Ericsson introduced a new radio, the AIR 3246, for massive multiple-input-multiple-output (massive MIMO) systems. Complementing Ericsson’s global 5G radio offering, AIR 3246 supports both 4G/LTE and 5G NR (new radio) technologies and is Ericsson’s first 5G NR radio for frequency division duplex (FDD). This radio will enable operators — especially in metropolitan areas — to bring 5G to subscribers using today’s mid-band spectrum, boosting capacity in their existing LTE networks. The AIR 3246 will be commercially available in the second quarter of 2018.

FDD massive MIMO is part of a trial with U.S. operator T-Mobile, at three sites in Baltimore, Maryland. This will be the first time that standardized massive MIMO will be used to carry commercial LTE traffic using mid-band FDD spectrum. Massive MIMO on FDD can increase network capacity up to three times and bring up to five times better user throughput, boosting performance for the end users. Today’s global base primarily uses FDD technology and devices, which separates uplink and downlink streams on different radio frequencies.

Ericsson’s 5G platform includes three previously launched time division duplex (TDD) radios capable of supporting 5G and massive MIMO, as well as core, transport, digital support and security elements. According to Ericsson, it has the most complete 5G portfolio in the industry, serving the needs of the first movers in 5G. Ericsson’s 5G platform comprises the 5G core, radio and transport portfolios, together with OSS, BSS, network services and security.

Fredrik Jejdling, head of the networks business area at Ericsson, said, “We now expand the 5G platform that we introduced last February. The new radio will enable operators to enhance 4G capacity for their subscribers today and be ready for 5G tomorrow, using the same hardware. We also complement the products with a set of network services, simplifying the journey to 5G for our customers.”

Bridging from 4G to 5G

People are watching, sharing and streaming video and music more than ever. As such, the demands for increasing data rates are increasing. Ericsson has analyzed 4G network performance statistics from metropolitan areas around the world, finding the probability of a smart device suffering from insufficient speed can be as high as 20 percent during peak hours. Massive MIMO will be a key technology to bridge from 4G to 5G, adding intelligent capacity and boosting user experience.

Stefan Pongratz, senior director at the Dell’Oro Group, said, "Just as carrier aggregation has been key to adding needed capacity to mobile broadband networks, massive MIMO has the potential to be the primary capacity enabler in the next upgrade phase, providing a smooth transition towards 5G. With an expected 2021 installed base of 10 million LTE macro radios in high traffic and metro areas, service providers are expected to capitalize on the improved spectral efficiency made possible with massive MIMO."

Complementing the 5G core transformation services introduced earlier this year, Ericsson is now launching a set of services helping operators on the road to 5G in three steps: prepare, mobilize and launch. The services entail:

  • Prepare for the first crucial steps based on learnings from Ericsson’s trials around the world
  • Mobilize 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.

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.