Ericsson introduces 5G radio with FDD Massive MIMO

Ericsson has added an FDD radio with support for 5G and Massive MIMO to its 5G platform, saying it will provide a 'bridge' between 4G and 5G by boosting capacity with current mobile spectrum.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Ericsson has announced an update to its 5G platform, adding support for 5G and Massive Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (Massive MIMO) to a new frequency-division duplex (FDD) LTE radio.

The AIR 3246 radio supports both 4G LTE and 5G New Radio (NR) technologies, with Ericsson saying it therefore provides a "bridge" between 4G and 5G, allowing the current mid-band mobile spectrum being used now to work with the new networking standard.

It will speed up 5G launches for operators, Ericsson said, as well as allow them to boost 4G capacity in metropolitan networks.

As a result, it now has "the most complete 5G portfolio in the industry", Ericsson said.

"The new radio will enable operators to enhance 4G capacity for their subscribers today and be ready for 5G tomorrow, using the same hardware," Ericsson head of Business Area Networks Fredrik Jejdling said.

"We also complement the products with a set of network services, simplifying the journey to 5G for our customers."

The AIR 3246 radio will be available commercially in the second quarter of 2018.

Ericsson had previously launched three time-division duplex (TDD) LTE radios that support 5G and Massive MIMO, with its 5G platform also providing core, transport, digital support, and security.

In comparison to TDD, FDD devices and technology separate uplink and downlink streams on different radio frequencies.

Boosting 4G capacity is important leading up to the introduction of 5G, with Ericsson pointing out that an analysis of metro 4G performance worldwide found a 20 percent probability for devices to suffer from insufficient speed during peak hours.

"Massive MIMO is a key technology to bridge from 4G to 5G, adding intelligent capacity and boosting user experience," the networking company said.

Ericsson is using FDD Massive MIMO -- which can increase network capacity by up to three times as much, and boost throughput by up to five times -- to carry 4G traffic using mid-band spectrum in its trial with T-Mobile in Baltimore, Maryland.

T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray claimed that while other carriers' networks are "caving under the weight of unlimited", his is using Ericsson tech to increase capacity and data throughput.

Ericsson has also announced the launch of a suite of services breaking down the 5G launch for carriers into the three categories of Prepare, Mobilise, and Launch.

"The services entail: Prepare for the first crucial steps based on learnings from Ericsson's trials around the world; mobilise by setting up the technical and operational resources necessary for a successful 5G launch; and launch 5G services through complete and rapid network rollout and ensure smooth operations of the services," Ericsson explained.

"These new 5G services use Ericsson's Engineered Intelligence approach, which builds on the best of human and machine capabilities and are supported by automation, machine learning, and artificial intelligence tools."

Ericsson is working with US carriers AT&T and Verizon on 5G trials, having predicted the industry to be worth $1.2 trillion by 2026.

AT&T is using Ericsson's 28GHz radios, virtualised RAN (vRAN), and full 5G virtualised core in its Indiana, Texas, and Michigan trials, while Verizon relies on Ericsson for its 11 pre-commercial 5G trial networks across the nation.

Ericsson and Verizon also trialled 5G during the Indianapolis 500 motor race in May, using technologies such as beam forming and beam tracking to attain speeds in excess of 6Gbps.

It has also demonstrated its federated network slicing system with Korean telecommunications provider SK Telecom and German carrier Deutsche Telekom, making network slices from each telco available to the other across continents.

Ericsson attained data transfer speeds of 3.6Gbps on connected cars travelling at 170km/h in partnership with SK Telecom and BMW earlier this year, and achieved download speeds of between 18Gbps and 22Gbps during the first live trial of 5G in Australia with Telstra last year.

The Telstra 5G trial speeds were split between two mobile devices, with each one getting around 10Gbps down thanks to the use of Massive MIMO, which sends multiple channels of data at the same time, allowing users to have peak performances simultaneously.

In addition, a moving vehicle achieved download speeds of between 1Gbps and 6Gbps thanks to the use of beamforming, in which antenna arrays steer a beam to where a user is.

Ericsson will conduct a trial run of Telstra's 5G network during the 2018 Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast.

Ericsson earlier this year also announced a "research breakthrough" in 5G network technology, saying a new silicon-based millimetreWave (mmWave) phased array integrated circuit developed in partnership with IBM Research could accelerate 5G uptake.

As part of their two-year collaboration on 5G, Ericsson and IBM developed an integrated circuit with a phased array antenna module that operates on the 28GHz spectrum band, to be used in 5G base stations.

mmWave bands, portions of the electromagnetic spectrum, allow for speeds that are more than 10 times faster than the frequencies used currently for mobile devices.

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