Massive MIMO antennas stand ready to deliver on the promise of cost-effective delivery of capacity density in LTE networks now and set the stage for 5G networks to come.  ABI Research recently released a report which outlines the huge advantages in energy efficiency, spectral efficiency and resistance to adverse fading in the channel offered by these massive MIMO antenna systems. The company also discusses the limitations of practical massive MIMO systems which restrict massive MIMO uptake to specific deployment scenarios.

 “The optimum massive MIMO system will balance these challenges with the promise of increased sector capacity, and improved radiated energy efficiency,” says Nick Marshall, research director at ABI Research. “We believe that the radio propagation characteristics in the sub-6 GHz bands remain the most favorable for massive MIMO today for many scenarios and that future 5G mmWave massive MIMO systems will become essential for unprecedented levels of spectral efficiency and capacity density.”

In 2017, Softbank Japan, T-Mobile Netherland and Vodafone U.K. all have announced commercial deployments.  Also, major operators globally have started massive MIMO trials or limited deployments in 2017 and are planning commercial deployments in 2018. Among these operators are Sprint, Deutsche Telekom, China Mobile, China Telecom, China Unicom, Singtel, T-Mobile Netherland, Vodafone Australia, Optus and Telefónica.

Growing from a small number today, massive MIMO penetration for both LTE-Advanced Pro and 5G will reach almost 5 percent of the worldwide MIMO enabled antenna installed base by 2021. This is equivalent to nearly 500,000 installations with the Asia Pacific being the largest region followed by Western Europe and North America.

The massive MIMO vendor ecosystem includes major multi-national radio and antenna vendors such as CommScope, Ericsson, Huawei, Kathrein, Nokia and ZTE. This ecosystem also comprises innovative start-up companies such as Anokiwave, Blue Danube and Pivotal Commware.