Vodafone reveals massive MIMO and mini macro on the road to 5G

Natalie Bannerman
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Massive MIMO and mini macro technology are Vodafone's newest innovations in the world of 4G mobile coverage

Vodafone has been showing off its latest offerings in 4G technology at its global headquarters in the UK town of Newbury. The result: massive MIMO and mini macro. 

Massive MIMO works on the premise of increasing the number of transmitters and receivers, which in turn increases sensitivity in the network, improves coverage in remote areas and ultimately the throughput. Standard MIMO technology used by competitors operates four transmit and four receive stream technology but thanks to Vodafone’s massive MIMO technology, developed by Huawei, it is able to provide 64 transmit and 64 receive streams. 

“We know that our competitors are shouting about MIMO, but they haven’t done much with it. If our competitors are as far behind us as that, then I don’t believe they are even looking at massive MIMO yet,” said Kye Prigg, head of mobile networks at Vodafone UK.

This is all enabled by means of a technique called beamforming which creates a bubble of connectivity around the user. “It’s able to re-use the spectrum over and over again,” said Prigg. The operator also announced that it has already deployed massive MIMO technology at two very specific high-density sites in the UK, with seven more being rolled out this week and up to 30 going live in the next few months. 

Mini MacroThe mini macro solution operates as a smaller version of a typical base station. All the components are essentially the same, including radio kit and antenna, with the addition of massive MIMO related hardware on a much smaller scale, currently just under 8ft in height. 

The design of the mini macros also makes it suitable for specific, low density, low coverage areas such rural villages, workplaces or university campuses. At present it’s still in the development stage, due to setbacks with the cooling system.

Project Beacon is the partnership announced back in 2012, which sees Vodafone and O2 share masts and physical infrastructure for wider coverage without the need to build more or create duplicates. Speaking on the progress of the project Prigg confirmed that the project has now reached 13,600 (78%) in their goal of 18,500 combined sites which should reach roughly 99% completion by the end of this financial year.