NEW DELHI: Incumbent telecom operators Vodafone India, Idea Cellular and Reliance Jio have started work to prepare their networks for the futuristic 5G technology, and are now preparing to introduce massive MIMO technology into their respective networks. The technology is considered a key enabler for 5G networks, which are expected to be rolled out after 2020 in India.
Bigger rival Bharti Airtel has already started with the first round of deployment in Bangalore and Kolkata and will expand to other cities like Pune, Hyderabad and Chandigarh.
“We are in the process of bringing massive MIMO on 4G in India,” Himanshu Kapania, Managing Director, Idea Cellular, told ET. Idea Cellular, which now has a pan-India 4G network, is currently trailing the massive MIMO technology in various cities.
Massive Mimo, or massive multiple input multiple output, increases capacity of a base station by five to seven times and reduces interference substantially, in turn boosting the transmission signal to the devices. This means that a subscriber using voice and data, will get data speed which can be between 30 Mbps and 35 Mbps on average and even up to 50 Mbps in peak times. Comparatively, depending on one’s 4G plan, the mobile internet speed varies from 4 Mbps to 16 Mbps on paper.
“While 5G is still may be a few years away, we are bringing some of 5G technologies like massive MIMO into 4G and applying them. We are conducting trials of this technology. It is very futuristic in 5G, but we are using it in 4G,” Vishant Vora, Director, Technology, Vodafone India told ET.
Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio, which has all-IP network in India, had earlier said that its 4G network can be easily enhanced to 5G and beyond. Currently, Samsung is the only commercial vendor for the telco’s pan-India 4G network. “We will strive to create new paradigms for LTE-Advanced Pro and 5G by closely cooperating with Jio as a unified workforce,” Youngky Kim, President of Networks Business at Samsung Electronics had said earlier this year.
Reliance Jio is currently running trials of massive MIMO technology with Chinese gear maker ZTE. Jio didn’t respond to ET’s queries around trails in India.
The massive MIMO technology can be deployed in highly congested or high traffic areas, to improve indoor coverage and in high-rise buildings.
Analysts say that the technology essentially allows a telco to improve signal reception and hence increases the link capacity, so for the same amount of spectrum, one gets better spectral efficiency and data rates. In turn, for a customer, the introduction of massive MIMO will mean better user experience, much faster downloads, no buffering when one streams content.
GEAR VENDOR FOCUS
Currently, gear vendors like ZTE, Huawei, Ericsson, and Nokia are working with telecom operators to trial the technology in various circles. However, Huawei and ZTE have taken lead and commercially deployed massive MIMO technology for Airtel in India, while Ericsson is in talks with telcos over 5G technology solutions.
Jay Chen, CEO, Huawei India said that the Chinese gear vendor is working with all leading telecom operators for technologies like massive MIMO and 5G-oriented mobile bearer solution.
“The technology can significantly decrease networking costs. It will act as a gateway to 5G in India…there will be more commercial 5G related deployments in India,” he said.
ZTE India’s CEO Peng Aiguang separately said that it is doing Pre5G or massive MIMO trials with Airtel, Vodafone and Reliance Jio. ” We are the only company that is doing Pre5G trials with Airtel, Vodafone and Reliance Jio. We are also providing 5G-ready massive mimo technology to Bharti Airtel,” he said.
ZTE is also testing its 5G-ready products with Airtel and BSNL.
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