (Time Division Duplex) LTE operation to support several trials in Europe, Australia and North America in the first half of 2017. “Working together with AT&T and Shentel has allowed us to validate our HDAAS technology in live commercial network conditions," said Mark Pinto, CEO of Blue Danube. "The results were consistent with our system performance simulations and the first FDD R&D trials we performed in 2Q’16, demonstrating that our product can be used as a low friction upgrade to existing LTE networks to improve capacity.”
“AT&T is committed to enabling next-generation mobile experiences by exploring leadingedge capabilities,” said Tom Keathley, Senior Vice President, Wireless Network Architecture & Design, AT&T. “The work we have done with Blue Danube to evaluate their beamforming technology in our live network supports this objective.” 2
“The versatility of this advanced antenna system has provided a dramatic performance improvement in our commercial network by dynamically increasing RF energy in problem areas without impacting neighboring sites," said Willy Pirtle, Senior Vice President of Wireless for Shentel. Mobile data traffic continues to grow at a significant rate driven primarily by the increase in video content. By 2022, video content is expected to account for 75% of the mobile data traffic*.
The current, as well as the next generation of wireless data networks, must address not only future capacity constraints but also existing challenges of delivering reliable quality of service to users. Massive MIMO offers significant gains in wireless data rates and link reliability, allowing for data consumption from more users in a dense area without consuming any more radio spectrum or causing interference. This results, in fewer dropped calls, a significant decrease in dead zones, and better quality data transmission. With these results from the industry’s first FDD Massive MIMO trials in a live commercial network, Blue Danube’s BeamCraft 500 active antenna product has demonstrated a commercially viable Massive MIMO product that will improve spectrum efficiency for the 4G evolution as well as 5G.
Analyst Quotes “The demand for Massive MIMO solutions continues to increase as industry gears towards delivering 4G advancements and 5G. Mobile carriers are looking for innovative and costeffective ways to improve network capacity and Blue Danube’s BeamCraft™ 500 is the first product designed to provide operators a low friction upgrade at existing sites targeting lowest total cost of ownership (TCO) for high-capacity,” said Earl Lum, President at EJL Wireless Research. “The compact form factor for a 160W system with no fans and use of existing Common Public Radio Interface (CPRI) to the Base Station/eNodeB makes the solution very attractive. Results from first commercial trials are very promising and validate efficiency and simplicity of the system”.
“Massive MIMO opens up a new way to boost capacity in mobile telecom, by using the spatial dimension and multiple antennas to create multiple paths that re-use spectrum more effectively. Instead of waiting for 5G, mobile operators are upgrading thousands of TD-LTE base stations with Massive MIMO this year,” said Joe Madden, founder and Principal Analyst at Mobile Experts. “It’s an exciting development which, as it gains momentum, may be able to leap into the FDD market as well. Blue Danube’s recent FDD field trial results using simple modules are very promising, and represent a big step toward cost-effective FDD and 5G solutions.”