Massive MIMO Test Paves Way For Better Mobile Coverage In Crowded Areas

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Vodafone and Huawei test Massive MIMO on commercial 2.6GHz network in Newbury

Vodafone and Huawei have completed the first European test of ‘Massive MIMO’ on a commercial network using 2.6GHz spectrum, claiming the technology could improve mobile coverage in crowded areas.

The test was conducted at Vodafone’s headquarters in Newbury, Berkshire, where it and Huawei have a Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) lab testing Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity.

Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO) techniques have been used by mobile operators and equipment manufacturers to improve the capacity of cellular and Wi-Fi networks, and Massive MIMO is the latest.

Massive MIMO

vodafone stadium istanbulMIMO allows for multiple streams from a router to an end user device, optimising the signal for a particular device depending on location and other factors. This process is called beamforming.

Huawei says stadiums, train stations and business districts could benefit from Massive MIMO, which uses ‘full dimensional’ beamforming to focus signals both vertically and horizontally to boost the number of users that can access a network.

The test has particular relevance in the UK, where 2.6GHz spectrum is owned by EE, Three and Vodafone with a view to densifying networks in urban areas. The band has limited range but high capacity and has also been earmarked for small cells.

Earlier this year, researchers in the US developed a system called MegaMIMO that could boost Wi-Fi and cellular networks, and Qualcomm has also released a new chip for wireless routers that enables multi-user MIMO (MU-MIMO).

However to make the most of the benefits, both router and device will have to be equipped with the technology. The necessary transceiver is built into the Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 and 801 processors, while the company is also working on products for other connected devices, meaning it could benefit from sales from both device and networking equipment manufacturers.

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