Hong Kong mobile operator SmarTone and Sweden-based Ericsson are trialling FDD Massive MIMO technology in the 1.8GHz band as part of the operator’s longer-term migration path to 5G.
SmarTone CTO Stephen Chau said Massive MIMO can be built on top of its existing outdoor infrastructure, through a software upgrade and replacing antennas, and “will enable us to roll out where and when we need”.
After the trial is completed early in 2018, the operator plans to upgrade its entire network with Massive MIMO within 24 months, starting in the most congested areas such as Central and Causeway Bay districts.
Chau said the operator will expand the deployment, which uses beam forming technology, to other bands in the future.
Nishant Batra, head of network infrastructure Ericsson, said one of the reasons it is trialling in Hong Kong is the territory is a challenging deployment environment because of its many high-rise buildings and high traffic density.
Hong Kong ranks in the top ten cities in mobile usage worldwide: “The potential gains here are higher, from multiple bands, and we will learn a lot,” he said.
A few sites typically carry significantly more traffic than the average, and with new site locations difficult to secure, he said these sites are more valuable and there’s pressure to maximise the capacity with Massive MIMO.
The two companies announced in January they ran a 5G test bed and were committed to developing a mobile technology innovation hub by end-2017.
Batra said it is working with SmarTone to develop, trial and deploy key 5G technologies which will enhance the user experience.
SmarTone is the smallest of four operators in Hong Kong and holds a 16 per cent share of the territory’s mobile connections, according to GSMA Intelligence.
Last week US-based Verizon began a rollout of FDD Massive MIMO technology in Irvine, California. The deployment, conducted in collaboration with Ericsson, uses transceivers with 96 antenna elements running on a 20MHz block of AWS spectrum.