L.A. Story: A Sprint 5G‑Ready Cell Site in Action

By Mark Loarie, Director of RF Engineering, West RegionSeptember 21, 2018

Recently at Mobile World Congress Americas, I had the privilege of hosting a network “premiere” with our CTO Dr. John Saw, showcasing one of Sprint’s first live 5G-ready Massive MIMO cell sites, in one of the first markets where we’ll launch 5G – Los Angeles.

We welcomed a small group of journalists and industry analysts to one of our rooftop sites in the Fashion District for an up close look at Massive MIMO in action. It’s the innovative technology we’re using as part of our Next-Gen Network investment to dramatically improve our 4G LTE Advanced network, and launch blazing fast mobile 5G in the first half of 2019.

Big Technology in a Small Box

Our Massive MIMO radios have 128 antenna elements connected to 64 radios packed into a small, compact box.  Using all of these radios and antennas together allows the Massive MIMO system to form more and higher resolution coverage beams than our 8T8R radio can, which multiplies capacity while improving signal strength and reducing interference.

Our Massive MIMO equipment integrates both the radio and antenna system inside a single unit, eliminating the traditional jumper cables between the radio and antenna. And with 3D antenna beamforming targeting individual users in real time, there’s no need for downtilt motors, actuators and cables. All of this integration into a smaller, lighter unit makes the technology more reliable and faster to deploy.

What’s most amazing though about this breakthrough technology is the impact it’s having on the network experience for our customers already. We’re rolling out Massive MIMO equipment in Los Angeles and other cities using 60 MHz of 2.5 GHz spectrum to dramatically increase capacity on our existing 4G LTE Advanced sites. This technology is particularly suited to high-traffic urban locations and the early performance results are exciting. For example, during the past three weeks at the LA County Fair, we’ve seen a huge up to 5X increase in our LTE capacity and speed using our newly deployed Massive MIMO radios compared to 8T8R. That’s giving Sprint customers at one of the largest county fairs in the U.S. a better network experience because we’re moving more data, more quickly, to more people.

And the story gets even better! In the first half of next year, our team will make a simple software upgrade to our base stations (no tower climbs needed), and we’ll also light up 5G service on these same Massive MIMO radios using an additional 60 MHz of 2.5 GHz.

Massive MIMO will help make our transition to 5G seamless, and the work we’re doing today will enable us to launch an incredible mobile 5G service all the way from Dodgers Stadium to Santa Monica. With similar 5G footprints launching in nine large U.S. cities, and one of the first 5G smartphones from LG on the way, it’s a great time to be part of the Sprint network.

— Mark