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Ericsson has enhanced its global 5G radio offering by introducing a new radio product, AIR 3246, for Massive Multiple Input Multiple Output (Massive MIMO). The product supports both 4G/LTE and 5G New Radio (NR) technologies and is Ericsson's first 5G NR radio for frequency division duplex (FDD).

The product launch, according to the Swedish telecom equipment manufacturer, will enable operators - especially in metropolitan areas - to bring 5G to subscribers using currently available mid-band spectrum and boost capacity in their LTE networks.

Ericsson's 5G Platform includes three previously launched time division duplex (TDD) radios capable of supporting 5G and Massive MIMO, as well as core, transport, digital support and security elements. The company claims to have the most complete 5G portfolio in the industry, serving the needs of the first movers in 5G.

"We now expand the 5G platform that we introduced last February," said Fredrik Jejdling, Head of Business Area Networks at Ericsson. "The new radio will enable operators to enhance 4G capacity for their subscribers today and be ready for 5G tomorrow, using the same hardware. We also complement the products with a set of network services, simplifying the journey to 5G for our customers."

Bridging from 4G to 5G
People are watching, sharing and streaming video and music more than ever. As such, the demands on a sufficient speed are ever increasing. Ericsson analyzed 4G network performance statistics from metropolitan areas around the world, and found that the probability of a smart device suffering from insufficient speed can be as high as 20 percent during peak hours.

Massive MIMO, Ericsson claims, is a key technology to bridge from 4G to 5G, adding intelligent capacity and boosting user experience.

"Just as carrier aggregation has been key to adding needed capacity to mobile broadband networks, Massive MIMO has the potential to be the primary capacity enabler in the next upgrade phase, providing a smooth transition towards 5G," says Stefan Pongratz, Senior Director at the Dell'Oro Group.

"With an expected 2021 installed base of 10M LTE macro radios in high traffic and metro areas, service providers are expected to capitalize on the improved spectral efficiency made possible with Massive MIMO," Pongratz added.

FDD Massive MIMO is part of a trial with T-Mobile US, on three sites in Baltimore, Maryland. This will be the first time that standardized Massive MIMO will be used to carry commercial LTE traffic using mid-band FDD spectrum.

Neville Ray, Chief Technology Officer for T-Mobile, said the operator is "racing forward at breakneck pace with Ericsson's next-gen tech that advances LTE today and paves the way for 5G tomorrow."

Massive MIMO on FDD can increase network capacity up to three times and bring up to five times better user throughput, boosting performance for the end users. Today's global base is primarily on FDD technology and devices, which separates uplink and downlink streams on different radio frequencies.

Commercially available in the second quarter 2018, AIR 3246 will be part of Ericsson Radio System. Ericsson's 5G platform comprises the 5G core, radio and transport portfolios, together with OSS, BSS, network services and security.