Sprint expects 5G phones within first half of 2019, targets 9 cities for launch

Carrier continues deployment of massive MIMO to prepare for 5G

by Martha DeGrasse 4/25/18

 

Sprint said today that it expects to launch mobile 5G with a 5G-capable phone within the first half of next year. The carrier did not say which phone manufacturer(s) might offer the handsets, but has said in the past that Samsung's phones are particularly well-suited to leverage the massive MIMO technology that Sprint is deploying to prepare for 5G.

 

Massive MIMO means multiple-input multiple-output capabilities that go beyond the radios Sprint uses today, many of which have eight transmiters and eight receivers. The company says its massive MIMO radios have 64 transmitters and 64 receivers, and can deliver up to 10 times more capacity than current LTE sites.

Sprint's massive MIMO radio units have 64 transmitters and 64 receivers.

Sprint has targeted nine cities for deployment of its massive MIMO antennas: Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Houston and Kansas City, which the carrier has just announced. Kansas City is near Sprint's headquarters, which is in Overland Park, Kansas. The carrier has not released the names of the last two cities on the list.

 

Massive MIMO is an onramp to 5G

Sprint says that massive MIMO can deliver gigabit LTE and 5G through the same radio at the same time. The carrier does not plan to send climbers up the towers to turn on service when 5G phones hit the market. Instead, it hopes to flip the switch with a remote software update.

 

5G will require smartphones with multiple antenna elements, but Sprint says that all smartphone users will benefit because the network becomes less congested as traffic starts to move to the more efficient network technology.

 

Sprint is working with Samsung, Ericsson and Nokia on massive MIMO. The carrier needs unique equipment because it will be deploying massive MIMO in its 2.5 GHz band.  Compared to the lower bands that carriers have used for LTE, the 2.5 GHz band should require smaller antennas because the wavelengths are shorter. On the other hand, this band is lower than the millimeter wave bands AT&T and Verizon are using for 5G small cells. Millimeter wave deployments are expected to use very compact equipment and will have limited transmission distances. 

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