ZTE boasted a “world first” by completing pre-commercial field testing of multi-user and multi-stream transmission on a massive MIMO (multiple input multiple output) base station, claiming it had set “new records” in single-carrier transmission capacity and spectral efficiency.

The Chinese supplier didn’t reveal what the actual speeds were, only to say that its proprietary massive MIMO base station “demonstrated peak data throughput that is more than three times that of traditional base stations, and average data throughput that exceeds conventional systems by at least five times”.

The test was done using handsets based on existing 4G standards.

“Being a pre-5G technology, ZTE’s massive MIMO solution is delivering exponential advances to 4G networks without modifying existing air interfaces, making it possible for carriers to provide a 5G-like user experience on existing 4G handsets in an accelerated timeframe,” said Dr Xiang Jiying, chief scientist at ZTE.

“ZTE successfully overcame the challenge of doing multi-user and multi-stream spatial multiplexing in a scattered-signal environment, clearing the main hurdle in the development of massive MIMO technology.”

No doubt intended to underline its ‘5G’ credentials, the Chinese firm added that “several major international telecommunications operators indicated they would deepen their collaborations with ZTE, after they were invited to attend the field test, noting the record-breaking results had exceeded their expectations”.

The latest development, said ZTE, comes two months after it successfully completed a pre-commercial test of what it claimed was the world’s first pre-5G massive MIMO base station in November 2014.

There was also some detail about the MIMO base station in the announcement about world record capacity. Comprising 128 antennas, ZTE said it uses a frontal area similar to existing 8-antennas. And by integrating antennas, base station units and RFs in one module, ZTE also claimed it uses only one-third of the installation space of traditional systems. This lowers operating costs and total cost of ownership.

ZTE has been talking up the pre-5G concept for quite some time, saying it will be available much sooner than 5G (which has a timeframe for commercial launch of beyond 2020).

The supplier believes too that pre-5G will deliver a comparable user experience to eventual 5G technology, offering high throughput and low latency through the likes of MIMO technology.

While ZTE is no stranger to 5G media announcements, neither are companies such as Samsung and Huawei.

In October 2014 Mobile World Live reported on how Huawei is even pushing the concept of ‘4.5G’ technology, an acronym that will likely draw comparisons to ZTE’s new ‘pre-5G’ moniker.