Nokia and Sprint promised a joint demonstration of massive MIMO, among other mobile networking technology breakthroughs, and they did not disappoint. The demonstration showed that massive MIMO, when combined with existing bleeding-edge network technology, can offer huge jumps in capacity while promising performance beyond the gigabit threshold. The demonstration went hand in hand with a showing of Nokia’s own 4.9G technology, which promises multiple-gigabit performance on commonly used LTE spectrum in the US, once carriers begin rolling it out. During the demonstration, Nokia used their in-house AirScale massive MIMO Adaptive Antenna, alongside 3D beamforming technology, to push their 4.9G technology to download speeds about eight times what current technology offers, and upload speeds about five times what’s on the market, all live on the showroom floor.
The demonstration used LTE TDD technology with bands in Sprint’s 2.5 gigahertz holdings, and those are the same ingredients that Nokia is confident will power real-world deployment. Nokia has a lineup of eight different network devices that can work on that spectrum and deliver their full gamut of 4.9G features, which will be deployed in massive scale to cover “megacity” markets. Since the technology is highly scalable, with time, it could end up in all of Sprint’s markets as the basis for a 5G rollout. Massive MIMO is the cornerstone of the whole operation, taking the usually scattered spectrum that’s used in typical MIMO operations, and hyperfocusing it to a single band over a small area. Essentially, what Nokia has on their hands is a suped-up small cell.
Nokia’s 4.9G contains many of the technologies that will end up being deployed as 5G, since it’s built on early drafts of the 5G standard. This means that customers who use Nokia’s equipment can easily convert their 4.9G buildout to 5G, when the time comes. Sprint’s chief operating officer of technology, Günther Ottendorfer, emphasized the massive MIMO angle, calling the technology a “key element” of Sprint’s planned 5G rollout. Nokia North America head Ricky Corker agreed, saying that Nokia’s massive MIMO technology is the part of their 4.9G that can provide a clear path to 5G, and even “service continuity” while operators make the transition.