Sprint is starting to implement new cellular equipment made by Ericsson and is expecting to see a jump in network capacity of between four and ten times the network’s current capacity. The new antennas are built to use Sprint’s vast 2.5GHz network holdings and use Massive MIMO technology to bring the best possible speeds and capacity from that spectrum. Ericsson has integrated technology that allows the use of 64 channels to transmit and 64 channels to receive signals. This allows a total of 128 simultaneous connections to a given node on the antenna. Thanks to the beamforming technology, those simultaneous connections per node will be available to all users in a range simultaneously. Since the new antennas are using common spectrum and technologies that most smartphones these days have on board, Sprint said that users will not need a new phone to get a signal from them.
The new antenna’s big kicker is using Massive MIMO to provide LTE speeds over the network bands previously used for Sprint’s push-to-talk iDEN network and the company’s first failed 4G push in the form of its old WiMAX network. The use of Massive MIMO is what allows for a large number of connections, while beamforming allows these connections to be replicated among multiple users with minimal loss in speed. Taken together, those two technologies form the basis for the massive boost in network capacity that the new antennas are projected to bring.
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According to Sprint COO of Technology Günther Ottendorfer, the massive capacity provided by the new antennas is not only poised to provide a promising backbone for a wide 5G deployment but will also help the network in coping with the growth in the Internet of Things that is underway. The amount of IoT devices on cellular networks is predicted to grow by leaps and bounds in the near future, with everything from self-driving cars to VR experiences and smart home items set to depend on 5G networking technologies to deliver rich, constantly-connected experiences in the very near future. John Saw, Sprint‘s CTO, said that once the new antennas are in place, a full 5G deployment will be possible on that hardware just by upgrading the software.