US operator Verizon conducted its first successful trial of FDD Massive MIMO on a prototype consumer device just two months after announcing the start of Massive MIMO deployments on its network.

The company reported the test utilised Ericsson’s Massive MIMO software and hardware alongside a mobile test device running on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 platform with X20 LTE in Transmission Mode 9 (TM9). The latter enables full compatibility with Massive MIMO, Verizon said. Smartphones with the TM9-compatible chipset are expected to hit the commercial market in the first half of this year, it added.

Nicola Palmer, Verizon’s chief network engineer and head of wireless networks, called Massive MIMO a “critical component” of the operator’s 4G LTE Advanced plans and noted it will also “play an important role” in 5G. Massive MIMO helps increase spectral efficiency and reduce latency, Verizon noted.

The trial in late December followed an October announcement from Verizon and Ericsson noting the rollout of Verizon’s first FDD (paired spectrum) Massive MIMO radios in Irvine, California. That equipment includes transceivers with 96 antenna elements. Additional deployments are planned for areas of the network where there are capacity needs, Verizon said.

US rival Sprint is also actively pursuing Massive MIMO, with plans to deploy the TDD (unpaired spectrum) version of the technology in the first half of this year. Sprint previously reported it will launch Massive MIMO on its 2.5GHz spectrum using units with 128 antenna elements. The technology will be able to support speeds of between 3Gb/s and 6Gb/s, Sprint CTO John Saw said.