I found a video that is interesting, if you are into massive MIMO, which is being proposed for outdoor work. I think this is interesting because Professor Dr. Wolfgang Utschick talks about how MIMO works. He gives a long and detail explanation (snooze). I listened to it because I really find it interesting. This is how I spend my Saturday mornings, seriously.
The video, https://youtu.be/zhncADqR9rg, goes into great detail about the complexities of how the MIMO works down to the signal level. This is a really smart guy giving a boring delivery, so I will break it down for you, if you listen to my podcast you may find it more interesting than the video. Let me tell you my version, lots of antennas = better signal propagation both ways, with better noise rejection and more throughput. Multiple signals going in and out simultaneously allows for the device and BTS to work better, clean up the noise and errors so that the customer can get some kick ass bandwidth. That is the name of the game. Then he talks about the multi user MIMO works y using the same signal. Then he sums it up by going over the beam forming properties of the antennas.
What does this mean to you? Well deployment teams, it means that the RF designers will be working with multiple antenna systems. It means that the site designers and the site acquisition teams now have to work with MIMO antenna systems wither on a building or on an antenna or small cell or DAS. Yes, they will be deploying these for DAS. Don’t think it’s something new, look at what Wi-Fi has been doing for a few years, and they are big into MIMO. Now they want LTE to do more than 2 antennas, up to 8 or even 24. This will have to balance with practical installations to what your device, (smartphone) can support. They have to work together after all.
Let’s not forget the installation teams will be dealing with larger or heavier antennas and more cables on the tower. That’s right, bigger and heavier. What about the remote radio units, they were just starting to get smaller and now they will be bigger or they will add more. You will find out soon with 4T4R and 8T8R.
Then there is optimization, the drive teams will need to get new devices to test with. So this will add complexity not only to the system but the testing as well. Just like with carrier aggregation, the MIMO upgrades will make things more complicated.
What will the carriers say? Well, they are already deploying 4T4R, 4 transmit and 4 receive MIMO, and some are doing 8T8R. They are working their way to 16T16R. How cool is that? I believe they will push to do more if it is cost-effective. Some carriers saw this as a ploy for the OEMs and antenna companies to sell more equipment, until they saw the payback. Yes, the payback of efficiency and bandwidth. They are going to do all that they can to improve the pipe, like this and carrier aggregation. All ways to get the biggest bang out of the bandwidth they have.
To get the most out of this, they need to shrink coverage areas as well. So in doing this they may not really need to maximize MIMO. I think to find a balance between the cost for MIMO and the cost to deploy a site will maximize the investment. They want a reasonable coverage area based on loading. In the old days it was based on population but now in the world of data it’s a balance of population and usage. Now the carrier’s system is becoming more and more of a pipe. They know they can’t do it all, but they can provide quality coverage to the mobile masses. They have to do this within a budget.
The goal is to make sure the user has a great quality of experience, (QoE), for the right budget. Of course it could be better but at what cost? The equipment and the services start to run up the CapEx and to maintain something like that may run up the OpEx although I am not sure how. The only thing I see is backhaul will be bigger, equipment maintenance, and maybe tower rental. There may be more that I am missing.
How does CapEx go up? Let me tell you the obvious, the hardware goes up. The antennas cost more, the radio heads cost more, chances are the BBU and the hybriflex cable costs more. It all adds up. They to install it, extra weight, extra testing, extra optimization, and all the little things all add up. It ain’t free! All those nickels and dimes add up to hundreds or thousands a site.
So when looking at the new LTE systems, now you see the complexity that is in a simple design. You also see that budgets play a part. Not every carrier can throw money at these issues but they will do what they can to serve the user and to have bragging rights. Going to LTE gives them bragging rights, doing VoLTE also really helps.
There is a long-term goal as well. If they can get the LTE system up and running then they can start to decommission 2G and 3G systems saving on maintenance and service 2 systems as well as freeing up that bandwidth for 4G. Get the old systems out, maintain the current system, and save money while increasing the QoE for the user. It all makes sense to me.
What about 5G? Well, from what I have been reading is that the 5G will be an extension of what they have now. I know that the carriers do not want to start swapping out gear so soon, especially in 2020 if they don’t have to. They want to just add-on to what they have or they want to do it all through software upgrades. Why spend the massive amounts of money if they don’t have to. After all, we went from 3G to 4G in a very short time. Why not use MIMO and other ways to improve the system? It all makes send to me to have the hardware ready for software updates. Let’s decommission the 3G system before we replace the 4G equipment.
I am hoping that 5G will change the IOT, meaning machine to machine where we can get real-time readings for our power meters, gas meters, and water meters. I know that they have this in some parts of the country but not where I live. Hell, they don’t even read the power meter every month so if I have something in my house that is sucking down power I don’t know about it for 2 months! Just venting here but I see great things happening soon. I know the utility companies are waiting for federal grants to move ahead, but come on! I can see my bank statements and credit card bills in real-time. Let’s get started on making the meter reading happen in real-time.
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