Samsung partners with Sprint for gigabit LTE

Samsung and Sprint will continue their real-world trials of Massive MIMO in an attempt to attain gigabit speeds on Sprint's live LTE network.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Samsung has announced that it will be trialling new network technologies to attain gigabit speeds on US carrier Sprint's live LTE network this month.

According to a blog post by Alok Shah, Samsung VP of networks strategy for Samsung Electronics America, the two companies will use Massive Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (Massive MIMO) for the tests.

The new trials follow Samsung and Sprint testing Massive MIMO -- which sends multiple channels of data at the same time, allowing users to have peak performances simultaneously -- earlier this year on the 2.5GHz spectrum band in Suwon, South Korea.

The previous Korean trials made use of Samsung's infrastructure, network design, operation, data collection, and data processing solutions along with Sprint's test cases and scenarios.

"Samsung's Massive MIMO hardware, equipped with vertical and horizontal beamforming technology, deployed 32 antennas, representing a four-fold increase in throughput from current, commercially deployed configurations," Shah wrote.

"Leveraging Sprint's network, the test recorded peak speeds of 330Mbps per channel using a 20MHz channel of 2.5GHz spectrum. It also demonstrated a four-fold increase in capacity per channel and a three-fold increase in cell edge performance, and an improvement in the overall coverage area."

Samsung now plans to unveil its roadmap for the commercial deployment of a 64-transmitter and 64-receiver (64T/64R) solution, with plans to increase peak cell throughput eight-fold.

The electronics giant said it would look to commercialise its Massive MIMO solutions in October this year on the time-division duplex (TDD) band, and next year on the frequency-division duplex (FDD) band.

Samsung's announcement follows networking giant Ericsson last week unveiling a new Massive MIMO FDD LTE radio, to be available commercially in the second quarter of 2018.

The AIR 3246 radio supports both 4G LTE and 5G New Radio (NR) technologies, and joins the company's previously launched three 5G and Massive MIMO TDD LTE radios, 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.

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.

Ericsson also attained download speeds of between 18Gbps and 22Gbps during the first live trial of 5G in Australia with Telstra last year, with the speeds split between two mobile devices, each one getting around 10Gbps using Massive MIMO.

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.

Sprint announces NFV solution

Sprint has also moved into deploying network-function virtualisation (NFV) OpenStack cloud nationwide using solutions from Mavenir.

Mavenir offers cloud-based networking products across all layers of the network infrastructure stack, including packet core, cloud RAN, voice over LTE (VoLTE), voice over Wi-Fi (VoWiFi), and 4G and 5G application and service layers.

Sprint said it would be using Mavenir's Telephony Application Server (TAS), Media Resource Function (MRF), and policy Diameter Routing Agent (pDRA) products.

"With this next step for NFV, we are extending our existing vendor ecosystem with the introduction of new, agile, and innovative players like Mavenir," Sprint COO of Technology Günther Ottendorfer said.

"Going forward, we will cap our expansion on legacy core network hardware, while growing new functionality and capacity on our virtualised platform."

By virtualising its network, Sprint said it would be able to scale up and down its mobile core depending on demand.

In another attempt to improve its LTE coverage and add network densification, Sprint in May launched a small cell for homes and businesses.

Sprint's "Magic Box" product provides almost 2,800 square metres of coverage indoors, and up to 100 metres outside of a premises.

"What creates the magic of Sprint Magic Box is an LTE-Advanced technology called LTE User Equipment (UE) Relay, used for wireless backhaul. UE Relay enables the Sprint Magic Box to create an ultra-efficient connection to our macro network using our 2.5GHz or 1.9GHz spectrum," Sprint CTO John Saw said in a blog post.

"Backhaul connections for other small cells use either fibre or a wireline internet connection, both of which require a physical cable and are expensive to deploy. One of the challenges with deploying indoor small cells is the need for wired backhaul connections, especially at business locations. The Sprint Magic Box with UE Relay removes this obstacle."

Sprint also partnered with SoftBank and TBCASoft at the beginning of the year to develop solutions for telecommunications industry blockchain technology.

For the 2017 fiscal year, Spring reported a net loss of $1.21 billion with revenue of $33.35 billion.

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